Meet Karla

Meet Karla_color

“When I was 11, my family moved to Auburn, Washington from Los Angeles because I was growing up in a neighborhood where we heard gun shots right across the street. After we moved, my parents worked hard, but were never around to help me keep good homework habits.

In high school, skipping school, getting pregnant, and the loss of my family member set me up for a low GPA. I was judged by teachers and students when I was pregnant, making every day even more difficult. I still managed to graduate, and having my daughter, more than anything, encouraged me to continue my education. Going to college was one of the scariest yet most exciting feelings I’ve had apart from becoming a mother.

Balancing being a new mother and student was not easy. Not having childcare was a struggle during my first year of college. But, asking and getting help was what got me through school.

During my first year at Green River College, my daughter, Mia, was in an early education program. Her teacher could see I was struggling, so she connected me to Angela, my Education Advocate at Seattle Education Access.

Angela has opened doors for me. Most importantly, I was able to obtain an SEA scholarship to pay for daycare. Knowing my daughter was safe helped me focus, motivated me to stay in school, and pushed me harder. Being responsible was not my specialty in high school, but I have learned a lot about responsibility through these life-changing experiences. Ever since, I have been able to maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher.

After my AA, I plan to transfer to University of Washington Tacoma, which will make me the first in my family to attend a four-year university. I want to major in Law & Policy and minor in Criminal Justice. I have been passionate about these subjects since I was 7 years old. Seeing fear in my mother’s eyes encouraged me to be able to help her in the future; I want to never see that look on her face again. I ultimately want to become a lawyer to help low-income families gain knowledge of rights, freedom, and justice.”

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Dear Students and Community Members,

Dear Students and Community Members,

The past several weeks have been very difficult. The Seattle Education Access staff and board would like to express our love and support for our students and community members during these uncertain times. We will continue to support you in your educational journey, and we remain committed to serving those who face the most barriers to their education and livelihood. We are in solidarity with the people in our community who are people of color, women, immigrants, undocumented, Mexican, Muslim and other targeted religious or cultural identities, as well as those who identify as LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, and those who experience the intersection of these identities. We will continue to advocate with and for you, and stand against any expression or act of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, sexism, ableism, and any other form of discrimination. We are committed to fostering safe and inclusive spaces, and to providing access to resources.  We recognize that our work is rooted in the strength of the diverse communities we serve, the power of the people, and the recognition of human dignity and worth. We recognize your power, resilience, voice, and determination.

Our education advocates will be reaching out to students individually to check in about additional resources and/or support you may need. We recognize the power of showing up for you, we remain grounded in supporting you through individualized and personal attention, and we will continue to advocate for and with you within systems that create barriers to your education.  We are here for you. Please feel free to reach out to your education advocate for any immediate assistance you may need.

– Seattle Education Access Board & Staff

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“I wanted something better”

danisha3My name is Danisha and I am a student at Central Washington University’s branch campus in Des Moines. Next August, I will graduate with a BS in Social Services. My goal is to become a counselor for at-risk youth.

In 2008, I was in high school but falling behind rapidly in credits and did not feel focused. A friend told me about Renton YouthSource, where I could get diploma on a flexible schedule and it was one bus from my house, so I decided to try it out. I immediately liked the staff and felt the program provided far more support than I had received in traditional high school. It was really what I needed at the time. I quickly picked up my studies and was able to graduate on time in 2009.

After graduating high school, I was not sure what to do next. I worked a series of jobs to pay the bills, but that I didn’t enjoy – call center, in-home care, nursing assistant at an assisted living facility. Then, in 2011 I ran into Kiana Davis, a staff member I knew from Renton YouthSource, who told me about Seattle Education Access.

In early 2012, I began working with Jeff Corey, an Education Advocate at SEA. I knew I wanted something better and that I needed to go to school in order to achieve my goals, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to get started. Jeff and I started meeting weekly at the library in SeaTac to create an education plan. I knew I wanted to help people and liked the idea of working with children and families. After investigating several options, I decided to pursue an AA transfer degree at Highline College and then a BA in Human Services.

My first quarter was very challenging I felt insecure about whether I was smart enough to be in college, and despite the fact I was passing my classes, this feeling wouldn’t go away. Then, near the end of the quarter, I found out I was pregnant. At first this felt like a wrench in my plans, but soon it became a new source of motivation. Going to school wasn’t just for me anymore. I had someone else to look out for. SEA went the extra mile to make sure I had everything I needed to stay in school, like tutoring, scholarships for books, quarterly planning, and moral support. Jeff provided a lot of affirmation along the way. It meant a lot to have someone that cared. I completed my first year at Highline with a 3.5 GPA then had my son over the summer.

By the end of September, I was back in school, taking online classes while raising my child. My second year was tough with the new baby, but I was really focused. I earned my AA degree in early 2015, and immediately found full-time work as a para-educator at Foster High School in Tukwila. Jeff worked with me to apply to several schools, but ultimately I decided to pursue a BS in Social Services at the Central Washington University branch campus in Des Moines.

I am thankful for all of the support I received from Seattle Education Access over the years. They have taught me perseverance; that no matter what obstacles life throws at you, you should never give up. With the right supports in place, you really can follow your dreams. I appreciate the full array of services SEA provides and the flexibility they offer.

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A Fulbright for Javoen!

In 2008, Javoen arrived at Seattle Education Access and told the staff he wanted to earn a PhD. In fall 2016, Javoen started a PhD program at Howard University in Washington, DC and has received a Fulbright grant.

 As an African American male, I am often conflicted when I ponder the definition of the American dream. For much of America, it represents the ability to start from scratch, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, and have something to pass on to your children.

As a descendant of the slaves who were forced to work at backbreaking speeds sun up to sun down, this definition seems like an empty promise. I ask myself, “Didn’t my ancestors work hard for this country too?” As much as we have sacrificed for this country, I wonder why I, as a black male, am still the symbol of malevolence in America.

Born in a society filled with so many contradictions and unsubstantiated accusations about marginalized groups, I would say that my American dream is to live in a society where the aims of those who desire social justice are realized, and where marginalized groups are given educational and economic equality.  It is towards this end that I aspire to attain my education, in order to make a difference in my community and the overall American society.

Growing up in a single parent household with younger twin sisters, I received plenty of insight into poverty, stressful parent-child relationships, and also the sense of obscurity that many young African American males feel in adolescence. These personal experiences were the foundation for my passion for social justice.

The zip code I was raised in, 98118, is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the United States. In South Seattle, opportunities to interact with children from different backgrounds were endless. I made friends from West and East African backgrounds. I also lived down the street from a conga drummer of Puerto Rican descent. By thirteen, I understood Spanish fluently. In a community where athletics and hip-hop culture were the only acceptable norms for young Black men to emulate, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I made a very real decision in my teens to choose to pursue African and Afro-Caribbean music. I chose to dance over    being an easy target for gang violence and other dangers of the inner city. I did, however, participate in youth outreach groups. I volunteered under Wyking Garrett, a community organizer in Seattle’s Central District. Along with some of my peers, I helped transform an old, dilapidated crack house into a community center.

I attended The Evergreen State College, a school known for its commitment to social justice.   Occasionally, you could find me drumming on the campus lawn with a tip bucket in order to make gas money to make the trip back home. One of the school staff saw me one day and invited me to his office. While I was in his office, he explained that as the student activities director, his job was to book musicians for school performances. His experience with cultural artists prompted him to suggest that I turn my talent for drumming into a business. Within three months, I created my independent business, Awodi Drumming. Through Awodi Drumming, I was able to contract with local libraries, school districts, and finally a state juvenile detention center.

My work in the youth facility consisted of me teaching African dance and drum techniques in preparation for their Black History Month celebration. The young males in the detention center were phenomenal. At first I tried to teach them basic festive African dances, but this did not relate to them at all. I then decided to teach them a war dance: a dance of freedom and liberation. The young men took off with it. I observed as these men danced proudly. I told them the stories of the African warriors who protected their communities with their lives. It was as if they had found a sense of purpose. I continued to work in Seattle with Black youth while obtaining my Bachelor’s degree, and also became the Black Student Union president between 2012 and 2013.

My college experiences allowed me to challenge my way of thinking about the world. For example, I was afforded the opportunity to travel abroad to Nigeria multiple times. I observed West African cultural systems and noticed that indigenous West African communities had specific rituals and customs intended for youth to foster healthy emotional development and self-identity. These rituals had effects similar to resilience that I observed in young males in the detention center learning African dance. My study abroad experiences influenced my interest in developing methods of culturally relevant therapies to help at-risk youth cope with academic and social challenges, which often are due to the socioeconomic disparities they are faced with.

We all have our own ways to contributing to building a socially just society. Over the years I have learned African culture is mine. I will continue doing this at Howard.”

– Javoen

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A Report on the Nation’s Nongraduates

“Despite the many, serious difficulties many young people face that prompt them to leave school — homelessness, poverty, a parent’s illness, addiction, imprisonment or death — many find ways to come back.”

Read more here:

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Congratulations SEA Grads!

We are excited and proud to see so many of our SEA students graduate this June! 2014062695184101

SEA Education Advocates have had the honor or cheering students on at graduation at schools including Big Picture High School, Renton Technical College, Seattle Central College, South Seattle Community College, and Green River Community College.

Congratulations SEA Grads!


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Read NY Times Article: Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say

“A new set of income statistics answers those questions quite clearly: Yes, college is worth it, and it’s not even close. For all the struggles that many young college graduates face, a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable.

The pay gap between college graduates and everyone else reached a record high last year, according to the new data, which is based on an analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree. That’s up from 89 percent five years earlier, 85 percent a decade earlier and 64 percent in the early 1980s.”

Read NY Times Article: Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say

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