Written by Aaron Allen Downtown Seattle
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan along with partners from the education, philanthropy, and STEM industries recently announced a new partnership with the Washington State Scholarship (WSOS) to advance pathways to college and career advancement for Seattle scholars of promise pursuing careers in the professions, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and health care. According to officials, Seattle is the first city in the state of Washington to become a local partner for this competitive scholarship, ensuring that Seattle Promise scholars receive ongoing financial assistance and support as they successfully complete the Seattle Promise program and move on to further their education elsewhere at the institute.
WSOS was founded in 2011 through a partnership between Washington State, philanthropic donors, and leading STEM industry partners including Microsoft, Boeing and the Rubens Family Foundation. In April 2019, the state legislature passed the Workforce Education Investment (HB 2158) which included a provision allowing counties and municipalities to invest in WSOS and award scholarships to students residing in the municipality.
“This investment represents our city’s commitment to seeking innovative approaches that maximize regional resources to improve educational outcomes for the City of Seattle BIPOC, first generation, and cash-strapped students,” said Dr. Duane Chappelle, Director of DEEL. “We need more BIPOC students who contribute their brilliance and talent to STEM and our healthcare workforce. DEEL is proud to partner with WSOS and invest in career paths for more Seattle students.”
The Seattle Promise is an undergraduate study and success program, launched by Seattle Colleges, Seattle Public Schools, and the City of Seattle, that provides free tuition at any of Seattle’s colleges: North Seattle College, Seattle Central College, or South Seattle College for up to two years, 90 credits, or a first degree For the student, whichever comes first.
The program offers support and guidance to students beginning in the junior year of high school and continuing through completion of a degree, certificate, or credential, or transfer to a four-year institution. All graduates of Seattle Public High School are eligible for the Seattle Promise Program regardless of grade point average (GPA), income, ability, or country of birth.
Braxton Goss, a 2018 Chief Sealth graduate and a computer science and software engineering student at the University of Washington – Bothell Campus, can vouch for the support and help that this program provides as it gave him the opportunity to continue his education while and without it, his journey toward a degree may have been stifled.
“This program really tries to reach out and help underserved and underrepresented students,” says Joss. “It has really helped me achieve the educational goals I set for myself. The whole point of the scholarship is to help those who may not have the resources to go to college, but the desire to go to college and enable them to go to college.”
Braxton also participates in the WSOS Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program that brings together the most experienced Opportunity Scholars with a paid leadership position to help first and second-year students transition into college. He credited scholarships like WSOS for giving him the time and opportunity to seek out leadership opportunities and experiences outside of the classroom that helped him hone the skills he needed to compete for internships and opportunities. Next summer, Braxton will train with Amazon in software development.
According to Durkan, WSOS and the Seattle Promise program have positioned themselves and committed to the idea that access to higher education should be provided to all students, but in particular, students of color, Indigenous students, and low-income students.
“Seattle’s promise is changing the lives of thousands of students. We are proud to be the first city in Washington state to partner with WSOS because we are committed to ensuring that every student in our city, especially young black, indigenous, people of color, and low-income people, have access to college,” Durkan said.
“Seattle’s promise is to build a better future for young people in our city by lowering the cost of college. Our partnership with WSOS will ensure that students most affected by the pandemic will continue to be supported at the end of the program to ensure they complete their degrees and gain great jobs in critical industries here in our city and state.”
Through two scholarship pathways, WSOS provides financial assistance, mentorship, and support to prepare Washington students for careers in STEM fields and increase equitable access to advanced degrees:
• The WSOS Baccalaureate Scholarship (BAS) will provide students with a bachelor’s degree with up to $22,500 in financial assistance to continue their third year of college. Scholars can use the funding to pay tuition fees and additional costs to students including housing, transportation, food, and other expenses.
• The WSOS Professional and Technical Scholarship (CTS) will provide scholars pursuing undergraduate degrees, certificates, or professional training programs up to $1,500 per quarter. Likewise, for the BAS track, CTS funds are flexible and can be used to cover costs beyond tuition.
WSOS is a competitive scholarship program, selecting only 29 percent of eligible applicants for a BAS scholarship and 38 percent for a CTS scholarship, statewide in 2021. Only 10 percent, or 400 of the 3,800 BAS and CTS recipients currently receiving WSOS support across the state, are alumni Public High Schools in Seattle. The new Seattle partnership guarantees scholarships to 60 Promise students over the next two years. Both scholarship pathways expand access to valuable career counseling to support Seattle students promise as they continue their studies, thrive in their college classrooms, and successfully transition into STEM careers.
“The combination of Seattle Promise and WSOS will ensure that Seattle students have the support they need to pursue high-demand jobs in our region,” said Kimber Connors, WSOS Executive Director. “We know from experience that completing your degree and starting your career requires more than just money. We are pleased to offer additional financial aid, but also mentoring and support services, which will prove essential to degree completion and start-up work for students who benefit from this new partnership.”
“One of the main reasons I can afford to go to college is WSOS,” says Joss. “My parents don’t make a lot of money. WSOS allowed me not to worry about my rent source and living expenses. Getting scholarship dollars like [WSOS] It allowed me to use my time to gain the leadership skills I needed to compete for my training next summer. Participating in something like this makes your college experience more fulfilling.” Applications for Seattle Promise are now open for current Seattle Public Schools seniors who will graduate in 2022.
Applications for the Washington State Scholarship will open on January 5, 2022. All students who live in Washington are eligible to apply, but only Seattle Scholars of Promise and high school seniors will be eligible for funding generated by the City of Seattle Municipal Match Partnership.
This article is one in a series of articles produced by The Seattle Medium with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 black-owned media outlets across the country.