Seattle Students Support Underserved Youth
Students of Seattle University have mobilized to support the underserved youth of Seattle’s Central District.
The Seattle University Youth Initiative (SUYI) began in 2007; its founders were inspired by a similar $100 million project in which students of San Diego State and community members came together to support public schools in the area.
The Seattle U committee, comprised of students, staff, and President Stephen Sundborg, set the objective for SUYI: educating the youth in spite of limited resources.
“Education is what we’re good at,” said Victoria Rucker, associate director for the Center for Service and Community Engagement. “We can provide scholarships, mentors, tutors, and can reach out to students.”
A year-old planning committee studied demographics, assets, and partnerships in Central Seattle to determine what communities needed most and what the University could offer them.
The committee targeted four major services: educational access, job training, mentors and tutors, and "wrap around services," all of which Seattle U could provide for free. For instance, law school students could provide legal advice, nursing school students could provide free health services, and business students free income tax assistance.
SUYI decided that Bailey Gatzert Elementary School was most in need of the University’s support. Ninety-three percent of students in the school’s neighborhood are at or below the poverty line, and the school has failed to meet its yearly minimum progress marks. SUYI consulted students from elementary, middle and high schools in that area, and asked them what they needed most.
“We really want youth voice,” Rucker said. “Students kept telling us how they want adults to work with them and listen to them.”
SUYI holds conferences with community members and continues to attract interested volunteers. Carly Cannell, assistant to the director for the Center for Service and Community Engagement, says that in the next conference it is important the group addresses the students’ needs and makes specific goals for the Bailey Gatzert community.
SUYI has made partnerships with approximately 70 Seattle agencies, including the Seattle Police Department and Treehouse, a local service for foster kids. Members hope to establish enough connections so that by fall, they can actively begin their outreach programs in the community.
“The Seattle University Youth Initiative is an extension of community engagement on campus,” Cannell said. “We’re just building off of what we’re already good at…[and] directing it in a focused way to make a bigger impact.”
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