Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan joined students and Seattle Colleges leadership at South Seattle College on the morning of Nov. 7 to celebrate voter approval of the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy.
The plan provides funding to increase the number of children in preschool, increase K-12 investments and expand access to college through the Seattle Promise Tuition Program. Not only a significant step for Seattle’s support of education and our youth, this is also a historic day for South Seattle College. The South Seattle College Foundation Board created the 13th Year Promise Scholarship in 2008 with the vision of addressing equity gaps in access to a higher education for Seattle’s youth. The 13th Year Promise program became the model for and has now transitioned to become Seattle Promise.
The Seattle Promise program will expand tuition coverage from one to two years for Seattle Public Schools high school graduates, and be supported in part by the levy with additional fundraising support. It will expand the program from the current six high schools (Cleveland, Rainier Beach, Chief Sealth, West Seattle, Garfield, and Ingraham) to all Seattle public high schools by 2020. In addition, the scholarship will become “flexible,” allowing students to attend the Seattle College (South, North or Central) of their choice.
“We would not be standing here if it weren’t for Seattle Colleges,” Mayor Durkan said during a press conference at South. “When we first came down to talk to Seattle Colleges about whether we could get this done on such a large scale … no one said, ‘No.’ They all said, ‘How do we get it done?’”
“I want to thank Seattle because, time and time again, when it matters, our city comes together, steps up and invests in the future,” she added. “And there is nothing more important to our future than our children.”
Seattle Colleges Chancellor Shouan Pan also spoke at the event, stating, “After yesterday’s vote, clearly voters have spoken. They support quality, equitable education for Seattle’s residents. This vote is about investing in education, K through 14.”
An important element of the Seattle Promise program is the dedicated support students receive to help them successfully transition from high school to higher education, providing a wrap-around experience that goes beyond tuition dollars.
Current 13th Year/Seattle Promise Scholar Anthony Garcia also spoke at the event, echoing the importance of that support.
“I come from a family of immigrants. Both of my parents are from Guatemala, and my dad just became a US citizen, too. They didn’t have the opportunity to go to college and pursue a better life for themselves, so they sacrificed their lives to make a better lives for their children,” Garcia said. “Having the opportunity to go to college tuition-free and becoming a Seattle Promise scholar; it’s a blessing. The support we have as students is remarkable, and not something you see very often.”