Seattle Education Access (SEA) provides higher education advocacy and opportunity to people struggling to overcome poverty and adversity. We help low income and marginalized young people make strong transitions to local community colleges and four year universities.
Who We Serve
SEA is the only college access program in Washington State that helps non-traditional students get back on track with their educations. While other programs help successful high school students transfer directly to college after graduation, we work with young people whose lives have been affected by poverty and trauma. We serve youth and young adults aged 16-30 throughout King County, Washington. 100% of our students are low income, and 78% have experienced homelessness. Many have histories of childhood neglect and abuse. 76% of our students are people of color; 22% are immigrants; 31% are single parents; and 71% are first generation college bound students. Despite these challenges, our freshman retention rate is better than the national average for all college students.
What We Do
SEA helps young people earn college degrees by providing free academic advising, career counseling, tutoring, books, access to technology, mentoring, advocacy, and scholarships. Our individualized and holistic approach addresses all the barriers that stand between an individual student and academic success. SEA has two linked programs serving youth: our College Prep Program, and our College Success Program. We also provide gap scholarships to our students.
The College Prep Program
We help youth prepare for higher education and meaningful employment. Our staff works with each student to create a career and academic achievement plan tailored to his or her gifts and goals. About half of our students choose a vocational or technical track, an the other half choose an academic or professional track. We teach our students how to navigate the educational system, get federal financial aid, compete for private scholarships, make a budget, secure housing, register for classes, pick the right campus and degree program, and effectively access campus services. We provide free tutoring for the GED and the COMPASS test, which is the placement test that students take when they start at a community college. SEA provides GED and COMPASS study guides and testing fees as well. We collect used books and redistribute them to our students to build their literacy skills. Our goal is to have each of our students start an appropriate post-secondary program of study on the right foot with the resources and skills they need to succeed.
The College Success Program
Beyond helping youth enroll in college, we continue to offer support throughout their college career until they graduate and transition to the workforce. Through our College Success Program we provide retention services designed to maximize graduation rates. Many of our students do not have the safety net of a supportive family of origin, and need community support during college. The dropout rate during the freshman year of college is typically high, especially among low-income youth. Access is meaningless unless it is followed by retention and graduation. Our College Success students continue to receive free tutoring, mentoring, and advising. For example, we frequently assist students with the transfer process when they complete their A.A. or A.S. degrees and move on to four year universities. As our program has grown, we have started to help our former students apply to graduate school. We also refurbish used computers and give them to our students.
SEA awards financial scholarships for tuition, textbooks, bus passes, and other basic needs to supplement financial aid so students have enough money to afford safe and stable housing. Students apply for scholarships through SEA by filling out an application form, writing an essay, submitting letters of recommendation, and filling out a budget to show their need. Community volunteers and former SEA students serving on our Scholarship Review Committee set scholarship policy, interview candidates, and award scholarships three times a year for fall, winter, and spring quarters. With tuition rising at state colleges and financial a packages shrinking, gap scholarships are more important than ever.
My name is Patience. I emigrated from Rwanda and now I live in Bellevue. I was born on the 5th of January 1987. I was fortunate: Despite a lack of adequate health care in my country at that time, I thank Mother Nature that I survived a complicated birth process. I was, however, born with a birth defect. Rwanda is a very small country south of the equator between Congo and Tanzania. The area is well known for its natural resources. Unfortunately, those natural resources and other factors have led to political instability in the region. As a child, I dreamed of living a better life in a secure and safe place.
I arrived in the Unites States in November 2009 with a high school degree. My plan was to go back to school and complete a higher education. All the way from childhood through my teen years until now, I never gave up whatever the circumstances. I stayed in different shelters in Seattle and became both homeless and hopeless, slowly losing my optimism and desire to for a better life. During this period I was living in the ROOTS Young Adult Shelter, located in University District. It was at that time last year in the summer of 2011 that I learned about Seattle Education Access (SEA).
It is at that moment, getting in contact with SEA advisors, that I started getting on back on track. I was nowhere. When I met my education advocate in her office, I told her about my situation. She helped to apply for financial aid and complete other paperwork for college in the Seattle area. Meanwhile, I was still homeless. One day another miracle happened! I was talking to a volunteer at the shelter, and after listening to my story she told me that she had a friend who likes to help the homeless and that she might have a room where I could stay. That person lives in the Bellevue area. One week from that time, the volunteer introduced me to her friend and since then I am not homeless any more. Now I am going to school at Bellevue College, studying Computer Science. Next year I am planning to transfer to the University of Washington. SEA helped me get a scholarship at Bellevue College and will be helping me with my transfer application and scholarship applications this coming year.
At this time, my dreams are paying off. I have to thank Seattle Education Access for their help with some turbulence along the way. I can say that I am now half way to where I want to go.