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Summer University

Summer University with Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle

Together with Google and the City of Seattle Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle has relaunched our successful Summer University targeting at-risk high school students of color in Seattle/King County. The 6-week program provided academic enrichment and skill-building through a STEAM curriculum and be located on the campus of Seattle Central.

The STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) summer program immersed nearly 40 students in various art and science disciplines to stimulate curiosity and appreciation for the range of college degrees and career opportunities available in science and art. Being a part of the Seattle Central Community College environment, exposed primarily first-generation college students to higher education and increased the likelihood of attending Post-Secondary Education.

For six weeks, students attended classes five days a week from 9am to 3pm, exploring STEAM topics in several one-week workshops. Students engaged in hands-on activities that help develop their understanding and thinking about the world of STEAM, and include field experience and guest speakers.

The achievement gap is well documented. Educational attainment is considered the best pathway out of poverty and 46 percent of King County residents have a Bachelor's Degree or higher; compared to 20 percent of African Americans. According to the Seattle Public Schools, in 2011, only 58 percent of African Americans graduated from high school and 25 percent drop out annually. A startling 46 percent of youth in King County Juvenile Rehabilitation Centers are African American, even though African Americans only represent 6 percent of King County. One in three African American men is expected to go to prison during their lifetime.

Summer University is led by a team of instructors.  The lead instructor, Joel Allen, is a Project MISTER instructor throughout the school year at Cleveland High School.  He is highly skilled in incorporating leadership tools into the students, and encouraging the youth to find their own voice and engage with each other and those that visit the classroom.  Other instructors James Johnson, a seasoned math professor, Ken Jennings, a geologist, and Sarah Dean, a long term etiquette coach. In addition, volunteers visit the class on a weekly basis from local corporations to discuss work opportunities as well as facilitate great learning projects in the STEM fields.

In the future, we plan on growing Summer University to multiple classes as we realize that students of color need more engagement and encouragement to explore career options in the STEM fields to generate generational wealth and opportunities for their families.  We have successfully secured a grant from the City of Seattle to help secure the growth of the program for Summer 2017 and will continue to establish partnerships to ensure that Summer University is able to welcome 60-100 students in the future.