January 2023 Newsletter: New year with a new strategy




Happy New Year!

While I don’t do resolutions, I have taken the time to reflect on what’s important to bring forward into 2023 and what things I need to leave behind. While we celebrated launching our new strategy in December 2022, there is still much work to be done and so many students and communities counting on all of us to do our best. In the new year, I’m bringing optimism, determination, communication, collaboration, and love as I lead our team in this work.

You’re probably wondering: what’s next for our work? We’re figuring out the best way for the foundation to launch and support a learning network focused on postsecondary enrollment. Lots of work is happening right now to make sure we are complementing rather than duplicating or competing with great work already taking place in communities. We also want to structure our invitation for the learning network in the most clear and equitable way. We expect to have more to share on timing in the next month.

As we kick off 2023, I also want to recognize that January is National Mentoring Month. Along my journey, I have had incredible mentors and sponsors who were willing to share knowledge and access, encourage me, and also tell me some hard truths. I firmly believe that I’m not here to just collect knowledge and information. The wisdom comes in sharing one’s hard-earned lessons, so hats off to my mentors and so many more of you willing to hold that space.

Angela Jones

Director, Washington State Initiative

Community Engagement: WHOLE Mentoring

The month of January is National Mentoring Month, an opportunity to recognize and reflect on the role that mentors can play in helping young people develop into well-rounded community members. Mentoring can play an important role in helping students find a college and career pathway that matches their skills and interests.

One way that Seattle Public Schools is working to build connection with students is through WHOLE Mentoring, a program offered by their Office of African American Male Achievement. WHOLE, which stands for “With Hope Our Lives Excel,” provides mentorship to 9th and 10th grade Black students. The program was created in response to requests from Black teens across the district to have Black representation – reinforcing the power of listening to students.

Students in the WHOLE Mentoring program recently got to visit Lumen Field and meet with Seattle Seahawks staff members. These young men got to learn about the range of career opportunities available in professional sports.

Learn more about SPS’ WHOLE Mentoring Program

Community Spotlight: Virtual Mentor Program in Yakima

A new program in the Yakima Valley aims to expose students from farmworker families to careers in STEM fields. The program, funded by a federal grant, connects 9th and 10th grade students virtually with mentors from various STEM fields.

Read how you can become a Virtual STEM Mentor

Student Spotlight: Running Start vs. AP Courses

Aleena is an aspiring doctor and senior at Rochester High School in Thurston County. She’s also earning college credit through the state’s Running Start program. In this video for Ready Washington, Aleena takes you through a day in the life as a Running Start student, including a peek into her classes, study time, and on-campus job. Explore why Aleena thinks Running Start is “one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

New Discovery Center Exhibit: Designing Motherhood

Our Gates Foundation Discovery Center is hosting a new special exhibition called Designing Motherhood: Things that Make and Break Our Births, which explores the arc of human reproduction through the lens of art and design. Contemporary artists and designers examine the evolution of rights and societal norms connected to contraception, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experiences over the last 150 years. Drop by for the Feb. 15 opening celebration, which includes a tour, live music, refreshments, and activities led by local organizations.

Your Questions, Answered.

Every month, we’ll answer your questions about our Washington state work.

Q: Will there be any work focusing on supporting persistence and completion in college once students have transitioned successfully from high school to postsecondary? So many students who enroll in postsecondary ultimately do not persist and complete.

A: We chose to focus on enrollment because it felt like the necessary first step in our larger vision to help students attain a credential of value with a path to meaningful employment. Washington state is 46th in the country in the percentage of students who enroll directly in a postsecondary program after graduation, and 48th in the country in FAFSA completion, the form students have to fill out to access federal financial aid.

We will work in partnership with our national Postsecondary Success team to look for ways to bring completion solutions into Washington state. In addition, if we make progress in increasing enrollment numbers, we expect to turn to persistence and completion.

Got Additional Questions?

Do you have questions about our new education strategy in Washington state? You can submit them here. We’ll be answering some of the most-asked questions in next month’s newsletter and future editions.

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