Seattle U: campus with a conscience
Seattle University has spent two decades reaching out to its less-privileged neighbors in the Central District. The highest service award given by the federal government is its reward.
Seattle Times Editorial
SEATTLE University has never ignored the stark contrasts between the advantages of its private college campus and the disadvantages of the surrounding community, which struggles with poverty and high crime rates.
University students have tutored at Bailey Gatzert Elementary for 20 years, a school with one of the largest low-income populations in the city.
Almost two years ago, Jesuit principles grounded in the spirit of public service guided the university's development of the Youth Initiative project.
Seattle U is spending $1 million a year on an assortment of health and school programs, an effort modeled on the success of the Harlem Children's Zone's neighborhood-based network of social-service programs in New York City.
The effort is an important response to the problems that lie just beyond the campus, including poverty, violence and educational barriers. Rates of youth violence and juvenile incarceration in the university's Central District neighborhood are among the highest in Seattle.
For its commitment to the community, Seattle U has been awarded the 2012 President's Higher Education Community Service Award, the top award given by the federal government to an institution of higher education committed to volunteerism, service-learning and civic engagement.
The well-deserved accolades take in the breadth of Seattle U's range of assistance, including health-care assistance from the school's nursing program and legal aid from its law school.
Seattle U serves as a national example of the difference higher education can make on its neighbors. As this page noted last year when Seattle U launched its initiative, this effort is absent any hint of artifice. The relationship between Seattle U and its neighbors works both ways. A community gets to tap into the considerable resources of the private university on the hill. Seattle U expands its exceptional public-service values that help distinguish it from other schools.
Bravo to Seattle University.