Seattle U. to help entire neighborhood around Central District school
Seattle University's relationship with a Seattle public school is about to become much more significant. On Monday, the private Jesuit university announced a $1 million-a-year project to greatly expand the help it gives to Bailey Gatzert Elementary — to include the school's entire neighborhood, one of the lowest-income areas in the city.
Seattle Times higher education reporter
For 20 years, Seattle University students have trekked to nearby Bailey Gatzert Elementary to lend a hand with tutoring in the city's highest-poverty school.
That relationship with the Seattle public school is about to become much more significant. On Monday, the private Jesuit university announced a $1 million-a-year project to greatly expand the help it gives Bailey Gatzert to include the elementary school's entire neighborhood in the Central District, one of the lowest-income areas in the city.
Modeled in part after the Harlem Children's Zone, the university's Youth Initiative will bring a broad range of assistance to the neighborhood, including more tutoring and after-school help, free legal aid to recent immigrants provided by the university's law school and free health assistance from the nursing school.
About 17,500 residents live in the 100-block neighborhood, bounded by South Dearborn Street, Alaskan Way, James Street, East Cherry Street and 23rd Avenue South, and about 35 percent live at or below the poverty line.
The project aims to touch all aspects of the neighborhood's social, health and educational development, and will include assistance to Washington Middle School and Garfield High School.
The university, a private Jesuit school founded in 1891, wants to put its values into action, said President Stephen Sundborg. But it also expects the relationship will lead to "a much better education for our own students."
By working with the community, students will move beyond the isolated, intellectual experience of the classroom and learn how to put their knowledge to work in the community. That can help "make education stick" after the final exam, Sundborg said.
"If our students are changed through their educational experience, then they will be citizens who will work for positive changes for the rest of their lives," said Kent Koth, director of the university's youth initiative.
Seattle University has an enrollment of about 8,000, and three-quarters of its students complete a service learning project during their years there.
"I've always thought, as an educator, that higher-learning institutions should do more with public schools," said Bailey Gatzert principal Greg Imel. The announcement of the youth initiative has "really jazzed up all the partners in the neighborhood. ... I think people are really liking the idea of working together on behalf of families."
Sundborg called the Youth Initiative an "ongoing, permanent commitment" to the community.
The Harlem Children's Zone, featured in the 2010 documentary "Waiting for Superman," provides free parenting workshops, preschool programs, public charter schools and child-oriented health programs to low-income families in New York's Harlem neighborhood.
Seattle University also is drawing some lessons from the University of Pennsylvania, which works closely with disadvantaged students in its Philadelphia neighborhood.
Sundborg said he was inspired, in part, to consider a big project to help people in need after the university in 2005 hosted Tent City 3, one the area's roving tent encampments for the homeless. Faculty, staff and students gave health and legal advice, and cooked dinner for the homeless.
"For me, it gave an example of what happens to a university when everyone is engaged together," Sundborg said of that experience.
Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or email@example.com
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