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Seattle University and Bailey Gatzert (Seattle, Washington)

As a Jesuit university, Seattle University takes its commitment to justice and service as a high priority. About eight years ago, Seattle’s President Father Stephen Sundborg and the Board of Trustees spent time thinking about how to engrain a tradition of service and justice into the fabric of the university.
 
The school opened its Center for Service and Community Engagement and spent time heavily consulting with the surrounding community. Seattle leaders quickly concluded that its resources were best utilized and most impactful by improving the educational outcomes of the neighborhood’s children.
 
Seattle’s service mission coincided with a growing trend in service-learning and volunteerism around the country. So in 2010, the university produced an Action Plan for its mission and formed its Youth Initiative. Inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, Seattle University focused on creating a pipeline of support from early education to college for the children in the Bailey Gatzert neighborhood, which encompasses the neighborhood south of the campus. 
 
Bailey Gatzert is a neighborhood with a large immigrant population, including a recent influx of Asian and east African families. More than half of the residents live at or below the poverty line. Closing the academic achievement gap between low-income students in the neighborhood and their higher-income counterparts and providing those students with more opportunities to attend college is the focal point of the Youth Initiative.
 
The initiative focuses significantly on Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, which is directly across the street from the neighborhood’s public housing. Seattle University’s plan included flooding the school with resources, coordinated supports, and innovative curriculum aimed at helping students reach their developmental milestones on time and improve the chances of them being prepared for a post-secondary career.
 
Seattle University staffs a full-time site coordinator funded by private donors. The Youth Initiative also works with the city’s public housing authority to engage and coordinate support for students and their families. Teachers help craft after-school enrichment around their curriculum. A data-sharing agreement between the school district and the university has also been developed.

Under the initiative, Bailey Gatzert receives refurbished Dell computers from the University and new computers through a grant from Target. Americorps volunteers were recently placed in its feeder Washington Middle School to track Bailey Gatzert Elementary School students as they go through junior high school. The Youth Initiative also supports after-school programs at Garfield High School. Dozens of other community organizations and agencies have signed on or expressed interest in becoming partners in the initiative.
 
Seattle University’s work with the Bailey Gatzert neighborhood has positioned the initiative to partner with Seattle Housing Authority on a successful $30 million Choice Neighborhood grant and other grant awards.
 
Last year, Bailey Gatzert showed the greatest academic growth of any school in the district, according to the Youth Initiative’s Director Kent Koth.
 
"This isn’t some benevolent arrangement," Koth said. "Our University students are learning through service and we are addressing real community needs. It’s a reciprocal relationship."


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