Everett Rotary pledges $200,000 to help get kids to college

The Rotary Club of Everett has announced plans to donate $200,000 over the next four years to help more than 900 students achieve a goal that might seem out of reach — a college education.

The Next Generation program will be launched at Everett and Sequoia high schools in the Everett School District.

It’s targeted at students enrolled in AVID programs, those with a GPA of 2.0 to 3.5 and who are low-income or minority students, or students who would be the first in their family to attend college.

“We wanted to do something significant, substantial and that could have an impact in the community,” said Ted Wenta, who leads the Rotary’s Next Generation committee.

The $50,000 pledged for each of the next four years will be used in a variety of ways, including helping fund trips to college campuses and paying for class tuition.

As one example, the cost of a class taken for college credit — $190 — can be more than some families can afford without financial assistance, Wenta said.

The money also could be used for transportation costs, such as bus or plane fare for students enrolled in college, said JoAnne Fabian, the Everett School District’s curriculum director.

“A number of these scholarships are aimed at things that can be barriers for kids,” she said.

The program isn’t just about money. Up to 100 Rotary volunteers will assist the 240 students enrolled in the program each year.

The Rotarians will lead career talks each week at the two high schools, helping judge student culminating projects, leading study groups and providing opportunities for job shadows and career mentoring.

Although the program is starting at Everett and Sequoia high schools, the group hopes that the school district’s other two high schools, Jackson and Cascade, can have similar programs.

“We’re seeking additional funders,” Wenta said. “At a time of shrinking resources, communities need to come together to solve needs.”

The Next Generation project is the latest effort by an organization that has long supported student education. Over the past two decades, it has provided $3.3 million in scholarships for high school students, Wenta said.

This includes 31 students who received $161,500 in scholarships announced in May.

The club’s support of the Next Generation project won’t eliminate the long-standing scholarship program, but it may modify it, said Andy Hall, club president.

“We’ll still try to get $100,000 for scholarships,” he said.

The scholarships have helped about 30 students each year, he said. The Next Generation project is expected to assist 240 students over each of the next four years.

The new program can fundamentally change students, and not just with their academic goals, Fabian said.

Through the increased career opportunities that come with education, it can have a ripple effect throughout their lives, she said. “It just changes everything.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

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