Commentary: Widening path to success for county’s youths

Partners at county high schools and colleges are helping students realize career opportunities.

By David Beyer, Ed Buendia, Gary Cohn, Shari L. Dworkin, Jason Smith Jason Thompson and Eugene McAvoy

For The Herald

If you care about the future, having a path forward makes obvious sense. What does not make sense is that young people — who are our future — all too often cannot see a path forward to continue their education and to become engaged, contributing members of our community.

To help K-12 students in the North Puget Sound imagine the possibilities of their own futures — and our collective future — educational leaders have banded together across institutional barriers to create an innovative collaborative called Diversifying Pathways. Designed to make access to higher education possible for students who have been underserved and underrepresented in the fields of teaching and health care, the collaborative is a consortium between University of Washington Bothell, Everett Community College and the Everett and Marysville school districts.

We are already making an impact.

In fall 2018, with the start of this school year, UW Bothell, Everett Community College and Everett Public Schools created a “college in high school” program that can accelerate progress toward earning a teaching certificate. The program will also include professional learning opportunities for K-12 educators to support their work with students who themselves aspire to become teachers.

To prepare students for higher education and careers in health care, Everett Community College and UW Bothell are working to admit students to both institutions simultaneously and then to provide seamless transitions for students across the two institutions as well as wraparound student support services to improve learning, retention rates and graduation rates. UW Bothell advisers, for example, are now traveling to Everett Community College to discuss transfer needs with students on site so they don’t have to take time away from school or work to get the guidance they need.

Working as we are on shared goals across our organizations, we can help eliminate educational inequities, increase economic prosperity and enhance the health of our regional communities:

We are addressing key shortages in the regional workforce, especially in high-need fields such as education and health care.

We are leveraging our public, health care and industrial relationships to create career opportunities as well as meaningful avenues for young people to contribute to their communities.

We are building cross-institutional support for students from underserved and underrepresented communities to become professional and civic leaders.

Making even more progress on our goal to help young people go to college and graduate in a timely fashion and well prepared for a variety of career paths requires us to innovate beyond how we have traditionally worked together.

Building these creative programmatic structures is essential, but it is not enough. It also requires more and ongoing support from the community — including the state Legislature, which has a foundational role to play in providing much-needed investments in quality education and workforce development.

Educational institutions at the K-12 and college levels rely on state lawmakers and other government and community partners to help manifest people’s dreams of higher education, a good paying job and a good life.

We know from our collaboration that an educational system that is more seamless as students move from K-12 through higher education, that fosters access and that has adequate funding will translate into more students creating a good life for themselves without crippling debt.

This is a model for a better future that we should support here at home; and then share with other communities in Washington.

Together, we can make sure young students here in Snohomish County and all around the state get the seat they deserve at the higher education table.

David Beyer is president of Everett Community College. Ed Buendia is dean of the School of Educational Studies, University of Washington Bothell. Gary Cohn is superintendent for Everett Public Schools. Shari L. Dworkin is dean of the School of Nursing & Health Studies, University of Washington Bothell. Jason Smith is dean of Health Sciences, Everett Community College. Jason Thompson is superintendent of the Marysville School District. Eugene McAvoy is dean of Communication and Social Sciences, Everett Community College.

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