Local South End summer programs thrive with million dollar support from DEEL


by Chamidae Ford

In July, the Ministry of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) awarded $ 1 million to 17 local organizations to support summer learning programs. Mainly concentrated in the South End, these funds will support programs that help students prepare for school in the fall.

Chris Alejano, acting director of the K-12 division for DEEL, explained that the department had an idea of ​​the type of organizations it wanted to partner with. They specifically sought out programs that support student preparation for school while prioritizing mental and physical well-being and filling education gaps.

“We are looking for organizations that are used to serving students furthest from educational justice,” Alejano said. “[Also organizations] who had some experience in achieving results related to academic support, college preparation and career, [and] health and wellness – or at least a plan that showed they had a strategy behind how they were going to approach these topics. “

One of the organizations that received a grant, Southern stories, has a strong focus on providing students with the space to express themselves through art.

“We are an arts education organization focused on anti-racism and activism and culturally appropriate pedagogy,” said Francesca Betancourt, media and communications manager at South End Stories. “Our official mission is to bring joy and justice to classrooms and communities using arts-based learning, anti-racist education, and social activism.”

South End Stories teaches artist Dr Saya Omori. Photo courtesy of South End Stories.

South End Stories partnered with Lowell Elementary School and offered an afternoon program for students taking summer school. After their morning classes, students will head to South End Stories for a creative and expressive afternoon.

“We have the Gaming Academy,” Betancourt said. This program includes film, comics and visual arts, dance, storytelling and theater. “Essentially, it was about improving the well-being of students, deepening their connection with the arts and with each other, and also valuing play and self-expression. “

The all-in-person program offers “a strong focus on social and emotional learning, creativity and the space to find your creative voice,” Betancourt said.

Over the past year, the pandemic has exposed many of the glaring inequalities in our institutions, including our education system. These DEEL summer scholarships aim to fill some of the gaps that have caused students to fall further and further behind.

“What we really do is invest in our CBL [community-based learning organizations] over the summer, learning to support well-being and academic achievement, truly in response to educational inequalities that have been exasperated by the pandemic, ”said DEEL Executive Director Dwane Chappelle. “CBL partners are supporting the students most affected by the pandemic and making sure they will be ready to learn in the fall. “

Photo of a classroom with artist teachers and assistants seated at desks in a circle, reviewing orientation material.
Teach performers and assistants preparing for the South End Stories’ Academy of Play during Orientation Week. Photo courtesy of South End Stories.

Another grant recipient was Northwest Center, an organization that works for equal opportunities for people with disabilities.

“Our organization kind of creates this inclusive community so that people of all abilities feel good and supported,” said Snejana Gibskaya, director of early learning at the Northwest Center.

Northwest Center used the funds for a wide variety of improvements. This allowed them to repair their vans, which allowed their students to attend the Sailors’ Games, MoPop and the Zoo. This allows them to buy a new program and provide greater opportunities for their students.

“I think the grants help programs enrich what we already have and also give us the ability to program and deliver things that we wouldn’t be able to offer otherwise,” Gibskaya said. “Nonprofit programs like us are delighted to have any kind of additional funding as our budgets are limited and it always helps to have city or state support.”

These grants have enabled 17 organizations to support their communities, helping over 1,300 students this summer prepare for school. South End Stories’ Betancourt believes such grants are essential for small organizations to continue to have an impact.

“I think that’s the only way we can actually deliver consistently and sustainably,” Betancourt said. “Mainly because arts education is not always quantifiable. You can’t always say, “That number of ticks ahead in this scale has happened. But we know from countless studies and constant observation that this is extremely beneficial for students in so many ways. It helps them in their studies, their social and emotional life, their well-being, [and] with their own path to identity. So [grants] help tremendously. It really is the only way to do this kind of work. Only if we are given the confidence and the space to be able to fully serve students in the way we envision.

Ford of Chamidae is a recent graduate in journalism from the University of Washington. Born and raised in West Washington, she is passionate about giving voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/ Twitter: @chamidaeford.

?? Featured Image: Photo courtesy of Scott Eklund / Red Box Pictures of Northwest Center Kids.

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