The Work‐It‐Out pilot project (WIO) is a new educational and job‐training resource based in the Central District of Seattle, WA. The intended target population of the WIO pilot program is youth, ages 16‐21. That left high school without a diploma and are hovering on the edge of poverty and homelessness; circumstances not conducive to hope. These youth can be seen standing on street corners, in front of businesses, walking the streets during normal school hours, and at night, some even with infants/children in tow. Often, their parents, grandparents, school officials and other child welfare workers are aware of their plight, but are unable to help.
WIO intends to help these youth improve the quality of their life by offering options for better use of their time, talent, and potential while helpin
g to build their confidence, in turn creating brighter futures.
Today, too many youth of color in the Seattle Central District end up with arrest records and are labeled troublemakers, which increase their likelihood of dropping out of school. Central area residents believe the disparities in dropout rates between racial groups are too costly to our children, our community, and the nation to let it persist
The idea for Work‐It‐Out pilot project (WIO) was born out of commitment and motivation of the Central District neighbors, community members, parents, clergy, and public/private organizat
ions to do better for our most vulnerable youth. The determination to reach out and support youth in innovative ways that give them voices, provide them with the educational tools for competing in a global society, and re‐engage them in building a more just, vibrant, sustainable, prosperous, multi‐cultural neighborhood and community is at the core of our mission.
With a critical mass of neighborhood support, public will, and data substantiating disparities in academic performance and graduation rates for youth of color in Seattle, we reached out to corporate and community volunteers to help ready the historic Horace Mann school building for this model educational and job‐training project. We believe a door has opened in this difficult economy to step up and apply community‐based solutions to the challenges and disparities facing low‐income families and their children.
Central to Work‐It‐Out pilot project (WIO)’s goals is the successful planning, execution, and implementation of a non‐traditional, small school model with an emphasis on personalization, collaboration, social action and hands‐on learning experiences that are relevant to the students lives. The integrated, project‐based curriculum is designed around three key components which research on effective small schools has proven critical:
RIGOR, RELEVANCE, AND RELATIONSHIPS (Wagner, 1997; Shear & Means, 2008)
- Rigor: A challenging academic program preparing all students for college, occupation, and citizenship.
- Relevance: Hands‐on learning experiences that students find engaging and meaningful to their current and future lives.
- Relationships: Small schools provide the opportunity for students and teachers to know each other well resulting in close and supportive bonds between and among students and faculty.
Seattle University, the University of Washington, as well as Microsoft employees have stepped up to offer service learning instructors. The City of Seattle has awarded a $100,000 Neighborhood Matching grant for the first year of the project in 2010. We are looking for more volunteers to physically and monetarily help get this fantastic project up and running smoothly and successfully integrate Horace Mann School and the Central District’s youth positively back into life and the community.
With corporate and community support and sponsorship, vulnerable youth in our region will become engaged, productive contributors to producing healthy families and healthy communities.
- Nationally, approximately 7,000 high school students drop out every school day, which translates to one in three students.
- In Seattle, the Office for Civil Rights reported that only 42% of Native American students, 43% of Latino students and 47% of African American students completed high school, compared to 67% of their white counterparts and 70% of Asian American students;
- Same year, 16% of African American students received short‐term suspensions, compared to 6% of white students, despite the fact that white students accounted for 40% of the high school student body compared to 23% of African American students.
- People of color comprise a disproportionate number of those incarcerated in Washington State. While African Americans make up only 3.2% of Washington’s population, they account for 10.2% or one‐fifth of the state’s prison population.
- Native Americans comprise only 1.6% of the total state population yet they account for 4.5% of those in Washington prisons.
“America’s high schools are obsolete. By obsolete, I don’t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and underfunded though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean that our high schools even when they’re working exactly as designed cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.”
‐ Bill Gates, National Education Summit on High Schools, 2005