Elevate Partnership Secures Gates Grant

Elevate Partnership Secures Gates Grant
Posted on 04/18/2024
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ESD 123 is thrilled to be part of a regional partnership that has been awarded a three-year Horizons Regional Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The southeast regional partnership is one of four regions awarded a Horizons Regional Grant, which focuses on addressing the low rate of students enrolling in post-secondary education in Washington state. 

As the official grant recipient, the United Way of the Blue Mountains is utilizing its coalition of community stakeholders, known as Elevate, to spearhead the region’s work. Under Elevate, the following southeast Washington entities will collaborate to carry out the grant work plan:

  • United Way of the Blue Mountains
  • Educational Service District 123
  • Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • Communities in Schools of the Blue Mountain Region
  • Port of Columbia
  • College Place, Dayton, Prescott, and Walla Walla School Districts
  • Walla Walla Community College and Whitman College

The grant aims to bolster and expand programs to help more students transition from K-12 into post-secondary education pathways. Amanda Mount, Elevate Director of Policy & Advocacy with United Way of Blue Mountains, says that a number of factors contribute to a lower college-going rate in southeast Washington. 

“Some students are concerned about affordability and the time to get a degree,” Mount says. “Others may perceive getting a credential won’t help their earnings in the long run. Few Washington students complete the Federal Financial Aid Form (FAFSA). These grant dollars will help expand more staff at high schools to help with postsecondary planning.”

Under the Horizons grant, the regional partnership’s goals aim to enhance assistance for students and parents, providing extra support for students to explore their interests, learn about jobs, and apply for entrance to suitable programs. Additionally, the grant will fund partnerships with local businesses for job shadows, internships, and apprenticeships.

At ESD 123, Regional Career Connected Learning Coordinator Jim Kindle will be instrumental in leading the ESD’s collaboration with districts, communities, and partners. Kindle’s work will focus on strategic partnerships between schools, businesses, and industry, leading to workforce development initiatives (internships and apprenticeships) that are aligned with local school systems and labor market needs.

“This initiative seeks to empower students with real-world, relevant experience and essential skills for future endeavors,” Kindle says. “We will track each student’s progress and outcomes, including employment metrics and industry certifications, post-secondary summer melt, persistence and retention. This will be done by embedding career navigators in each school district.”

Preparing students for success in both college and careers contributes to the economic prosperity of our schools and communities across Columbia and Walla Walla Counties.

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