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College Success Foundation: Inspiring student success

Group shot at UW digitalThe College Success Foundation (CSF) is working together with Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI), Spokane Public Schools, higher education institutions, businesses and community organizations in Spokane and throughout Washington state to create more represented and educated communities. By the year 2018, 67 percent of all jobs in Washington state will require some post-secondary education.

CSF provides a unique integrated system of supports and scholarships to inspire underserved, low-income students to finish high school, graduate from college and succeed in life. Since its inception in 2000 more than 8,000 CSF students have graduated college and more than 6,000 are currently attending college.

Susan Nielsen, Executive Director of College Success Foundation – Spokane

CSF is a key partner in attaining one of GSI’s top priorities ‒ improving the educational attainment of our region by increasing the proportion of residents in Spokane County with high-quality degrees, certificates or other credentials from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2025. By utilizing CSF’s close working relationship with policymakers and community-based partners, CSF brings attention to the need to strengthen education initiatives from cradle to career in order to develop science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and other skills. To reach this goal, CSF is also focused on providing the career awareness needed to prepare students to fill the region’s fastest growing jobs.

As a member of GSI, CSF participates on the K-12 Roundtable, advocates for policy supports for their students through GSI’s State Legislative Agenda and has the opportunity to provide career connected learning experiences for their students. In addition, GSI provides leadership as one of 20 community leaders serving on the CSF-Spokane Advisory Board.

As the need to staff high-demand industry sectors grow, so does the need for rigorous educational options and support systems to ensure completion. In line with these goals, together CSF and GSI are advocating for expanded funding for the Foundation’s college readiness supports for low-income students in multiple high schools across the state as well as other student support systems. They are also advocating for the support for STEM initiatives, such as the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, and to continue to make college affordable through need-based funding, particularly the State Need Grant. During the GSI Olympia Fly-In as well as throughout the long legislative session, GSI and CSF collaborate on advocacy outreach to help scholars access and achieve postsecondary success.

Additionally, with support from local investors, CSF students have the opportunity to participate in GSI’s Business AfterSchool workshops engaging students in career awareness in highly valued occupations and employments paths. The winter and spring workshops bring students, parents, educators and businesses into the workplace for a real-time visit to explore technology, research, development and innovation industries in action.

Susan Nielsen, Regional Executive Director of CSF states, “These first-hand experiences are so valuable for our students as they do not often have the resources or the contacts to explore career opportunities within our business community. CSF’s partnership with GSI encourages students to discover their personalized interests and strengths. As students discover how the world of work intersects with their own interests and strengths, the insight and vision for the future provides the “staying power” for their education when the work gets hard and the demands are high. If they can envision themselves in an exciting future career that aligns with how they’re wired, it provides the added motivation to stay engaged in school. The drive to pursue and complete postsecondary education becomes very real and internalized, which is what ultimately leads to their success, intrinsic drive and persistence toward their vision.”

CSF is making a profound difference in increasing students’ desire to attend and graduate from college, break the cycle of generational poverty and succeed in life. GSI members and the community-at-large have many options to engage and invest in CSF’s work locally. Contact CSF-Spokane Regional Executive Director Susan Nielsen to learn more about how you can support CSF-Spokane, snielsen@collegesuccessfoundation.org, 509-742-5184, www.collegesuccessfoundation.org/wa/spokane.

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