College success to grow in Tacoma

College Success Foundation has launched the grand opening of its Tacoma office, which aims to expand the existing programming throughout the district, as well as serve as a model for other schools.

On Dec. 7 at Lincoln High School's library, community and education leaders gathered for a grand opening ceremony, followed by a reception at the Tacoma College Success Foundation's office at 950 Pacific Ave.

"This is a big deal for Tacoma. It tells me Tacoma is on the rise... and as schools rise, so does the city," said Pat Erwin, co-principal at Lincoln High School.

The existing model grew out of a 10-year partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the successful Achievers Scholarship Program implemented in three Tacoma high schools and six Tacoma middle schools.

With an office now based in Tacoma, CSF will mentor and advise low-income students in all of the city's high schools and middle schools.

"We didn't want the programs to end when the Gates funding ended," CSF founder Bob Craves said. "(CSF) was at three high schools and six middle schools... why not have it at all high schools and middle schools?"

Tacoma College Success Foundation (TSCF) will offer early outreach in grades seven and eight through the College Bound Scholarship Program and in grades seven through 10 through the Higher Education Readiness Opportunity (HERO) program. In grades 11 and 12 TCSF offers college advising and mentoring.

Mayor-elect Marilyn Strickland noted the TCSF will help the city reach its goal of becoming an "urban college city."

"Tacoma needs to send more kids to college," she said, noting the city is supporting the local office with $50,000 a year over five years. "We want to educated city."

So far, the CSF program in the district has helped 306 Tacoma students to receive bachelor's degrees and 1,214 Tacoma students have enrolled in Washington colleges and received scholarship support of more than $22 million. More than 140 students are slated to start college in the fall of 2010.

Program supporters hope that number will grow with post-secondary education support at 15 of Tacoma's schools.  

Mark Robertson, executive director for TCSF, said the goal is to double the number of high school graduates and increase bachelor's degrees in Tacoma students from 50 to 70 percent.

Cesar Ureno is a senior at Lincoln High School who started working with the HERO program when he started high school. He and a dozen other CSF students shared their experiences and post-high school goals with the community audience Dec. 7.

"I started thinking - I can do a lot of things. College Success Foundation put that into my head. It gave me the extra push I needed," Ureno said. "I wouldn't be where I am today (without College Success Foundation)."

Initial partners involved in the launch of TCSF include the Higher Education Coordinating Board, the city of Tacoma, Tacoma Public Utilities, Gary E. Milgard Family Foundation, Ben B. Cheney Foundation, Costco Wholesale and Tacoma Public Schools.

Craves said most of the money from TCSF partners will be used for programming and students' scholarship funds.

Craves also announced Dec. 7 that scholarship funds have been set up, starting at $2,500 each, for the nine children of the four Lakewood police officers who were shot and killed Nov. 29 in a Parkland coffee shop. The fund will also support future children of police officers whose parents die in the line of duty.

Tacoma College Success Foundation is located at 950 Pacific Ave., suite 1250. Call (253) 439-5800 for more information


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