December 2023: A message from our team


Director’s Note

As we close out 2023, our Washington State team is filled with so much gratitude for the collaboration, innovation, and partnerships that are happening across the state on behalf of our students.

I’ll admit: at the beginning of this year, I felt like our work in Washington state education was very siloed. As we’re ending this year, I feel quite different. I continue to think about the many examples of leaders coming together – whether they lead state agencies, schools, districts, or colleges or universities. And at every single table, student voice and student input was a critical part of that collaboration.

But don’t take my word for it. Please take a moment and watch this video featuring year-end reflections from my amazing Washington State team.

Thanks for all you do for communities and students in this state. I am sending you all the love and best wishes as the year concludes.

Angela Jones
Director, Washington State Initiative

Community Engagement Grants: Year in Review

summary grant making

Our Community Engagement team provides multi-year, general operating support grants to local nonprofits. These grants are in response to the most urgent community needs, so they vary in focus from year to year.

  • This year, the Community Engagement team made 38 grants to local nonprofits in the Greater Seattle region, totalling nearly $15 million.
  • That includes 14 grants to organizations that had never received funding from the Gates Foundation.

The bottom line: The COVID-19 pandemic, rising housing costs, and inflation continue to have profound impacts on local residents. As a result, community members rely more than ever on local nonprofits for access to affordable housing, food, and other basic services.

  • A recent University of Washington study found that “28% of working-age households struggle to meet their basic needs, a significant rise from 22% in 2019.”
  • That’s why most of our Community Engagement grants went to nonprofits focused on things like housing and food insecurity.

Explore our 2023 Community Engagement granteesCommunity Engagement Grants: 2023 Review

Student Voices: How Communities for Our Colleges is making college more accessible

communities for college

Fernando Mejia Ledesma crossed the border into the U.S. at just 16 years old in search of a better life. He ended up attending high school, working on a farm, and learning English in Idaho.

  • Fernando made two wishes as he made the difficult journey through the Arizona desert more than 20 years ago: that he’d survive, and that he’d attend college.
  • After graduating from high school, he worried about the chance of pursuing his second dream as an undocumented youth.
  • But a community organizer asked him to share his story at a press conference about the DREAM Act – and that put him on a path to not only get into college but also to  become an advocate for immigrant rights and education justice.

Now leading Communities for Our Colleges (C4C), Fernando hopes to provide that same kind of support to Washington’s young people.

  • C4C is a multiracial, student-centered campaign in Washington state that works to improve the state’s community colleges.
  • They are wrapping up an active year engaging students, families, local businesses, and other faith and civil rights organizations.

Why it matters: Fernando’s story demonstrates just how many hurdles our students need to clear to make it to college and pursue their post-high school dreams. That’s why we are committed to improving the systems that are in place to support them.

Read more: How 300 Student Leaders Are Working to Make Washington Colleges More Accessible

A great visit to UW Bothell

We wanted to give the University of Washington Bothell our thanks for a delightful, inspiring visit!

  • Washington State Director Angela Jones recently traveled to UW Bothell with our national Postsecondary Success Director Patrick Methvin.
  • UW Bothell is part of a Gates Foundation-supported Student Success Equity Intensive, a peer coaching program led by our Postsecondary Success grantee the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).

During the visit, UW Bothell leaders shared how they are ensuring their students stay in college and graduate with limited debt.

The bottom line: UW Bothell is doing great work to ensure their degrees lead to limited student debt and good-paying jobs.

  • The Postsecondary Value Commission’s Economic Value Index shows that UW Bothell students are finding good-paying jobs after graduation.
  • Data from the Education Research and Data Center confirms that graduates make the second highest wages in the state compared to those with comparable degrees from public, four-year institutions.
  • Where do they go from here? They’re now focused on improving second-year retention rates.

Explore more: Read Patrick’s reflections on LinkedIn

What We’re Reading

Read next

December 2021 Newsletter: 3 reasons we’re grateful

Recently, I listened to a brief audio clip of Eastern Washington University Professor Philip Watkins describing the findings of his research on gratitude. (Gratitude research sounds like a pretty amazing job.) Professor Watkins found that the participants who wrote down three things they were grateful for were able to sustain their happiness longer than those who only recalled happy memories.