How this community celebrates back to school

This is one of my favorite times of year. With a new school year comes new classrooms, new notebooks, new relationships, and the hopefulness and energy of a fresh start.

At the foundation we’ve been celebrating the Back to School season, especially the students, teachers, and leaders who work together to create student-ready schools—schools that are prepared to support every student. Bill chatted with the Washington State Teacher of the Year—I especially liked how Camille walked Bill through an exercise she uses with kindergarteners to teach science and engineering skills. Camille proves that when we spark a love of learning in young children, they believe in themselves and go on to do great things. Melinda shared some reflections on resilience, risk-taking, and dreaming big; and Allan sat down with the principal of Solorio Academy High School in Chicago.

In Washington State—a place that celebrates rich diversity of culture and language and values equal opportunity, progress, and innovation—communities are rallying together, making sure that every student is ready for success from day one.

White Center in South Seattle is bustling with activity, working to connect families and community members to resources, services, and supports. Families, students, teachers and staff from nearby schools, and a team from the White Center Community Development Association (CDA), come together with one goal in mind: Build a vibrant community in White Center. With teachers and caregivers often stretched thin balancing daily demands, a rich community support system can make a world of difference.

“We want to see our children thrive,” said Catherina Willard, the Family Development Manager from the CDA. “We want them to grow up with a sense of pride, belonging, and enthusiasm for the future. To do that, we need to come together—families, schools, and communities—to support them.”

Earlier this month, on a warm summer day, the CDA hosted a Back to School celebration in partnership with community partners, including Highline Public Schools. Music boomed as a DJ boosted the energy, kids and adults alike danced, King County Housing Authority provided a delicious meal, and the CDA passed around backpacks loaded with school supplies to about 1,500 students.

“The start of school each year is an exciting time for students, families, and staff,” said Dr. Susan Enfield, Superintendent of Highline Public Schools. “Without the support of community partners, however, school districts would not be able to ensure that all students are equipped for success. In Highline Public Schools we are incredibly fortunate to partner with organizations like the White Center CDA who help make sure our students and families have a great start to the school year.”

That’s just the start.

Year round, White Center CDA hosts a number of events to support students and families. Family Play and Learn sessions bring children and caregivers together as a fun way to nurture development and social skills. Early Learning Connectors provide a space for caregivers to gain knowledge and hands-on tips and tools in a culturally appropriate, language-based setting to help their children develop age-appropriate skills before entering Kindergarten. And White Center CDA works with schools to host monthly coffee hours where residents and parents have an opportunity to talk with the principal, ask questions, share ideas, and meet with other parents.

“What we find works best is when schools come to families and ask what they need to support their children,” said Catherina. “That spirit of curiosity, humility, and understanding is how we create authentic partnerships with one another. And that’s how our students will thrive.”

We’re proud to partner with organizations like the White Center CDA that prove what’s possible when families, schools, and communities work together to support each child—addressing their social, academic, and development needs from the beginning. Rich community collaboration is an essential, powerful force to help improve equity and expand opportunity.