Who helped you figure out the college process or encouraged you to apply? If you are a parent, do you need more information to help your children? I'm guessing that many find applying to college an enormous challenge that can be complicated, confusing and expensive. Where do low-income students or those with few people in their family who have gone to college turn for help?
QuickStart to College is one of the places students can turn. QuickStart is a free opportunity for low-income, first-generation college-going seniors from area high schools to get expert help. It is a collaborative, volunteer effort supported by staff and faculty from FuturesNW, Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College and Bellingham Technical College to ensure that all students have the information they need to be able to apply to a college or university of their choice.
Aug. 21 to Aug. 24, 45 Whatcom and Skagit county seniors will be on the WWU campus to get the inside scoop on college admissions and scholarships while building important relationships with faculty, staff and present college students from around the region. Each student will have expert help with beginning the college search and application and essay process. I definitely would be remiss if I didn't mention that QuickStart is fun! Past students shared that the social time with students from other high schools and the opportunity to experience dorm life is one of the best parts, if not the best part, of QuickStart.
QuickStart to College is specifically designed for students who are eligible for the Washington College Bound Scholarship because we know receiving the scholarship can make a tremendous difference in their lives. College Bound Scholars sign up for the State of Washington College Bound Scholarship in eighth grade. If they have at least a 2.0 grade point average upon graduation, have maintained positive citizenship and continue to meet income guidelines, the College Bound Scholarship will pay the average tuition for any one of the 67 Washington colleges and universities that students choose for up to four years. To date, over 150,000 Washington students have signed up for the scholarship with over 7,000 of those students from our Whatcom and Skagit counties. We are very proud of the fact that 90 percent of the QuickStart students who completed the program the past three years will be on college campuses this fall, compared to the approximately 50 percent of their low-income, first-generation college-going classmates.
Higher education remains an urgent need in Washington and in Whatcom County. The graduation and college enrollment rates of Whatcom County students fall below those of Washington state. Improving the standard of living of our region through educating our youth is paramount to our future; therefore, providing support to low-income students can significantly contribute to overarching school and community goals of increased graduation rates, increased college enrollment and a better-educated workforce.
FuturesNW, formerly the Northwest Alliance for College Access, was founded in 2010 to fill a regional information gap for students and their families. What began as a kitchen-table nonprofit has grown in four years to represent a community-wide organization working with over 20 partners and 185 volunteers to provide mentoring and support for students and their families.
In the end, I realized my words are not nearly as powerful as those of the students who have attended QuickStart to College the past three years. If they had written this piece, they would tell you that:
"QuickStart made me feel that college was in my grasp;"
"QuickStart motived me because now I know there are a lot of people who can and will help me;"
"College has gone from some scary thing that's far off in the distance to something familiar and not intimidating;"
"QuickStart gave me the courage to find my dreams."
ABOUT THIS COLUMN
Sharon Camblin is the executive director for FuturesNW, which has received grants from the Whatcom Community Foundation to provide transition support for 9th graders and a Bellingham Human Services development grant to provide family engagement support for high school freshmen parents.
Window On My World is an occasional essay in Monday's Bellingham Herald that allows Whatcom County residents to share their passion for what they do, an idea or cause they support. Send your Window On My World, which must be no more than 700 words, to Julie.email@example.com.