As featured in SkillUp Washington’s latest newsletter.
Danika Martinez, Program Director of the Seattle Education Access (SEA), wants to ensure all young people are given a fair shot at pursuing their educational goals.
Born out a multi-partnership initiative, SEA tackles the challenges and barriers that many low- income or marginalized young adults face when navigating the educational system. Whether it’s finishing high school, obtaining a GED or moving onto higher education, SEA meets young people where they are and acts as a resource and guide every step of the way.
This month we sat down with Danika to learn more about SEA’s past, present, and future.
Can you tell our readers about SEA?
Seattle Education Access (SEA) was founded in 2002, born out of the work of Polly Trout, who began volunteering her time to support young people experiencing homelessness in the University District earn their GED, and eventually attend college.
Over the next several years, though our work was based in the University District, students were coming to us from all parts of the county, seeking college access support services. In 2011, SEA began our South King County expansion project, which was funded in part by SkillUp Washington. This effort marked the first time that we would strategically expand our work through specific partnerships in South King County.
Considering factors like the geography of Puget Sound and gentrification, we knew that many young people did not have access to higher education support services outside of the city, particularly young folks who earned a secondary credential through a GED program or non- traditional high school diploma program.
We have grown from being entirely volunteer-run to having 18 on staff, and a team of AmeriCorps members for supporting students academically. Today SEA is a college access and retention organization that supports students using a one-on-one model for education and transition planning.
We enroll students between the ages of 16 and 29, who are low-income, and support them until they reach their education goals. Our program staff members are located regionally throughout King County, embedded at non-traditional high school completion and GED programs, on campus at community and technical colleges and other community-based organizations, working often with case managers, instructors and other supportive adults to coordinate student support services
SEA has been a great partner in Generation Work. Can you share with our readers the role SEA plays in this initiative?
SEA is currently embedded at the Airport Jobs Center, taking on students who come into the center as job seekers, as Alaska Airlines Scholarship recipients and/or as airport employees looking to advance their education. We are supporting students with class advising, career and program exploration, applying for and completing financial aid requirements, as well as community resource referrals.
Additionally, we are taking on students referred to us from programs at the South Seattle College Georgetown Campus. We are in the process of also exploring of other in-demand pathways, and supporting students to and through those programs, including pre- apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs.
Is there anything you would like readers to know about how to get involved with Generation Work?
One of the best ways to access our services is through the Airport Jobs Center, where we are located onsite to work with anyone seeking support for pursuing education goals, and where folks can also get support with employment searches with the help of the jobs center staff.
We think it’s important for as many people out in the community to know that there are so many options for postsecondary pathways in our region, outside of what we normally consider the ‘traditional pathways.’ For example, we love to support students in finding the right technical program or pre-apprenticeship pathway that has specific skills training leading to a career that a student decides is just right for them. We pride ourselves on our unique approach having a low barrier access and individualized education plan are some of things that we think set us apart from similar programs.
At SEA, we also have many volunteer opportunities within our organization, for folks interested in having students job shadow, do informational interviews, tutoring or becoming a mentor. If anyone would like to learn more about our volunteer opportunities, send us a note to Neena@seattleeducationaccess.org.
Looking forward, what’s next for SEA?
SEA has experienced a lot of growth in the last several years, and we worked with about 1,000 students over the last year alone and we are expecting to continue that growth for some time. We are being intentional about locating staff members in regions across King County to serve all corners of the region, and even beyond to Pierce and Snohomish counties, for partnership and direct service provision.