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YMCA of Greater Seattle Receives $2.8 Million Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Middle school initiative targets students’ attitude, attendance and achievement

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Monica Elenbaas
YMCA Communications
Phone: 206.382.5020

SEATTLE -- The YMCA of Greater Seattle has been awarded a $2.8 million, five-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the expansion of youth development and student achievement programs into four additional middle schools.

The foundation’s support serves as a catalyst for greater collaboration, as Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Parks and Recreation and the YMCA seek to more effectively serve students who face significant obstacles to their success.

The expansion builds on the accomplishments of existing programs offered by the Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA at Aki Kurose and Meany middle schools.  Launched in 1999 at Kurose, followed by Meany in 2000, the programs place two full-time youth development directors onto each school’s staff team.  YMCA staff design and implement an array of educational and enrichment activities during the school day and out-of-school time, working in collaboration with school personnel, AmeriCorps staff, VISTA volunteers and business and community leaders.

 “This generous grant provides us with an exciting opportunity to expand our work with middle school students in Seattle,” said YMCA President Neil Nicoll.  “Our three-year track record has shown that we can help improve student attendance and attitude, while increasing volunteer support for schools.  We’re excited by the prospect of reaching hundreds more young people, thanks to this gift and the spirit of collaboration that exists among the project partners.”

“The staff of the YMCA have walked alongside Seattle’s young people for decades, providing role modeling, mentoring and a safe place for kids after school,” said Jaime Garcia, senior program officer for Pacific Northwest Giving.  “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is proud to support the YMCA’s collaboration with local middle schools, which will enrich the educational experience for these students.”

Presently, three-quarters of the students at Kurose and Meany middle schools have taken advantage of after-school and other programs coordinated by the YMCA – including mentoring, tutoring, after-school clubs and programs based on students’ interests, sports leagues, leadership development training and more.   All activities are designed to surround young people with support from caring adults in order to help them build inner-strength, demonstrate positive values and learn to make constructive choices.

Program success was demonstrated in a recent survey by the nationally-recognized Search Institute, which revealed that 78 percent of students reported that “participation in Y activities has made me want to try harder in school,” and 76 percent stated that “being in Y activities has helped me stay out of trouble.” After the first year of each program’s operation, attendance by students involved in YMCA programs increased by up to four percent over the rate for the student body as a whole.  In addition, the number of volunteer hours contributed by parents and the community has more than doubled in these schools.

To reach out to a total of seven middle schools, the YMCA, Seattle Parks and Recreation and school representatives have formed a joint management committee in order to ensure program quality and consistency, coordination of resources and “best practices” in the schools served.  Programs at Denny, McClure and Mercer middle schools will be staffed by Parks and Recreation, with the YMCA leading the efforts at Hamilton, Kurose, Meany and Washington middle schools.

In addition to the grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, these middle school programs draw on funds from the YMCA’s Partners With Youth Campaign, local foundations, the City of Seattle and a federally-funded 21st Century Learning Center grant.

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