Friday, September 23, 2011

Supporting the Organizations that Support Highline

Highline staff at the CDA fundraiser: (left to right) Delila Leber, Bernard Koontz, and Bernadette Merikle

What does a new interim superintendent do on a Friday night? In case you were wondering (I know you weren't, but play along)...tonight, I'm going to see the new release "Moneyball", a baseball movie starring Brad Pitt. But since they don't allow cameras in the movie theater, I won't be blogging it. Instead, let me tell you about how I spent the previous two Friday nights, at fundraisers for the White Center Community Development Association and Southwest Youth and Family Services.

White Center Community Development Association

With CDA Executive Director Aileen Balahadia
 Last Friday was the dinner/auction for the White Center CDA. The CDA has been around for a decade supporting the community of White Center. As you may know, White Center is in unincorporated King County and lacks some of the coordination and promotion that a local city government can provide. The CDA's work includes family development, neighborhood revitalization, and community development. With only ten staff, the CDA is small, but mighty, drawing on community members and friends to accomplish many of their projects.

The event last Friday was held at South Seattle Community College and really reflected the diversity of the community. I never got a headcount, but Highline staff were seated at table 18 of 23, to give you an idea of how many folks bought a ticket to the event. Bob Watt called the live auction, featuring many very interesting items. One I got outbid on, but would have loved, was a traditional Mexican meal cooked by Julia Bautista-Salinas and served at Kate Stannard's home. As for entertainment, the show-stopper was a traditional Cambodian dance, featuring graceful dancers in gorgeous costumes.

White Center is such a richly diverse community. The CDA is helping it to meet its potential. Our students benefit tremendously from their support.

Southwest Youth and Family Services

(L to R) Board President Sili Savusa, Bernadette Merikle, and her husband Robert
Two Fridays ago was the annual dinner/auction for Southwest Youth and Family Services. Like the CDA, this organization helps students and families at the north end of Highline. While Southwest is located in West Seattle, it has always served White Center as a focus, as well as the South Park and Delridge neighborhoods. SWYFS has been around for more than 20 years and has been led by Steve Daschle, a community leader with a quiet passion and gravitas.

The Southwest dinner was at The Hall at Fauntleroy. I am always impressed when I see how many events our elected officials get to. Joe McDermott, from the King County Council, was at both the CDA and SWYFS events, and many made it to one or the other, like County Executive Dow Constantine, who was at the Southwest event. But the person who made the biggest impact may have had the shortest resume in the room. It was a young lady who had just graduated college the very same day as the event. In her words, she was completely out of options by age 15. She had a child and keeping up with school was a huge challenge. Enter the Education Center at SWYFS. Long story short, she got back on track and seems headed for a bright future.

With Highline's John Boyd and White Center Promise Director Laurie Bohm
The comment that stuck with me from the evening is that Southwest is there when nobody else is. There are holes in society's support systems and one of them is for older students who are behind in school. That's why we need organizations like SWYFS and why I will take to the school board this Wednesday a proposal for a pilot program that will expand the program in partnership with the district. The new deal will allow Southwest to serve students who otherwise would probably be out of school altogether. Don't get me wrong, it's our job not to give up on any student, but sometimes our students need all of us coming together to give them the opportunity to make it. That's why working together with Southwest and the White Center CDA is so important to Highline Public Schools.

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