See Article about Last summer, the PAO teamed up with a new partner whose mission is to help at-risk youth graduate from high school, which aligns with the PAO’s efforts to keep kids in school and away from the courts
PAO Partners that Shine: Seattle Urban Academy
Last summer, the PAO teamed up with a new partner whose mission is to help at-risk youth graduate from high school, which aligns with the PAO’s efforts to keep kids in school and away from the courts. Seattle Urban Academy (SUA) started in 1989 as a drop-in tutoring center for homeless youth in Seattle’s historic Central District. Today, SUA is located in South Seattle sharing space with another PAO community partner, the Union Gospel Mission, and is now a dynamic school where at-risk youth earn a high school diploma, graduate with honors, and become young adults with promising futures.
Much of SUA’s history shows an evolution of focus and academic rigor. From its start as a drop-in tutoring center, SUA has grown into a formal high school education program in which at-risk youth earn an accredited high school diploma. The staff is committed to ensuring that they provide youth with the college preparatory skills necessary to make meaningful academic and career choices.
The mission of SUA is to provide the positive and rigorous educational community where kids are embraced and given the individual guidance to develop the social and academic skills that will help them make smart choices about their education and their future. The impact of SUA’s nurturing approach to receiving a high school education, has led to:
Recent graduates from the Seattle Urban Academy.
- 95% of SUA seniors graduating with a high school diploma;
- 91% of SUA graduates go onto higher education or sustained employment;
- 65% of SUA students are employed compared to only 25% statewide; and
- 80% of SUA graduates who enter 4-year universities earn a degree compared to the national statistic of only10% for low-income students.
Here at the PAO, we understand the protective power of education. National statistics show that high school dropouts are five times more likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime than high school graduates. These statistics become even more striking when we look at communities of color. For instance, African American men born in the late 1960s who dropped out of high school have a 59% chance of imprisonment within their lifetime. However, African American men with some college have a 5% chance of imprisonment in their lifetime. Clearly, the statistics demonstrate the protective power of education and its ability to keep young adults away from the criminal justice system.
In recognition of the dynamic work of the Seattle Urban Academy and its leadership, Sharon Okamoto, the Executive Director and Principal, was honored in January with the Mountain Top Award for Leadership. The Mountain Top Award is granted to individuals that demonstrate leadership in the furtherance of justice, reconciliation, and empowerment within the community.
Sharon’s commitment to helping at-risk youth turn their lives around and helping them turn toward a positive path that leads to promising future resonates with the PAO where we know that keeping kids in school and away from the criminal justice system is one of our best crime prevention measures. It takes a village to help our youth develop into productive adults and its takes collaboration to build strong partnerships that lead to healthy communities for everyone.