03.31.2017

Graduation Success Breaks Down Barriers

By Ernest Henderson, Treehouse Manager of Education Programs

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As we begin to approach the end of our first year serving the Tacoma and Spokane School districts through our Graduation Success program, we have a tremendous amount to be proud of. Our Education Specialists (referred to as Graduation Success Coordinators east of the Cascades) have worked diligently to form relationships with school districts, Children’s Administration, caregivers, and other local service providers to build a strong foundation for serving our youth throughout the state of Washington. This has placed us in the best possible position to help our students reach their self-determined goals, graduate, and pursue success after high school. I’ve asked our Tacoma and Spokane teams to share some of their favorite moments from the last 7 months. I hope you’ll find them as inspiring as I do.

“In Febraury, four of my youth attended Youth Advocacy Day in Olympia. Prior to that day, my youth didn’t have a relationship with each other. My youth shared their stories of foster care with a legislator, and found out that they had similar concerns as each other– estranged siblings, not enough foster homes, to name a few. We also took tons of selfies in front of important monuments (none of the youth had ever been to the Capitol) and wrote letters to the Governor in his office. Since that trip, I’ve seen my kids connect to each other at school in really cool ways. One is planning a lunch for our group and another is helping to coordinate more advocacy opportunities. Seeing my youth advocate for their community and connect with each other is a huge win for me.” – Skylar Cole, Tacoma Team

“One of my students had 3 D’s in his classes 2.5 before report cards were coming out.  Through Treehouse’s incentive program, we were able to identify a gift card this student could work towards if he turned in all of his missing assignments. With that extra motivation, within that 2.5 weeks he turned his missing assignments in and raised his grades to B’s in those classes!” – Jamie Cleary, Spokane Team

“One of the youth I work with lives in a home that can be rowdy and lacks the quiet space she needs to concentrate on her homework. When I am at her school, we sit together and work on her assignments or work on separate things while sharing quiet space. It gives her the opportunity to focus, ask questions, and have a space for herself to collect her thoughts and ideas”. – Eric Chang, Tacoma Team

“Recently, I started meeting with a student who needed some motivation and encouragement. At our first meeting, she shared some ongoing issues she was struggling to get resolved with her social worker, including signing up for counseling and getting funds for driver’s ed.  I encouraged her to contact her social worker again, and two days later, she came back and excitedly told me that she had taken care of what she needed to. I find learning self-advocacy to be extremely empowering to all teenagers, especially youth in foster care and I was proud to see my student advocate for herself.” – Zemira Avdicevic, Spokane Team

“I began working with a youth at the beginning of December, but have had difficulty discovering what motivates this student and what his interests are. After finding out that he is interested in learning how to play the piano, I did some research on piano lessons in the area. Through the help of Little Wishes, we were able to not only get him into a piano class, but also were able to get him his own keyboard to practice on!” – Morgan Orchard, Spokane Team

“Having an office in our schools has not only been helpful for us but also our students and social workers. Occasionally, social workers need to check-in with students at school but have a difficult time finding a place to meet or pulling the student from class. I’ve been able to help by pulling students from class and allowing them a meet in my office, privately with the social worker. This has helped maintained the dignity of our students and helped make the visit at school easier.” – Danielle Downs, Tacoma Team

We look forward to continuing this mission of building a better future for youth in foster care. Thank you to all who have supported our teams thus far!

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About the Author

Ernest Henderson joined Treehouse in 2016 to lead the expansion of the Graduation Success program into the Spokane School District. In Spokane, Ernest manages a team of 5 Graduation Success Coordinators, who help youth unlock their potential, graduate from high school, and pave a path towards achieving their future goals.


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