I Partner with Treehouse for Graduation Success: Carrie Syvertsen

By Carrie Syvertsen, School Social Worker

As the Chief Sealth International High School social worker, one of my favorite aspects of my job is working closely with foster youth through Treehouse as their in-school mentor.  Typically my Treehouse students check in with me first thing in the morning, welcomed by my big smile and even bigger snack jar.  Every visit is different and check-ins can be anywhere from 3 minutes to an hour depending on their needs.  Typically, they share an anecdote about the night before, talk about how nervous they are for a test that day, or share a challenge that’s reminded them of their past.  That first check in during the morning seems to help them transition from whatever challenges they may be facing at home to the mindset needed in the school environment.  They use the social worker office as a home base, where they know they can come ask questions they feel embarrassed to ask elsewhere, they can truly be their vulnerable selves, and they can celebrate their successes.

Carrie Syvertsen, School Social Worker   Chief Sealth High School

There is one student in particular who stands out as he has truly embraced all of the support we have to offer, and it has been so fulfilling to see him thrive socially and academically.  He is a gifted rapper, a devout Christian, a devoted friend and an academically driven young man.  He is also a recovering addict and a product of drug and alcohol addiction in his home since he was a little boy.  He’s already attended 7 different schools.

This young man seeks attention from adults often and needs a lot of positive reinforcement, regular and consistent encouragement, as well as someone to listen, process and provide feedback about his progress.  He has a strong relationship with Roland Pablo, Sealth’s Treehouse Education Specialist.  Roland knows his family situation, his struggles with his girlfriend, and his difficulty with a particular teacher that doesn’t challenge him enough.  Roland is an adult in his life that is consistently there on Thursdays during study hall to meet one on one with him, to be a sounding board for his struggles and successes, and to sit in meetings with him and the academic counselor to discuss his future academic plans.  This student sees Roland as a mentor, an advocate, and someone who has access to programming and resources that he otherwise would not have access to.

Cheif Sealth International High School

Roland and I collaborate often about this student’s progress, what his goals are and how we all can do our part to get him there.  Because I work for the school system, I can run interference on a daily basis with problems that arise with teachers, other students or systematic challenges.  I can advocate for a schedule that is individually tailored to meet the student’s needs and make sure I communicate with program coordinators about how awesome it would be to have this student and other Treehouse kids involved in their programs.  I am an extra set of eyes for Treehouse students to speak out on their behalf, hold them accountable to their goals and help guide them with the many choices they’re faced with everyday.  Having the support of Roland and Treehouse’s resources has made it so that students like this one have access to opportunities and programs that help them thrive.  This student has made tremendous progress and just earned a leadership role mentoring incoming freshmen.  He is also participating in Running Start taking courses at a neighboring community college for dual credit.  My partnership with Roland is a critical link to the wraparound support these students truly need to graduate high school on time like their peers. It’s an honor to work on behalf of this organization! 

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About the Author

Carrie Syvertsen has been a school social worker for the last 9 years and is an in-school mentor for Treehouse youth at Chief Sealth High School in Seattle.  She works together with fellow social worker Kim Peltola and Treehouse Education Specialist, Roland Pablo to monitor each Treehouse youth’s attendance, behavior and course completion weekly to help them succeed in school and graduate high school at the rate of their peers with a plan for their future.


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