SEATTLE — A pilot program that aims to help increase the number of Black male students staying in school and graduating from Seattle Central College is getting ready to expand.
The program is called Springboard8, which is a partnership between Central and consulting company Slalom.
Slalom has made a three-year financial investment to the program and there is now work underway to include Springboard cohorts at Central’s sister colleges, North Seattle College and South Seattle College.
Springboard8 launched in the winter quarter with 18 students who all finished the year. Four students went on to pursue bachelor’s degrees.
This year, 25 new students are enrolled at Central.
The program provides one-on-one coaching, college and career advice, a peer group and financial support for Black male students enrolled at Central.
According to Central’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, the completion rate for Black male students at Seattle Central College is 23%. From the first fall quarter to the first winter quarter, the rate is 72%. A full year – from the first fall quarter to the second fall quarter – the retention rate is 40%.
The Office of Strategic Partnerships said these rates are comparable to other Washington state community and technical colleges.
One of the members of the first 18 students to complete the year is Ebrima Banda.
Previously, Banda was working toward becoming a registered nurse but had to put school on hold to get a job and earn money to support his family.
Banda is the first person in his family to go to college.
His two brothers and parents were born in Gambia, West Africa. Banda was born in the United States after his family moved.
Now, Banda is 26 and back in school and working toward an associate degree in computer sciences.
“I think it has changed my life because it’s made me more open-minded and open my mind to more parts of the world and the business world. I’m learning more things than I ever have before especially when it comes to professional development,” Banda said. “This program is probably one of the best at Central that can help a young Black man succeed and reach a common goal of graduating.”
According to Jessica Norouzi, executive director for Central’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, Black male students often don’t have access to the type of professional networks that can help advance their careers due to a historic build-up of racism and limited opportunity access.
“Our partnership with Slalom addresses those racial equity barriers head-on because coaches are invested in sharing their professional experience and connections with the students,” Norouzi said. “When coupled with professional coaching sessions, this becomes a gamechanger for students when they are launching (or relaunching) their careers.”
Mentors from Slalom like Rob Potter said helping launch this program was the right thing to do.
“It was very important for us to start this program because of what was going on in the country in 2020 with racial injustice,” said Potter, Slalom’s vice president of finance. “It gives life to me to be helping and help someone on their journey because I can see what’s possible for them and kind of unlocking them in their vision and where they’re going. That’s what life is supposed to be about, right? Helping others.”
Norouzi said financial support has been crucial, but the college and Slalom have found the sense of trust and community have shown to be even more important to students’ success.
“When you look at research on Black men in higher education, both at the Seattle colleges and across the nation, a common theme is the lack of a sense of belonging on campus,” Norouzi said. “This program helps to build that belonging, which became even more critical during the pandemic.”
If you are a Black male student and would like to apply to be a participant in the program, click here.
For businesses interested in sponsoring Springboard8 or providing coaches, email Allie Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org.