When you meet 19-year-old November Mcvea, you see a young woman with a big smile, friendly disposition and a bright future. It's hard to imagine a time when she wasn't engaged in the world around her. However, she moved around a lot growing up and her brothers were in and out of trouble. By the time she made it to the tenth grade, she decided to drop out.
Eventually, Mcvea realized she needed to make a change. She now attends Career Link, an alternative high school within South Seattle Community College. She is one quarter away from graduating and will even have a few college courses under her belt.
"I wanted a career," she says. She credits her current teachers for helping her stay in school this time. "I feel like they really want me to succeed just as much as I want to. So it's more motivation for me to come and to know that I have someone to talk to."
Mcvea is one of an estimated 15,000 young people who dropped out of high school in King County. The United Way launched a program two years ago to reach half of them by the year 2020. Already, it's reached 3,000 young people and helped place them in various educational programs throughout the county.
And now Microsoft is helping with the effort as well, committing $1.5 million to the project.
"They care about having a workforce that is able to deal with the realities of the world with technology," says Jared Erlandson, director of communications for United Way of King County. "They know in order for business to succeed, their community needs to succeed."
The money will help fund more teachers, more case workers and more one-on-one support.
Career Link is just one of the alternative high schools to benefit. Right now there are 160 students enrolled in its program with about 70 on track to graduate this year.
"I love my job," says Molly Ward, director of Career Link. "Every day I come to work and the students' stories are very inspiring. They've been through a lot and to see them here day after day working towards a goal--and then accomplishing that goal--it's amazing. I'm very thankful to get to be here."
Inspired by her brothers, Mcvea is now on track for college and hopes to one day work as a probation officer.
"I feel like there is someone that cares for them," says Mcvea of troubled youth. "If they know that--maybe you can't change them--but you can influence some part of their life. I feel like I could do that."