Eleven youth-serving organizations in the Puget Sound region will partner with University of Washington College of Education researchers during the coming year on projects that aim to advance educational opportunities for underserved communities.

A total of $300,000 has been awarded in the inaugural round of Research + Practice Seed Projects by Unite:Ed, an alliance between the College and community and education partners. In service of communities experiencing structural inequity in education, Unite:Ed partners exchange knowledge and co-design justice centered strategies that improve educational systems and create better futures for children and youth. Unite:Ed is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mia Tuan, dean of the College of Education, said the grants will strengthen partnerships between community-based organizations and UW faculty that offer significant potential to enhance positive outcomes for young people.

“To create meaningful change for students, we need to bring educators, researchers and communities together to learn, share ideas and co-design solutions,” Tuan said. “These grants will do just that: foster deep and authentic community-research-practice partnerships to address inequities in education. Through this work, we can make a real difference in our region and create models for even broader impact.”

Learn more about each of the funded projects below.

Boys & Girls Clubs of King County

This project seeks to explore how important the role a trusted adult outside of the home is for young people in our communities, and why. In partnership with Emma Elliott-Groves, assistant professor of education, this project will engage club members in focus groups and interviews to understand the meaning of trusted relationships from the perspectives of youth, families and staff. Through this collaboration, Boys & Girls Clubs of King County and UW aim to engage research and programming that is both socially transformative and culturally sustaining, with hopes of infusing the community with self-determination, autonomy, dignity and pride.

“At BGCKC, we recognize that many of the youth we serve have risk factors they’re dealing with that could prevent them from reaching their full potential as caring, responsible citizens. Especially if protective factors are not infused into their daily lives, like having a positive relationship with a trusted adult. It is exciting to have the opportunity to explore one of the key components of our programming, our youth development professionals, to better serve our communities and quantify what we do best.”

Stacy Kain, Program Services & Training Director, Boys & Girls Clubs of King County

"Networks of meaningful interdependent and individual relationships of trust are what sustain human beings during times of hardship. We are very grateful for the opportunity to deeply understand from the perspective of young people, their families and their mentors what exactly constitutes their positive social relationships and to use this information to guide program development at the Boys & Girls Club of King County."

Emma Elliott-Groves, Assistant Professor of Education

Disability Rights Washington

Through this grant, the One Out of Five (OO5) Disability History and Pride Project will conduct qualitative research to understand how schools and communities are using existing OO5 disability history curriculum to shift conversations and school climates and promote intersectional disability justice. In partnership with Assistant Professor Katherine Lewis, the research will include focus groups with teachers and students, especially those from marginalized communities, and classroom observations to provide a holistic understanding of OO5 implementation and what it could be moving forward. The research team will provide recommendations about how to incorporate greater culturally responsive, STEAM-focused resources and provide more supports for primary and secondary schools.

“It’s important for students to have pride in their disabilities. If you aren’t positive about yourself and who you are, then it is hard to be positive towards other people and about life.”

Angelina Gammons-Reese, Student and Participant in One Out of Five

“We are excited about this partnership because it will involve the development of much needed materials for teachers and will produce research investigating how teachers and students are using these resources and what we can do to continue to improve and refine them.”

Katherine Lewis, Assistant Professor of Education

Eastside Pathways

This project will allow partnering agencies including Bellevue School District and Youth Eastside Services to gather information and evaluate the impacts of current programming for youth — both in and out-of-school — to learn essential skills and habits related to social emotional well-being in their high school years. Through this work, organizations will develop a stronger understanding of how to support youth in their ability for self-care and agency leading into their post-secondary years. In addition, the project aims to understand and measure how community stakeholders and organizations are working together differently to build a better system of support.

“With the research support provided by this grant, we’ll have the expertise to better understand if the existing system builds the essential skills and habits necessary for youth to persist. If there are necessary changes suggested by this work, organizations which are part of this partnership are committing to make the necessary adjustments to ensure youth and young adults get what they need.”

Stephanie M. Cherrington, Executive Director, Eastside Pathways

“Supporting the social emotional development and wellbeing of individuals is a commitment of mine and well aligned with the mission and vision of Eastside Pathways. I am excited to collaborate with the organization, engage in the community, and carry out the important work of building systems capacity for youth and young adults in our community.”

Angel Fettig, Assistant Professor of Education

Families of Color Seattle

Families of Color Seattle and the UW Robinson Center for Young Scholars will partner to work toward increasing access to advanced learning and enrichment opportunities for students of color. These students are 18 times less likely to be identified and enrolled in advanced learning programs at present. This project will explore the hurdles to participation for families of color in advanced learning in general, and also specifically to understand how to increase participation of students of color in Robinson Center programs.

“We are very excited about this emerging partnership with the Robinson Center. FOCS is hopeful that this will set the foundation for advanced learning opportunities that will benefit Black and Brown underrepresented students, and identify ways of bridging the excellence gap.” 

Christine Tang, Director of Programming, Families of Color Seattle

"The Robinson Center for Young Scholars is thrilled to be learning from and working with Families of Color Seattle to address inequities to educational opportunities. We are looking forward to developing a strong and enduring partnership." 

Nancy Hertzog, Professor of Education and Director of the Robinson Center for Young Scholars

Kalpulli Tlaloktekuhtli

Kalpulli Tlaloktekuhtli and Associate Professor Filiberto Barajas-López will partner with youth and families in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood and Concord International School to uplift youth/family leadership to shape and determine their engagement with learning as well as their integration of culturally-grounded ways of being and making sense of the world into their educational experience. Through this work, the project aims to build community power for education, health and environmental justice.

“South Park’s youth and families are building a strong movement for equity and justice in King County. Kalpulli Tlaloktekuhtli is honored to be a part of this movement. We acknowledge our responsibility to South Park to be that of centering and uplifting youth and families in all aspects of our work.” 

Damarys Espinoza, Kalpulli Tlaloktekuhtli Volunteer      

"Tlalok's project closely aligns with much of the work that I do as a community-engaged scholar in designing meaningful and culturally-based learning through authentic partnerships between families/communities and schools. I'm looking forward to supporting Tlalok's project because it has the potential to transform the ways teachers and school administrators partner with families and community members in South Park."

Filiberto Barajas-López, Associate Professor of Education

Native Youth Leadership Alliance

The Native Youth Leadership Alliance aims to build equitable partnerships with Tribal leaders, educators and networks engaged in Indigenous STEAM education and expand access to these opportunities for Native students in Washington. In the first stage of this project, a core team of elder and adult youth advocate researchers will work with Associate Professor Filiberto Barajas-López to better understand STEAM work that exists in the state and to develop a set of principles that can help Native serving organizations engage in equitable partnerships with funders, institutions and organizations.

“Combined with the research expertise and mentorship of Dr. Barajas-Lopez, and emerging partnership grant investment, NYLA will be able to invest the needed capacity to thoughtfully design the foundations of our research approaches to jump start our contribution to Tribal communities by conducting research centering STEAM education.”

Johnny Buck, Executive Director, Native Youth Leadership Alliance

"NYLA's work is important and necessary to establish equitable partnerships and relationships with Native serving organizations, funders and institutions. NYLA is well positioned to convene, build partnerships and develop important coordination and leadership in Native STEAM education through their vast network in the state of Washington and in the U.S."

Filiberto Barajas-López, Associate Professor of Education

Neighborhood House

Funding will support Neighborhood House’s STUDIO program — a year-round, afterschool and summer program focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning. The program aims to make STEM engaging for low-income, minority youth living in and around the public housing community of High Point in Southwest Seattle and help them visualize themselves in STEM careers, creating a pathway to college and career for underrepresented communities of color. In the course of the program, STUDIO youth develop ongoing relationships with UW student mentors who interact with them twice a week, for at least 30 weeks during the school year, nurturing a passion for STEM college and career pathways.

“Neighborhood House is thrilled to collaborate with UW’s College of Education on the Unite:Ed project. We strive to bridge the power balance between clients and providers in all of our programs, and Unite:Ed has client-powered design at its core. This is an incredible opportunity for our STUDIO program to deepen our work with our brilliant communities.”

James Lovell, Director of Development and Advancement, Neighborhood House

"Our partnership with Neighborhood House continues to bring youth, undergraduates and graduate students into joyful relationships through learning from and teaching each other about STEM, about Seattle, about other parts of the world, about life."

Katie Headrick-Taylor, Assistant Professor of Education

Open Doors for Multicultural Families

Open Doors for Multicultural Families (ODMF) will partner with Ilene Schwartz, professor of education and director of the UW’s Haring Center for Inclusive Education, to meet the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse families of children with developmental/intellectual disabilities. Historically, the needs of these populations have not been met in public schools or mainstream service providers. Drawing on the collective wisdom and experience of families, community organizations, service providers, educators and researchers, this partnership will discover the strengths each brings to this work and explore the use of diverse methodologies to create lasting change.

“Through this project we will embark on a transformational journey to create a true partnership that leads to collaboration between a diverse, community-based organization and higher education researchers at UW. We are excited for this mutual learning opportunity to increase both organizations’ understanding of each other and plan for future work that will create a positive impact in the communities we serve." 

Ginger Kwan, Executive Director, Open Doors for Multicultural Families

“We look forward to working with Open Doors staff to create a sustainable partnership through which we can collaborate on improved training for our students in the College of Education and more authentic research and service projects that address the needs of all children with disabilities and their families living in our community.”

Ilene Schwartz, Professor of Education and Director of the Haring Center for Inclusive Education

Skagit Valley Education Collective

The Skagit Valley Education Collective’s Children of the Valley project will partner with Deborah McCutchen, professor of education, in a project enabling children to document the richness of their lives. Through that experience, youth will develop their ethnic and intellectual identities as they mature into active citizens of the Skagit Valley. The partnership also will provide spaces for connection between families and schools to support the wellbeing of all members of the Skagit Valley community.

“The richness of our community drives us to provide meaningful cultural and academic opportunities for the children of Skagit Valley. Children of the Valley is excited to develop lasting partnerships that ensure continuity of support as our students grow.”

Ema Shirk, Multilingual Teacher at LaVenture Middle School and Children of the Valley Volunteer

“I'm excited to partner in the Collective's work because our shared commitment to youth literacies may help broaden the reach of the voices of the Skagit Valley and the powerful stories they have to tell about themselves and their communities.”

Deborah McCutchen, Professor of Education

Southeast Seattle Education Coalition

This project will explore how families, underrepresented communities and educators can create and own a process to evaluate and own educational data and narratives — processes traditionally controlled by school systems with little or token input from families. In partnership with UW faculty member Jondou Chase Chen, the project will examine how to reshape and build processes that acknowledge educational trauma and histories done to people of color, use multiple levers to collect and share data, and disrupt systemic racism that could be embedded in these processes. The research team will test new ideas for survey collection including learning how to work with families of middle and upper grade schools, expanding on a previous survey that was elementary-focused, and being intentional about working with additional communities.

“It has been a pleasure working with the UW College of Education over the past few years on various projects. Through our partnerships we have co-learned about strengthening community voices through authentic engagement practices. We look forward to again working with UW on our 2019 Family Engagement Survey.”

Erin Okuno, Executive Director, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition

“I believe that our partnership between SESEC and the UW College of Education strengthens both and builds even greater community capacity through SESEC's coalition partners.” 

Jondou Chase Chen, Senior Lecturer in Education

White Center Community Development Association

This project will explore the role of the teachers union and the possibilities for families of color and educators to collaborate in fostering racial equity in education. Efforts will focus on four schools in the White Center community with whom the CDA has longstanding relationships. Project partners will examine specific obstacles that exist between educators, the school system, students and families that get in the way of relationship building and collaborative change-making among these various interactive levels. A design process with educators, parents and youth will be used throughout the work and lead to the creation of a tool that educators can use to build authentic partnerships with families and communities.

"Our kids need their teachers and educators to be in relationship with their parents and caregivers to fully support their education journey. This Unite:Ed grant, partnering Highline Education Association and the White Center Family Education Council, is a great opportunity to start building those relationships and the systemic supports needed to ensure these relationships are prioritized by Highline School District institutions."

Catherina Willard, Family Development Manager, White Center Community Development Association

"We know that powerful systems change can emerge when families and teachers partner for educational justice. I'm delighted that Unite:Ed can help support this ground-breaking partnership between Highline's teacher union and White Center CDA and look forward to helping them explore possibilities for shaping more equitable schools."

Ann Ishimaru, Associate Professor of Education


Community-based organizations interested in learning more about the College’s Unite:Ed alliance should contact Unite:Ed Director Dana Arviso. For more information about funding community partnership work at the College, contact Grant Twitchell, director for advancement.


Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications
206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu