Federal Way scholarship rewards students who behave

The College Bound Scholarship program is aimed at giving economically disadvantaged students a shot at receiving a scholarship that will cover their tuition costs.

The scholarship has a number of requirements, including the student’s enrollment in middle school, maintaining a minimum GPA of 2.0, and staying out of trouble all the way through the student’s senior year of high school.

Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) reviewed its College Bound Scholarship program at the May 22 board meeting.

Erin Jones, director of equity and achievement, along with the College Success Foundation’s Marina Espinoza and Megan Urbaitis, said the program is starting to show real results for the district.

“68 percent of eligible eighth-graders in Federal Way have completed College Bound Scholarships,” said Urbaitis, who is a support specialist that works in regional districts for the College Success Foundation. “This is significantly farther along than we were last year, so we have learned a lot as a district in terms of best practices.”

The next measure of success for the College Bound Scholarship program is the number of seniors that have filed for FAFSA financial aid through the federal government, Urbaitis said.

“83 percent of seniors in Federal Way that have signed up for a College Bound Scholarship have already completed a FAFSA, which is really good,” she said. “Federal Way is considerably higher than the Road Map region with that 83 percent vs. 76 percent.”

The Road Map region refers to a coalition of seven districts in the area that are tied together in efforts to improve student achievement in local schools. The coalition helps prepare students for life beyond high school.

Federal Way students are above the Road Map average in maintaining their GPA’s above 2.0, with 88 percent of Federal Way students meeting that metric, compared to 85 percent for the area overall.

Three high schools in Federal Way sit at 90 percent or higher when it comes to College Bound Scholarship students maintaining a 2.0 GPA or better.

The third indicator of the program’s success, Urbaitis said, is the number of scholarship students who have actually applied to college. Again, Federal Way has promising numbers.

“83 percent of the college bound seniors in Federal Way have applied to college, and this is our district leader among all the other districts,” Urbaitis noted.

The average for the Road Map region is at 71 percent.

Another aspect of this program that is promising for Federal Way is what’s known as the Realize the Dream Scholarship, Jones said. The scholarship is aimed at helping students find financial assistance to attend college who might otherwise be denied due to their citizenship status.

“I was just at Federal Way High School last week, and I know we have two students who are 4.0 students, who were accepted to University of Washington, but have no money,” Jones said. “What a slap in the face that must be to work so hard your entire high school career and then find out you can’t afford to go to school.”

Jones said the qualifications for the Realize the Dream scholarship are the same as the College Bound scholarship, with the caveat that students have to be “undocumented.”

“We have a large number of undocumented students in Federal Way, and often they are invisible to us,” Jones said. “Students…for many reasons they won’t identify (as undocumented). And what happens is that often times their teachers will find out too late. I believe this changes the playing field for a lot of our undocumented students. Now we have.. a lot of hope for students in the future.”

Board member Angela Griffin shared her thoughts on the program, saying she was dubious at first.

“I was one of the skeptics when this came out, because I was concerned about students needing to remain at a certain poverty level for a certain amount of time,” she said. “But to see the results, it’s amazing.”


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