With his two daughters having earned master’s and doctorate degrees, Kenneth Johnson said now it’s his turn to trail-blaze his own higher education journey.
Johnson, a Federal Way resident, is starting classes at The Hub: Federal Way Higher Education Center in the upcoming fall quarter. After a 30-year career with the United States Postal Service in Federal Way, Johnson’s retirement coincides with The Hub’s opening.
“I’m on the verge of retiring in the next couple months and for me to get started in fall quarter, I think it’ll be a good start for me to learn and try to get an associate’s degree,” said Johnson, 62. “It sounds like a real good opportunity for me.”
Johnson is originally from Georgia and moved to Federal Way after he got out of the military in 1986. Though he went to college for about a year in 1990, working and raising a family put his education on hold.
“Now, I think I need me one of those [degrees],” he said with a smile and a big laugh. “The door’s wide open, the sky’s the limit.”
About 65 people attended The Hub’s ribbon cutting ceremony that was held May 13 and hosted by the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce. Education leaders, elected officials and some of the campus’s first students helped cut the ribbon, signifying The Hub’s official opening.
The partnership campus is a collaboration between Highline College, Federal Way Public Schools, the University of Washington Tacoma and the City of Federal Way.
Located at 1615 S. 325th Street, The Hub is Federal Way’s first and only higher education campus.
“It’s important, as I tell our campus, to meet students where they’re at,” said Dr. John Mosby, president of Highline College. “We can’t expect them to find us; we have to meet them where they are at … this is an opportunity to provide that bridge.”
Chancellor Sheila Edwards Lange of University of Washington Tacoma said The Hub mirrors UW Tacoma’s footprint, fulfilling a need to serve students of all ages in south Puget Sound.
In 2016, Federal Way released a higher education needs assessment report, which showed a deficiency of higher education among individuals 25 and older in the community, the Mirror previously reported. Though high school graduation rates are higher in Federal Way than in surrounding cities, Federal Way residents hold a lower number of bachelor’s degrees.
In a city of about 100,000 people, only about 27% of Federal Way’s population age 25 or older has a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the United States Census Bureau.
The project started with an idea from former council member Kelly Maloney, prior to her time on the council. As a community member, Maloney initiated the concept and brought the city together with several universities, including the University of Washington, Washington State University, Central Washington University, and Parks College of St. Louis University. Former Mayor Skip Priest supported the idea, along with Mayor Jim Ferrell once he took office, she said.
“There were numerous iterations of the concept,” Maloney said, adding that eventually the agreement was signed with all the founding partners.
Maloney said the idea was to develop what she called an “Intellectual Innovation Zone” aimed at bringing together Fortune 500 companies and a college or university to the city. This would then allow Federal Way residents to attend college in Federal Way, possibly intern at the companies, and be available for hire upon graduation — helping to lift the community, she added.
Though various locations were explored, the primary goals remained as supporting residents and businesses in the community by offering higher education advancement and economic development.
“It is my hope the efforts put forth by so many over all these years will culminate in a positive outcome for Federal Way’s citizens and businesses and be a beacon of hope for moving the city forward,” Maloney said.
Federal Way Higher Education Center offers classes, certificates and additional programs following eight learning pathways. For more information, visit fwhub.org.