By Dawn Mason
Special to The Medium
On September 3, 2014, First Place Scholars (FPS) opened in Africatown Central District, as the first charter school in Washington state. School Leader, Evie Taylor-Livingston, Cheryl Milton, and State Rep. Eric Pettigrew (37th Dist.) welcomed a crowd of well wishers while alum Kibet and his mother Johnnie cut the bright red ribbon.
First Place Scholars and all charter schools authorized by the WA State Charter Commission are public schools and enrollment is open to anyone who applies as long as there is room.
The foundation on which First Place Scholars is created was built under the direction of Dr. Doreen Cato, now retired. The Medium and KRIZ Radio have been long-time partners and the students and families have benefited from the annual coat and toy drive. It is the many community partnerships and individual donors and volunteers that made First Place Scholars possible. It is neighborhood school and there is no tuition.
The majority of students enrolled at First Place Scholar are African American. The student body is diverse, every child is fed two meals and a healthy snack. In Seattle, 54% of African American children live in poor families and the experience that First Place Scholars applies to teaching poor children makes it a natural and wise school choice for many African American and other economically challenged parents.
First Place Scholars will be a STEAM school to address the need for students to be infused with Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math learning during their developing years. This will prepare them for the world they live in and expand their education and career opportunities and end the cycles of poverty.
First Place Scholars is a replicable education model that showcases what happens when a brown, black or poor child is expected to be excellent.
The school is governed by the First Place Scholars School Board, board meetings are open to the public. Being a First Place Scholars volunteer is a great way to support the children and their teachers. Joyce Scoggins manages community volunteer engagement and training. She can be reached at (206) 323-6715 for information.
The Honorable Dawn Mason is a retired WA State Representative and First Place Emeritus President.