Hope, Home, and Education for every child, one family at a time

Aug 13, 2013 | Blog

First Place in Central District Seattle is a special place.

You feel it when you walk in the doors of the historic Odessa Brown building.

You see it when you look at the colorful tile murals of thanks.

You hear it when you talk with the staff and volunteers.

The private, no tuition school offers elementary education and wrap around services to homeless students, or those whose families struggle with the risk of homelessness.

Next year, First Place will celebrate twenty-five years of service to approximately 10,000 Seattle children and parents in transition or crisis. The impact has touched 25,000 lives.

In order to expand their services and community partnerships, the First Place staff and board will submit a plan to become a public charter school.

“Our focus is on working with each individual child and family unit in their personal journey to achieve permanent stability,” says Dawn Mason, former state legislator and consultant to the school.

“Each part of our education and family stabilization program is designed to help students successfully transition into their next school and have the skills they need to graduate middle school, then high school, then college and become successful, productive adults.”

They learn in classes of no more than 14 students with a certified highly trained teacher with experience educating children in trauma. High expectations and cultural infusion are a priority for every student.

Each child attending First Place has a learning plan based on academic and emotional assessments. To reach their achievement goals, they have a tutor and a mentor during the school day, as well as individual or group therapies, and health screenings. The First Place Parent Academy develops parent involvement that elevates their ability to be a partner for their child’s sustained academic growth.

First Place students also receive breakfast, lunch and a snack daily, as well as school supplies, clothing, shoes, and hygiene items.

The curriculum at First Place aligns with Seattle Public Schools and Washington State learning standards and is infused with African and Native American culture. Through field studies students have structured opportunities to learn in the community. A partnership with Burke Museum, a residential week at Islandwood on Bainbridge Island, and neighborhood nature walks makes science real for them.

This summer the First Place staff and volunteers participated in several activities to learn more about public charter schools. Dawn attended the National Public Charter School Conference in Washington, DC, and a dozen teachers and community members attended the WA Charter School Association’s charter application workshop. The First Place Charter Development team submitted a federal grant for charter school start-up funding. They are vigorously working to be one of Washington’s first authorized charter schools.

“We need creative learning options for our children,” says Dawn.“We hope to become the moral compass for public charter schools and keep charter schools accountable to children who are at the lower levels of academic and social outcomes. If we can bring educators, parents and communities together to do this, so can others.”