SEED CEO Lesley Poole: "SEED Students Advocate for Their Own Futures"

Dear SEED Community and Friends,

A few weeks ago, more than 1.2 million people—including students, families, and staff from all three SEED schools— marched in hundreds of student-led events across the country. I love nothing more than when I see students speaking up for what they believe—armed with the confidence, the conviction, and the facts to effectively make their case.

 Pictured: Students from SEED Maryland, with the support of teachers and staff, walked out of their classrooms and marched on the quad for 17 minutes -- one minute in solidarity with each life lost in Parkland this past Valentine's Day.

Pictured: Students from SEED Maryland, with the support of teachers and staff, walked out of their classrooms and marched on the quad for 17 minutes -- one minute in solidarity with each life lost in Parkland this past Valentine's Day.

For some, it starts early. Ask any group of students how they landed at SEED and one (or more) will tell you, “I wanted to go to SEED. I had to convince my parents it was right for me.”

Whether or not students arrive at SEED with natural leadership and advocacy ability, these are skills every student will need to build, practice, and master. In addition, because the students SEED serves will have to overcome remarkable odds to achieve their goal earning a college degree, we help them develop the skills to advocate for themselves from day one.

As our unique model allows, lessons around self-advocacy and activism are woven throughout our academic and student life curriculum. Visit SEED DC on National History Day* and you might see one of our senior girls embody six-year-old Ruby Bridges as she tells you, in first person, about being the first black student to integrate an all-white school in New Orleans. A young man in a suit may introduce himself as Congressman John Lewis, crossing Selma’s Pettus Bridge with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Another student might emerge as Mahatma Ghandi, having converted a sheet from his dorm room into an authentic-looking Indian dhoti.

A recent SEED Miami school-wide event had students adopting the arguments and viewpoints of Malcolm X and Dr. King in a debate about the most effective methods of social change and activism.

Additionally, SEED Maryland students develop skills to resolve interpersonal conflicts through a series of lessons on how to disagree respectfully. (When the head of Exelon Energy toured the campus, he was so impressed with the posters that accompany these lessons, he took a set back to his office.)

With seven years of intensive self-advocacy practice under their belts, our students arrive on their college campuses with a strong foundation on which to draw as they navigate their new surroundings. But as the data show, they’ll face challenges and setbacks that derail nine out of ten of their peers. The stakes couldn’t be higher. At this critical juncture, being able to effectively advocate for yourself carries profound, lifelong implications.

For this reason, SEED’s College Transition & Success team works side by side with our graduates to remind them of all the skills at their disposal. We make sure they’re aware of all the on-campus resources they can tap into. We help them troubleshoot their own academic, financial, or social challenges.

We don’t call the financial aid office to find out why a student’s scholarship wasn’t processed, or ask a professor for an extension when a personal crisis strikes. Instead, SEED coaches graduates in crafting the most effective strategy to advance their case. We make sure they’re the hero of their own story, that they’re building the confidence they need to be successful in college and beyond.

At the same time, we’re busy advocating on their behalf. We’re making the case for them when we campaign for authorizing legislation and appropriations in state capitals. We’re supporting their needs (and those of millions of others) when we press universities to improve on-campus supports. It’s on their behalf that we ask for philanthropic support from our community.

Thank you for your support—your personal and financial advocacy—on behalf of our students. With the backing of the SEED community, they’re doing more than earning their degrees—they’re gaining the passion and confidence to make a positive mark on the world.

Sincerely,

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Lesley Poole, Chief Executive Officer

*SEED DC history teacher Bill Stevens, who organizes and leads National History Day at the school, was recently nominated by the National Archives and Records Administration for the Harris History Teacher of the Year Award. The award recognizes “creative teaching methods that interest students in history and help them make exciting discoveries about the past.”