March 2, 2021
United Way is proud to fund 22 local nonprofit agencies doing amazing work in our community. We thought you might like to hear more about how your dollars are hard at work helping individuals and families all over Whatcom County. Today, we’re featuring FuturesNW, an organization helping local students in under-served communities achieve their career and college dreams.
“Hope is a stronger predictor of college success than GPA or SAT and ACT scores, and caring or emotional support elements are crucial to success in life after college.”
~Gallup Education Research
What does it take to get through high school and on a career path that leads to financial independence? For some kids, it takes a lot of support given the barriers are so high. Many students in Whatcom County don’t have adequate access to food, housing, transportation, technology, or internet. They may also be dealing with violence, addiction, or other household dynamics that prevent them from being able to focus on their education. Some are dealing with language barriers, ability challenges, racism and/or discrimination on a daily basis, making academic success even more difficult.
FuturesNW aspires to live in a region where one’s income, race, or ethnicity cannot be a statistical predictor for future success, and where every child has equitable access to post-secondary education and training. Their programs serve students and families from historically underrepresented populations, including students who are first-generation, low-income, have a disability, or who are BIPOC. By helping students navigate and access resources to post-secondary education and career paths (including apprenticeships, technical programs, and university options) FuturesNW shows our students what is possible-- and helps them get there.
FuturesNW works to eradicate the adverse health and life consequences of poverty by using education and professional training as means to living-wage careers and increasing economic mobility. They do this by providing intensive peer mentorship and community outreach in schools and through special events. FuturesNW supports students and their families in navigating systemic barriers that are known to reduce accessibility to post-secondary education and career opportunities.
Kyla came to FuturesNW as a junior in high school, wanting to learn more about college and career access, attending weekly meetings to get support in navigating the various and sometimes complicated steps of post-secondary planning. A talented singer and artist, Kyla is also among the first in her family to attend college.
Since connecting with FuturesNW, Kyla has continued to develop as a student and future professional, learning to navigate new systems, make weekly goals, complete scholarship applications, and remaining flexible in her post-secondary planning as circumstances have drastically changed due to COVID. As the pandemic hit, Kyla has remained adaptive, creative, and has pursued her education virtually, while seeking opportunities outside of school to volunteer her time and learn even more. She attended a virtual college camp at Cornish on a FuturesNW scholarship to improve her portfolio development and grow as an artist.
A quality of note in Kyla is that while she strives for self-improvement, she also brings others along with her. She didn’t just take her weekly mentorship time for herself but invited her partner to join in her sessions. When her partner first joined the meetings, a college-going pathway was not a part of his plan, but through Kyla’s and FuturesNW’s encouragement, he too will be joining Kyla in pursuing higher education this fall at Whatcom Community College.
Kyla and her partner have now volunteered to help FuturesNW launch a series of virtual workshops and community-building events for students in this strange time of social isolation. They are co-facilitating workshops, giving advice and tips to those who are in need of encouragement, and bringing hope to those who feel like giving up. In total, they are spending 5 hours each week working to get the support they need while also serving their peers and gaining event planning work experience.
In addition to helping her current peers in gaining support and access to college information, Kyla has indicated that she wants to be a near-peer mentor next year and help guide younger first-gen students like herself.
“Getting support from FuturesNW, for a first-gen student like myself, has really helped me with things that I didn’t know how to do such as financial aid, scholarships, college applications and so much more,” says Kyla. “I wouldn’t have gotten this far without FuturesNW.”
FuturesNW has benefitted from Kyla's talents as well, by commissioning her to create graphics and logos for their programs. In addition to providing tangible assests for FuturesNW, Kyla has been able to gain valuable career experience while showcasing her skills.**
As a United Way partner agency, FuturesNW is able to connect and share information and resources with other nonprofit organizations in Whatcom County to help local students and families. Difficulty in accessing education after high school is only one of the barriers that our students and families face, which is why United Way supports a network of agencies and services in our community.
United Way is proud to support FuturesNW in their work helping local students find education, training, and career pathways that will help them achieve their full potential while becoming financially independent.
Thanks to FuturesNW and all of the amazing United Way partner agencies for helping local residents gain the skills and opportunities they need to become financially stable. We are honored to be part of this work.
**To hear more about Kyla and her FuturesNW story, click here.