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Chief Sealth grads get free year at South Seattle Community College

Melinda Inez Foster says the 13th Year Promise Scholarship guarantees she'll achieve her goal of going to college.
Charla Bear
Melinda Inez Foster says the 13th Year Promise Scholarship guarantees she'll achieve her goal of going to college.

Seniors who graduate from Chief Sealth High School in West Seattle have a new price for their first year of college – free.  The president of South Seattle Community College says it’ll give one-year tuition scholarships to any student who gets a diploma and fills out a couple of forms. 

The 13th year promise scholarship doesn’t require students to get a 4.0.  Family finances don’t matter either.  Administrators at South Seattle Community College say they want to remove any barriers that keep kids from getting a higher education.

Chief Sealth student Melinda Inez Foster says she wants to go to college no matter what.  But there is that little matter of how much money her parents can contribute.

“None," she says. "Because we haven't saved up because my parents, they’re really hard working, but we just haven’t had the resources.”

If she decides to enroll at South Seattle, her roughly $3500 tuition will be paid by financial aid and money raised by the college’s foundation.  She’ll also get support programs, such as a one-week crash course in how to succeed in college. 

Even though Foster says she’s considering other schools, this offer makes South Seattle look sweeter.  

“I’m happy. I was going to fill this application out, but I didn’t know when. I think this is my calling. (It’s) kind of saying, ‘this is free. Don’t waste this.’”

The president of South Seattle says he expects the scholarship to attract 50-60 more students a year from Chief Sealth.  That’s on top of about a dozen students the scholarship has pulled in from Cleveland High School, where the program started a few years ago.  He says the ultimate goal is to offer the scholarship to every student who graduates in the South Seattle area.

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.