Roll Out the Red Carpet
Bridging the Gap (BTG), a program of Urban Impact, aims to improve the pipeline between neighborhood schools while preparing eighth grade students to make smooth transitions into their desired high schools. We connect Aki Kurose Middle School to Cleveland High School and South Shore K-8 School to Rainier Beach High School. In the middle schools, we host workshops, assemblies, and high school visits. For incoming ninth graders, we work with the ninth grade core classes and support organizations to place tutors in the classroom for one-on-one support. We also encourage them to serve as chaperones for their respective high school visits.
In January, I worked with a Leadership Council of 11 eighth graders who formed the Bridging the Gap at South Shore K-8 program. They organized the first high school visit to Rainier Beach High School for their student peers. At first, students were excited, others were anxious about the scary transition to high school coming up in several months.
We gathered the entire eighth grade class and walked less than half a mile to Rainier Beach High School. When we arrived, the eighth graders received a loud shout from the high school ambassadors, “Welcome!” Rainier Beach’s front school entrance boasted a red carpet with high fives, cheerleaders and the Rainier Beach Viking Mascot.
An eighth grader exclaimed, “I feel so loved!”
Next, the Leadership Council handed out student-designed Bridging the Gap t-shirts. The design featured an upright drawbridge united by a human caricature holding both sides together. Leadership Council students took ownership of the t-shirt design, communicating to their peers of what the design represented and how it was formulated. The bridge on the t-shirt means the transition of moving from a middle school to a high school and the water symbolizes the challenges of transitioning into high school.
The visit finished with eighth graders tours of Rainier Beach High School to show the classrooms, library, art classes and the International Baccalaureate program. Finally, ninth grade ambassadors formed a panel to answer questions about what high school is like and whether it’s as scary as students say. During the panel section, ambassadors shared what it feels like to be so negatively stereotyped and how it impacts their sense of self. One senior stated, "People call this school ghetto. They say 'this is where all the bad kids go'... Do I look bad to you? Am I violent? Do I make you not want to go to school here?" He continued to say, "We all live in the same community; our schools are just one block away from each other. The labels we put on each other impact all of us."
As the program has run for months, we continuously have heard many great comments about BTG. Students at Rainier Beach High School have expressed they wish there was similar programs held when they were in eighth grade. On top of that, many students enjoyed the sense of ownership and school pride they got to express for their perspective high schools in their interactions with the eighth graders.
Eighth graders were escorted on student led tours, highlighting Rainier Beach’s new community garden, culinary classroom, and visiting their future 9th grade classes and teachers. Students also had the opportunity to participate in a mock International Baccalaureate class facilitated by Rainier Beach’s first IB cohort. Finally, a group of eight ambassadors formed a student panel to answer questions about their involvement at Rainier Beach and their experiences in high school. They shared what it felt like to be so negatively stereotyped and how it impacts their sense of self.
One senior stated, “People call this school ‘ghetto.’ They say ‘this is where all the bad kids go’... Do I look bad to you? Am I violent? Do I make you not want to go to school here?”
He continued to say, “We all live in the same community; our schools are just one block away from each other. The labels we put on each other impact all of us.”
As the program continues to build momentum towards the end of the school year, we hear many great comments about Bridging the Gap at both South Shore and Rainier Beach High School. Students express they wish there were similar programs like this when they were in eighth grade. In conclusion, many students enjoyed the sense of ownership and school pride they got to express for their high school in their interactions with the eighth graders.
“After conducting Bridging the Gap between Aki Kurose Middle School and Cleveland High School, the Aki enrollment at Cleveland nearly doubled. Our hope is that half of the students from South Shore would go to Rainier Beach, a high school only one block away.”
- Glenn McCray, Urban Impact at Emerald City Bible Fellowship’s Hub Director
Dagim Leul is an intern at Urban Impact at Emerald City Bible Fellowship’s hub. He works with students at South Shore K-8 and Rainier Beach High School four days a week with Bridging the Gap and Homework Center programs.