A family first: high school graduate

By United Way of King County, on August 29, 2017 | In Helping Students Graduate, Success Stories

She’s smart, friendly, upbeat and outgoing.

So much so, 19-year-old November beat out more experienced job candidates to become a bank teller in Seattle.

But ask November to talk about her childhood and a pensive look replaces the usual smile on her face.

“I can’t really think of a time when it was good. My brother, who is 11 months younger than I am, was always in trouble and that caused us to move around a lot. There were plenty of times we had to move in with a family friend. It was a struggle.”

Moving around meant switching schools and that made it hard for November to keep up with classwork. Her parents’ indifference to education also played a part. “Neither of my parents finished high school. Either they didn’t know the value of high school or they just didn’t care enough about us.”

During her sophomore year, November attended a school in Bellevue then switched to another high school in South King County. When the family moved again to avoid her brother’s troubles with the law, she realized her uphill battle. “I had already missed so many days that I thought, ‘What’s the point in me going back and trying to catch up because I’m already so far behind?’ “

Shortly after her realization, November dropped out of school. When a counselor told her about Career Link, a partner agency in United Way’s Reconnecting Youth program, she enrolled. Under the program, educational advocates reach out to the 14,000 young people ages 16-24 in King County who don’t have a diploma, GED or viable job.


Reconnecting Youth meets young people where they are in their educational journey and gets them back on track so they can earn their high school diploma or GED. The program, which began in 2014, provides one-to-one mentoring, educational counseling, and career navigation.

When United Way launched Reconnecting Youth, the program served 3 sites and 317 youth. By scaling the program to 12 sites and multiple partners like colleges and employers, United Way knew it could engage more people of color/high need communities who don’t have access to opportunity. Currently, more than 5,000 young people have participated in the program.

While it costs roughly $9,000 to get each person across the high school credential finish line, United Way leverages state dollars to pay about half the cost. Since 2015, United Way has accessed approximately $11 million in state dollars.

For November, the Reconnecting Youth program was the support she needed to accomplish her goals. She’s one class away from getting her diploma and is already taking a few classes at community college while she works at the bank.

“I knew I wanted to be in school, I wanted to finish, I wanted to graduate, and I wanted to do something with my life.”


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