Seattle Area to Reap Big Benefits from July’s All-Star Game
All of Major League Baseball will converge on Seattle in July for this year’s 93rd All-Star Game, but United Way of King County is joining MLB and the Mariners in an initiative that will impact local college students for years to come.
Major League Baseball, the Seattle Mariners and the Mariners Care Foundation today announced the 2023 All-Star Legacy initiative, a $2 million investment that will impact the Greater Seattle community by addressing equity gaps to expand access to youth baseball and softball and help underserved community college students complete their college programs.
They include aid to support students at Shoreline College through United Way’s Bridge To Finish program, which provides supports for thousands of students through the establishment of one-stop, campus-based Benefits Hubs. Those hubs provide resources that include food, emergency aid, transportation and housing assistance.
At a time when nearly half of students in Washington state could not afford to buy food when hungry, struggled to keep the lights on in their homes or faced the prospect of eviction, students who have utilized Bridge to Finish resources are not only able to spend more time focusing on grades than needs, but they are also more likely to succeed in school than students who don’t access those services. Bridge to Finish students are 25 percentage points more likely than non-Bridge to Finish students to persist and complete college.
MLB’s Legacy investment will provide funding for a Benefits Hub refurbishment at Shoreline College, provide emergency aid funding to Bridge to Finish and establish a scholarship program with the Seattle Colleges Foundation that will provide meaningful financial support to help students overcome financial challenges that would cause them to drop out of studies.
Cat Chiappa, Shoreline community college director of communications and marketing, said the investment comes at an ideal time for the school. “We’re really excited about this partnership,” said Chiappa. “The cost of living in Seattle and the surrounding areas is rising exponentially, so it’s really critical for students to have access to resources. We are committed to diversity at our college, so we want to make sure that we’re providing all kinds of resources to keep students in school. We really appreciate being able to update our space, to make new connections with community partners and continue to grow the connections we have. We are very grateful to United Way, and we thank everyone for considering us.”
The MLB initiative comes on the heels of the passage of the United Way of King County-supported post-secondary basic needs bill during this year’s legislative session. Our Benefits Hubs were evidenced-based examples that helped fuel the efforts for the bill’s passage.
Fred Rivera, Mariners executive vice president/general council and United Way board member, said of the MLB initiative: “I’m a community college graduate, so this means a lot to me. I know the benefits of it. Community college students frequently have a difficult time managing getting through school.
“The average age of our Seattle community college students is 28,” Rivera added. “In terms of median income, it’s half of what it is for students at the University of Washington, and we lose a lot of community college students because [college is often too expensive for those who] need to pay the bills and support their family. We think we are going to make a difference, and we also think we are going to shed light on the importance of having students graduate and attain a degree, which will be great for our community.”
In addition to the refurbishment of the Shoreline Community College Benefits Hub, the Legacy initiative will:
- Renovate Rainier Playfield, adding turf to the infield of both the baseball and softball fields. April Brown, MLB senior vice president of social responsibility, said that the renovation will begin shortly after the ribbon cutting during All-Star Week and usable during the fall. By March, at the start of Little League and high school baseball season, a new turf will be installed.
- Establish an Access Innovation Fund that will focus on capacity building for organizations committed to youth baseball and softball equity and will also support the launch of a local Baseball and Softball Play Equity Youth Council.
- Restore the pipeline of high school baseball and softball through the H9 League, a workout and intramural league engaging middle school age students to play ball in their “backyard.” This new program will be an extension of the Mariners Hometown Nine program and will address the so-called “middle school cliff,” the decline in participation in baseball and softball from ages 9 to 12.
All of MLB’s efforts were lauded by Bookie Gates of Baseball Beyond Borders, a Kent-based organization that helps student-athletes of color in the Seattle area connect their passion for baseball with their academic futures off the field. Baseball Beyond Borders is a member of the Black Community Building Collective, a coalition of 15 Black-led organizations brought together by United Way of King County to build relationships, form strategies and implement those strategies with United Way funding.
“I’m very excited; it’s an opportunity to invest back into Seattle to continue to build on the legacy of baseball and softball that has a rich culture in the Seattle community itself,” said Gates. “We’re excited about the ongoing access and opportunity that will come from this and we feel retrofits through innovation funds that will sew a seed and build capacity among organizations to serve and serve well. And then how we look at the continuation of college and beyond, investing in the true resources relating to financial hardship at community colleges and those students experiencing those hardships so they will be able to navigate those hardships successfully.”