Gov. Inslee praises iGrad's successful reach

Gov. Jay Inslee greets Green River Community College staff during his visit Tuesday in Kent.  - Ross Coyle/Kent Reporter
Gov. Jay Inslee greets Green River Community College staff during his visit Tuesday in Kent.
— image credit: Ross Coyle/Kent Reporter

As the story behind iGrad continues to grow, it also attracts increased attention from higher-ups. Most recent of the delegates to tour the Kent School District facility was none other than Gov. Jay Inslee.

"He's taller than I thought," remarked Vickie Sheehan, with Green River Community College.

Faculty from GRCC — which works in tandem with iGrad to re-engage dropouts and struggling students — were present at Inslee's visit on Tuesday.

Inslee toured of the iGrad facility and visited students and faculty. He came away with the hope that other districts around the state could follow suit. The successful dropout recovery program, the first of its kind in the state, has partnered with other community and educational organizations, doubling in size in its first two years of operation and expanding its facility.

The program has won national acclaim and is being emulated by school districts across the country. In March, iGrad received the prestigious Magna Grand Prize Award from the National School Boards Association. The award recognizes school boards for taking bold, innovative steps to improve their educational programs.

Inslee took the mic to commend the program, saying that it was "a dream come true for me." He praised iGrad's method of not "stuffing students into boxes" and instead creating an atmosphere that they can use on their own schedule.

"This is, to me, a really perfect example of an educational community and leaders who want to fit the education to the student," Inslee said, "rather than try to squeeze the student into the education box."

Inslee said that the program closely aligns to his own educational interests, specifically with picking up whom he calls "lost students."

"I want to applaud the district on being so focused on these lost students," Inslee said. "These are kids who sometimes are just sort of forgotten, so this is parallel to my interest to increase graduation rates."

Inslee hopes to see more programs like iGrad in the state and increased partnership with local community colleges.

"I think what can be improved on is to see every school district implement this," he said. "This is a perfect match of the K-12 system and community colleges."

The afternoon program also included student testimony on how iGrad helped them through nontraditional school methods.

Some students, like Elhier Montiel, dropped out of school and were picked up by iGrad. Montiel now has his diploma and plans to go on to college to study drafting.

Danelle Matthews, who was homeschooled, used iGrad to get her diploma long after passing through high school because she needed a diploma for her degree.

"It takes a village to raise a child," said Kent School District Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas. "This project is really about raising the village, giving them the capacity to help."

The program, school board president Debbie Strauss said, represents the district's commitment that "all means all," and that it wants to make sure that every child in Kent has access to a good education and knows about options for college.

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