SOUTH SEATTLE / SOUTH KING COUNTY – The Road Map Project has been awarded up to $500,000 from the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund. The Seattle Foundation intends to make a matching grant this summer and is taking the lead in working with other local funders to secure the full $500,000 match amount over the grant period.

The announcement was made Thursday evening at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. The Road Map Project is one of 21 awardees from across the country.

The Road Map Project is a region-wide effort aimed at dramatically improving student achievement from cradle to college and career in South King County and South Seattle. Current estimates suggest that in the Road Map Project region, there are at least 20,000 young people between 16-24 disconnected from education and jobs. Getting some kind of degree or career credential after high school is increasingly important to succeed in our regional economy.

“I am very passionate about this issue and was pleased to serve on the White House Council for Community Solutions, where the idea for Opportunity Youth was first developed. We are rapidly losing our young people – nearly 20 percent of the country’s young adults are disconnected from school and unemployed. It is our responsibility to help them find a path to success and economic opportunity. I’m glad to see this focus in our region and believe the Opportunity Youth initiative will be a tremendous resource,” said Norman B. Rice, president and CEO of The Seattle Foundation.

Many partners have been working hard to heighten focus on this critical issue and each contributed to the grant proposal development, including the United Way of King County, the Workforce Development Council of Seattle – King County and the Puget Sound Educational Service District. The Road Map Project will be working with these entities and many more to build the best system for youth re-engagement in the nation.

“This grant will bolster the important work of reconnecting thousands of young people in our communities with the resources they need to succeed. There is growing momentum and new capacity in our region. This initiative will help create coordinated and transparent pathways for young people who are currently being left behind. We look forward to tackling this important work with our partners,” said Mike Heinisch, executive director of Kent Youth and Family Services.

The Opportunity Youth work will start by bringing together education leaders, community members and youth to generate ideas, better understand the barriers students face and take action to support young people. The multi-year grant will provide resources for our region to build a strong system to help young people come back to education and work toward a high school diploma, GED and some type of career training or college degree. The effort will help community organizations, health providers and educators implement Washington State’s new “Open Doors” law, in which the state will fund education services until a student is 21.

The region’s Opportunity Youth grant will build on great work already under way in the Road Map Project region, such as iGrad. This program was developed by the Kent School District and Green River Community College, and helps students who dropped out earn a high school diploma, college credentials or career skills. iGrad’s personalized and supportive approach has resonated with young people: the program started in fall 2012 with 159 students and will soon serve more than 600 students. Much of this success can be attributed to strong leadership from the Kent School District and Green River Community College.

To learn more about Opportunity Youth, please visit

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