SESEC tackles education disparities in southeast Seattle

By Sam Le
Northwest Asia Weekly

Despite the overwhelming economic growth Seattle experienced after the 2008 recession, the divergence between Seattle’s wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods has grown dramatically.

The difference in economic growth, capital investment, and community development has left Southeast Seattle behind, especially in education and opportunities for students. Now, the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC) aims to improve schools in the area so that all students are successful and families are empowered.

SESEC is a coalition that represents community organizations, local educators, schools, parents and community members.

“The coalition is one of the places where we make the effort to organize ourselves interracial and not be siled,” said Erin Okuno, executive director of SESEC.

“I joined as the first full-time staff member about four years ago. The coalition borders are the areas south of I-90 and east of I-5, which are the areas where people of color are in the majority. SESEC’s boundaries include the neighborhoods of Beacon Hill, Columbia City, and Rainier Beach, with high percentages of Asian-American, Black, and Latino communities.

“We are trying to bring people together to determine the conversations we need to have around educational justice and focus it on the needs and perspectives of communities of color.” Okuno explained that SESEC holds monthly meetings where different issues are presented and discussed.

“These meetings are a great place to learn more about what’s going on in the community,” Okuno said. “We strive to make these meetings cohesive, where many people in attendance are from organizations large and small that serve communities of color.”

Previous topics and discussion topics included race, immigration, school enrollment, and parent-teacher relationships.

“About five or six years ago, SESEC started at the local level to start providing narratives and stories to the data, to faithfully reflect the challenges and struggles of the communities,” Okuno explained of the training. SESEC. Data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Education in 2011 showed that five schools in southeast Seattle were ranked among the lowest performing in the state.

“Community leaders and organizations, such as Vu Le, the Seattle Filipino community and others, have found that unless we do something, our students will be left behind. “

“Communities of color in Southeast Seattle are strong and derive their strength from one another’s cultural richness and diversity, but there is still a lack in the systems to bring in monetary and capital investments. It’s unfair when systems only recognize the strengths of some communities and not others, ”Okuno said, of how communities in southeast Seattle have been distorted.

SESEC encourages communities and parents to become actively involved and support those who do not have the resources or access to do so. This support has enabled SESEC to address issues such as data disaggregation and educate the public about direct debits.

Okuno spoke about the partnership between SESEC and the Chinese Information & Service Center (CISC) to address data transparency with the community. Data collected and analyzed by SESEC through surveys has been shared with communities in Asia and the Pacific Islands to ensure that the data matches the community’s narratives.

“Stating exactly what we wanted to do with the data and why we collected it in the first place was one of the biggest concerns in the community. We worked with the CISC and Seattle Public Schools to organize sessions. listening to legislators and stakeholders to understand the data and the stories behind them.During the sessions, parents made specific requests and recommendations on how to work with the API community and communities of color in general.

SESEC continues to make the voices of immigrants, refugees and communities of color heard. Meetings are held monthly at the Church on Rainier Avenue.

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Sam Le can be contacted at [email protected]

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