By Steve Powell
EVERETT – Everyone has heard of Running Start but Everett Community College also has a program to help students at the other end of the spectrum.
Running Start helps excelling students get an early start on college. The Youth Re-engagement Program (U3) helps at-risk youth attend college for free.
About 200 students are in the program at any one time. Four of them from the Marysville and Arlington areas talked it this week.
Max Tinsley, 21, of Arlington said signing up for U3 was the “best choice I ever made.”
He admitted her did not always make good choices. “I made poor choices in my early teen years,” he said. Challenges with his family also were an obstacle, he said. When he was a senior, he only had the amount of credits a freshman should have.
When he was a junior, he took a leadership class that finally sparked his interest, but he thought it was too late.
As he started U3, he realized high school “did not challenge me. There’s a higher level of accountability in college. That was enticing to me.”
He started off in computer science, but has changed to environmental science and sustainability. He plans to transfer to Western Washington University, which he said has the No. 6 program in the nation for his field. Tinsley said he picked the wrong crowd early in life, and it took him awhile to mature.
“I love information. I love to learn. I had to figure myself out more,” he said.
Tinsley said he is involved in the student life on campus, working at a job there. “It opens up a lot of doors,” he said of the U3 program.
Sam Hogue, 20, of Tulalip was homeschooled, but at age 14 wanted to try public school as a freshman. “The other students were a distraction,” she said. “It was stressful.” Hogue said she knew college was next, but she was afraid. “I felt stuck. The money was too big of a challenge,” she said.
She applied and was accepted into U3. She got her General Equivalancy Degree last summer, and is now working on prerequites for nursing. She wants to get her bachelor’s degree from Washington State University. Hogue recommends the program to anyone. “It’s a real life-changer,” she said. “There’s nothing to lose.” Hogue said it’s better than high school. “There are no cliques. You get out what you put into it.”
Although the youngest of the students, Nate Anderson, 19, of Marysville has been in the program the longest, three years.
Like Tinsley, he said he had family issues and made some bad choices, like skipping school. He couldn’t see the purpose. “Why are we reading Shakespeare?” he said. He decided he wanted to go into psychology, but now wants to be an English teacher. He also plans to transfer to Western.
Anderson said the high school environment almost challenges students to be defiant. But students at EvCC are more mature.
“They’re older, more balanced and mature. You can be yourself. They don’t judge,” he said.
Gabe Wiebe-Wright, 22, also of Marysville, has graduated from the U3 program and is now a tutor. He attended an alternative high school, but quit and joined U3 at age 17. At first he thought it would be “lots of pointless hoops to jump through.” The first quarter he found that it wasn’t hard but there was a lot of homework. “I decided I had to make some sacrifices,” he said. “They needed something from me, and the investment was worth it.”
He started out in engineering, “because they made the most money,” but has since changed to Sustainable Farming. He has earned his associate’s degree.
All four said many students drop out of each cohort. But Wiebe-Wright said he has seen many of them return to college.
He said U3 helped to “kick start” their interest in education.