Empowering Youth Tacoma Luncheon Celebrates Graduating Seniors

By the time he was a senior at Lincoln High School, CSF Alumnus Anthony had navigated poverty and coped with trauma that stemmed from growing up in a gang- and drug-infested neighborhood. He knew there had to be something bigger ahead and was ready to apply for college, but he didn’t know how he would afford it.

“Then College Success Foundation came in like a bulldozer of opportunity … At a time when I could have easily become one of those unseen and forgotten students, CSF worked to provide me with my way out,” he said.

Anthony shared his phenomenal story of triumph at the seventh annual Empowering Youth Tacoma luncheon on May 21, bringing almost 500 guests to their feet in a standing ovation. The event at the Hotel Murano raised $180,000 to support low-income students in Tacoma Public Schools and on college campuses.

The Lincoln High School drum line and mascots from Tacoma public high schools got the party started, and KING 5 TV sports anchor and reporter Chris Egan emceed the event.

“There are 30 students joining us from the comprehensive high schools in Tacoma that CSF serves, but they represent just 12 percent of the 250 high school seniors who will be graduating in Tacoma this June with the help of CSF’s programs,” Chris said. “THEY are the reason we are here today and the inspiration for this important work.”

Graduating CSF Achievers Scholars from all five Tacoma high schools – Foss, Lincoln, Mt. Tahoma, Stadium and Wilson – walked down a red carpet to the sound of cheering from guests including CSF College Prep Advisors and HERO Advisors, Tacoma school district superintendent Carla Santorno, principals and college presidents. CSF Alumni high-fived the scholars as they walked by.

CSF President & CEO James Dorsey spoke about CSF’s impact on the community. “We serve the underserved – those who might not otherwise get to college without our help,” he said. “National data from the Pell Institute indicates that students from wealthy families are 5x more likely to graduate from college than students from low-income families. This staggering disparity fuels our passion to foster educational equity.”

CSF-Tacoma Executive Director Shanna LaMar explained how CSF staff works with students in collaboration with school principals, teachers and counselors. “Our goal is to keep our students on track for high school graduation and to establish plans for their post-secondary education,” she said.

Melody Rodriguez, College Prep Advisor at Mount Tahoma High School, was honored with the Student Advocacy Award for her positive impact on the Tacoma community and its young people for over 28 years. Rob Jones, College Prep Advisor at Lincoln High School, presented the award to Melody.

“She is direct and firm with her students, but she is someone who puts students first and cares deeply about their success,” he said. “It is because of this enduring commitment to the lives of students in our community that she is being honored today.”

Anthony, who was a member of the inaugural cohort of the CSF Achievers program at Lincoln High School, shared the struggles he faced as the youngest of five children growing up in Tacoma. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree at University of Washington and has worked in the entertainment industry for 12 years as a writer, director, producer, creative and technical consultant, and on-camera host.

“How has having a college degree changed and empowered my life? Through added self-worth and the confidence to walk into any room,” he said. “CSF gave me the foundation and confidence to dare to dream and discover my passion.” Read more about Anthony’s story.

Your support is what allows us to continue serving over 2,100 CSF-Tacoma Scholars each year in high school, college and beyond. If you were unable to attend, you can still have an impact by making a gift today.

Watch highlights from the luncheon.