Large numbers of urban children lack the quality education and safe, structured home environments necessary for success in school and life. The SEED Foundation establishes urban public boarding schools that prepare children, both academically and socially, for success in college and the professional world beyond. Cofounded by Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota, the foundation opened its first school, the SEED School of Washington, DC, in 1998. This school provides an intensive boarding education to 320 urban children, in grades 7 through 12, whose challenging circumstances might otherwise prevent them from fulfilling their academic and social potential. The school is a financially sustainable institution and serves as a national model.
Many urban children have little hope of attaining college and long-term success. Even when the public day-school system offers a strong academic program, they may not succeed because key environmental factors work against them. Drugs, violence, crime, and teen pregnancy take a human toll on students in urban areas. Unfortunately, the support structures that might otherwise overcome these problems may be limited or absent. Families are stretched thin, or even broken; peer systems are sometimes part of the problem. Under these circumstances, students either don't graduate, or they graduate without the skills they need. Many students and families desperately want an alternative that provides the infrastructure, vision, and resources needed to help students overcome these obstacles.
To meet the needs of these at-risk students, The SEED Foundation created an integrated academic and boarding program that provides consistent, holistic services. The foundation's model provides urban youth with college-preparatory training in a stable and nurturing environment. SEED is changing previous practice by bringing together resources from the public and private spheres to build a comprehensive program that provides the stability and services they need to succeed.
The SEED School's 24-hour-a-day program integrates academic training with life skills and enrichment to prepare students for college. Students enter SEED in the seventh grade and commit to a six-year college-preparatory program. They live in dormitories, benefiting from an integrated curriculum of academic, extracurricular, and life skills, and take on mentoring roles, community service, and personal responsibilities. The school provides students with intensive academic and social curricula, comfortable accommodations, three nutritious meals a day, and an elaborate network of support.
The foundation made the concept of an urban boarding school a reality by creating a partnership among federal, city, and private entities, thereby establishing a funding stream to support and sustain the operation of a boarding school and build a permanent campus. By assembling disparate resources and creating partnerships with entities such as the federal government, the DC District Council, and the DC Public Charter School Board, The SEED Foundation achieved financial sustainability for the school. While securing funds from the city and federal governments, SEED also launched a private fund-raising campaign.
SEED's model is unique not only because it's a boarding school for public school students, but also because it's located within the students' local community. With the belief that family support is a necessary component of student success, the SEED School was built in Southeast DC--accessible and convenient to urban students and their families.
All graduates of the SEED School in Washington, DC, have been accepted to four-year colleges or universities. That success has created an opportunity for the foundation to build a network of schools nationwide.
The SEED Foundation has undertaken an extensive review of the opportunities and challenges of replicating its urban-boarding-school model, defined the essential components of its model, and determined criteria with which to evaluate expansion options. It is currently evaluating opportunities in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area of California.
By creating a replicable model and working with local and national education leaders, the foundation aims to have a long-term impact on urban education. With the SEED School as a prototype, the foundation hopes to stimulate the proliferation of publicly funded boarding schools that serve at-risk urban youth. Achieving this goal would not only further the foundation's mission of preparing children for success in college and beyond but will also begin a process to level academic and social playing fields for future generations.