The Graduate Tacoma community movement flag flies above the Tacoma Dome every June to not only celebrate graduating seniors but also express support for every child’s right to educational opportunity and success. We commemorate this incredible milestone for the Class of 2020 while at the same time acknowledging and sharing the grief that is felt among our communities as a result of over 400 years of systemic anti-Black racism.
I want to take a moment to express a renewed commitment to deepening and accelerating the Graduate Tacoma community movement into the next decade.
Ten years ago, community and district leaders came together to establish the Foundation for Tacoma Students in response to 55 percent graduation rates in Tacoma schools. These individuals shared a growing concern and sense of responsibility to realize a vision of Tacoma where every child succeeds in school, career, and life.
Together, they established a goal to improve graduation and higher education completion rates. This community recognized that a commitment to success meant shared responsibility for measuring and closing gaps in access, opportunities, and achievement for all students from cradle to career.
Since then, the Graduate Tacoma community movement has continued to grow in strength with commitment from
- Students and Families
- Dedicated Tacoma Public Schools teachers, staff, and leadership
- Collective Action Networks
- More than 350 community partner organizations
- Community leaders from diverse sectors and experiences
- Business, government, local, and national philanthropy
- Backbone support from the Foundation for Tacoma Students (FFTS).
I’m honored to witness the commitment and efforts of Graduate Tacoma partners, with support from FFTS staff and the inspiring leadership of Executive Director Dr. Tafona Ervin, to address equity issues in education and to engage in policy and advocacy impacting student access and success.
Reflecting on the last ten years brings great cause to celebrate how far we have come as a community to increase graduation rates and close gaps in access and opportunity. And yet there is still so much more work to do considering the integral role of systems change in order to truly lift up every child and achieve equity in education.
Our 2020 high school seniors are marking their graduation during a time in which they face not only the impacts of COVID-19 upon our world but also – in the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Manuel Ellis – the challenge of the very real consequences of our country’s legacy of racism and anti-Black violence upon the daily lives of Black people.
Just as our community came together to establish a goal to measure and close gaps in access, opportunities, and achievement for all students from cradle to college and career, I have hope that it is possible in our community. Through our renewed commitment to deepening and accelerating the Graduate Tacoma community movement into the next decade, I encourage those that benefit from White privilege to create a space that engages all people, especially our students and young people of color, to dismantle racism and empower community. Let’s redesign systems that achieve justice for our Black and Brown communities.
The Graduate Tacoma movement is an example of what is achievable when a community comes together in shared responsibility and support for students. I am hopeful that our community can listen and learn from youth and families impacted by structural and covert racism and take action to create a more just and anti-racist world.
On behalf of our Board of Directors, we are honored to work alongside FFTS and Graduate Tacoma partners to support our students and trust them to lead us to a better future. The road ahead is steep, but I believe that Tacoma is a place where we can stand as a community and move forward to ensure every child has an equitable future.
Holly Bamford Hunt
Foundation for Tacoma Students