Students at the Why Not You Academy in Des Moines. COURTESY PHOTO, Why Not You Academy

Students at the Why Not You Academy in Des Moines. COURTESY PHOTO, Why Not You Academy

Why Not You Academy in Des Moines receives $100,000 grant

Public charter school co-founded by Russell Wilson and Ciara gets funds to help students attend college

The Why Not You Academy, a Washington charter public high school in Des Moines, has received an $100,000 grant to help students reach college.

The grant is from the Limitless Learning Network, which is managed by Seattle-based Education First with funding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Why Not You Academy, co-founded by Russell and Ciara Wilson and educational leaders, opened in 2021 at 22419 Pacific Highway S., just north of Kent. It is tuition free and funded by the Why Not You Foundation run by Wilson and Ciara. Wilson started the school when he was quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks prior to his trade in 2022 to the Denver Broncos.

With the grant - which is distributed over four years and also includes technical assistance to help facilitate collaboration and develop strategic, evidence-based solutions - the academy will partner with Washington State University, College Unbound and Girls on the Rise to help more young people across the state access the opportunities they need to design the future they want, according to a Nov. 14 news release from the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

The academy works to prepare each student for success in the real world, including through providing personalized learning plans, weekly internships and mentorship opportunities.

In the 2022-2023 school year, Why Not You Academy served a diverse group of 130 students, 90% of whom identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color). Among students, 51% identify as Black or African American, 26% identify as Hispanic or Latino, and 10% identify as white, according to the news release. The student body also includes significant proportions of students enrolled in special education classes and those identifying as multilingual learners at 14% and 13%, respectively.

“We are honored to be selected as a Limitless grant recipient,” said Abigail O’Neal, chief executive officer at Why Not You Academy. “This grant will allow us to strengthen our essential work of supporting students on their paths to college and career success. We are excited to partner with other organizations in King County to learn from each other and develop best practices together.”

The Limitless Learning Network brings together 25 partnerships across 19 counties in Washington state who are leading the implementation of programs that support students’ transitions from high school to postsecondary education. That includes college and career readiness district directors, higher education enrollment staff, and nonprofit organizations providing advising and other college and career guidance support.

“The Limitless grant is a significant investment in the future of Washington state’s students,” said Kelly Kovacic Duran, principal at Education First. “With Limitless, we can ensure more students access the resources and support they need to succeed in colleges, careers, and beyond.”

Nearly 90% of Washington’s high schoolers say that they want to continue their education after high school, but only 50% of high school graduates today go on to enroll in postsecondary programs, including two- and four-year degrees, apprenticeships, and career certifications, according to the news release.

About charter public schools

Established by Washington state’s voters in 2012, charter public schools are free and open to all. Charter public schools operate under strict oversight from multiple state agencies, including a public charter school authorizer, the State Board of Education, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the state auditor. Currently, 18 charter public schools serve over 5,200 students—62% of whom are students of color and 52% from low-income households.

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