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I’m a firm believer that everyone deserves a chance to live a safe, healthy and happy life. At times though that is not always easy and for some teens in the area they’ve never had the opportunity. For students at Eastside Academy, the circumstances vary (abuse, homelessness, addiction, pregnancy, gang violence) but the bottom line is they want to turn things around and have a shot at a future filled with hope versus despair.
Amy Effinger, Investments and Partnerships Officer at Eastside Academy, explains, “Eastside offers a holistic approach to learning. Students are provided with an education while being treated for the underlying issues that cause them to struggle in all areas of their lives.”
Eastside Academy is a not for profit alternative high school and treatment program that was established in 2001. Students experience all of the class requirements that a traditional high school offers including Mathematics, English, Science, Social Studies, Arts, and even Foreign Language now. They are Christian based although all faith religions are welcome. They currently have a campus at Bellevue Presbyterian with 50 students (Bellevue) and at Overlake Christian Church with 25 students (Redmond). Students are referred to Eastside through the court system, school counselors, friends, and family.
Unlike other school/treatment programs, the students are all from the Puget Sound area representing nine school districts and most come from poverty or low-income households. Currently, all of the students at Eastside receive some level of financial assistant and as a result tuition makes up less than 8% of the annual budget. The balance of the budget is raised through two annual fundraisers, foundation partners, corporations, and individual donations. One of the fundraisers is the 13th Annual Evergreen Gavekal Golf Tournament held at the premier private Glendale Country Club on June 11 this year. There is still space available to join the fun and help support a great cause. The other is a Dinner and Auction on October 20, 2018.
There are a few things that really set Eastside apart from other alternate high schools:
Effinger got involved with Eastside when she volunteered as a mentor. Mentors are required to meet with their assigned student once a week during the lunch period. She said that the students embrace this program, as it is a safe place for them. The young lady that Effinger mentored was able to open up and tell her story without judgment or consequences. Effinger said, “These kids are really brave.” She added that she is blown away with their spirit and soul.
On June 22, the Bellevue campus will honor five graduates and on June 23 the Overlake campus honors five graduates as well. These students will join alumni who have found healing from their young lives that were filled with trauma and abuse. Eastside has served hundreds of youth who now attend college, pursue careers, contribute positivity to their community, and raise families.
Sadly, following this June’s graduation, the Overlake campus will be closed. Effinger explained that a budget shortfall due to the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) requirement of adding a foreign language to their program that was not initially anticipated is a big part of the budget shortfall. She said that they are already working on additional fundraising efforts and hopeful to reopen this campus in the fall of 2019 offering a much needed middle school program.
If you want to learn more about Eastside Academy, register for the upcoming golf tournament, support financially, or volunteer, please visit www.EastsideAcademy.org.