Monday, August 23, 2010

Getting Ready

Yesterday workers from the company CB Richard Ellis came and cleaned up First Place in honor of the United Way Day of Caring. The United Way Day of Caring is Septemeber 24th, however they came early to help First Place prepare for the new school year. The workers painted the classrooms, common room, and bathrooms. They cleaned up the vegetable garden, planted and weeded, power washed the building, and repainted the parking lot. The school looks refreshed and ready for the school year. Thank you CB Richard Ellis! September here we come.

Golf Tournament

Last Thursday the 19th, Remco-Deacon hosted a golf tournament for First Place at the Harbour Pointe Golf Course in Mukilteo. Sara Lattimer was the organizer of the event, and did an amazing job coordinating the players, sponsers, and volunteers. There were 34 teams out on the course, over 130 total players! The golfers started out around 1:30, and after finishing up had dinner and more activities inside the club.

First Place staff Chris Cooper and Lisa Foss were on hole eight during the tournament, giving the players another way to donate. Players were allowed to pay a fee in order for one person on the team to pick out a dress (from a particularly hideous assortment) and step up to the women's tee. This was great entertainment and many players participated.

A special thanks to Remco-Deacon and all of the sponsers of the golf tournament. First Place raised over five thousand dollars from this event, which will be especially important as we roll into the new school year!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

First Place Graduation 2010

Last Friday June 15th, sixth-graders Natalie Givre and Ian Solis were celebrated for having successfully graduated from First Place School. Students, parents and teachers attended the afternoon ceremony at the African-American Museum. Natalie and Ian have been inseparable friends since they first started attending First Place. They are known for their acrobatic talents and both attend a weekend class in Georgetown together. Natalie and Ian will be moving onto bright futures at new schools next year.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Stephen R. Covey blog: “Our Children and the Crisis in Education”

Stephen R. Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” has a passion for education reform and has now created his blog “Our Children and the Crisis in Education.”

This new blog shares insights on public education in America and how it can empower and teach youth in more effective ways.

Here’s a story from his first post:

“During a break in my presentation, Muriel came up to me, introduced herself, looked me straight in the eye, and asked: ‘Dr. Covey, do you think these [7 highly effective] habits can be taught to young children?’ I answered, ‘How young?’ She said, ‘Five years old.’ I thought about it briefly, and said, ‘I don't know why not;’ and then continued, ‘let me know if you ever try them out in your school.’

“And try she did. In the months that followed, Muriel and her team of administrators and teachers decided to create a whole new magnet theme for the school--leadership. The foundation of their approach combined the Seven Habits with quality, goal setting and measurement tools. The approach is inside-out, with the teachers and administrators learning, living and modeling the principles themselves first, and then, at the most basic level, integrating the principles into their teaching every day. There is no new curriculum. The principles of effectiveness are creatively woven by teachers into every subject -- reading, math, history, science, social studies, art, etc. From the moment they walk into the school each day until the final bell rings, the children soak in their adult leaders' belief that they are leaders of their own lives, have unique talents, and can make a difference. Each child, including those with special needs, is given a leadership role in the school: leader of greeting, leader of public speaking, leader of the school's daily news program and so forth. They love it and they thrive.”


First Place has been extremely successful using curriculum that builds on the students’ academic lessons, such as learning the times tables or periodic table of elements. At First Place, we utilize a community-based curriculum developed by our Executive Director called Classroom Without Walls. Each class chooses a topic of interest to them from the outside community, like the parks or health care, and then incorporates themes from those topics into their learning throughout the year.

When the kids went down to Olympia for the annual Have a Heart for Kids advocacy day, each student researched a current bill in the legislature that interested them. Some chose housing issues, others school funding, and several picked health care. Then they wrote letters to their Congress members to share their perspectives on the bills. This type of learning shows students that their education is not isolated, but relates to their community outside of school. It also encourages their involvement—and their parents’—in civic activities going on around them.


“The winds of education reform are beginning to stir once again,” wrote Covey. “Our collective conscience is being nudged. And there's good reason. The world has moved into one of the most profound eras of change in human history. Yet our children, for the most part, are simply not prepared for the new reality. The gap is widening. And we know it.”

Check out his blog on the Huffington Post for more interesting insights on public education today.

And stay tuned in on our blog for more info about Classroom Without Walls and First Place’s young leaders!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring Cleaning Can Support Families!

Moving into a new home is a prideful accomplishment for the families who come to First Place!

We have some great news today – a high number of our families have been moving into transitional housing from shelters or shared housing. This is definitely a reason to celebrate!

Along with these great successes, First Place currently has a great need for household items to help these families turn an empty apartment into their home. We are looking for new and gently used household items.

If you’ve been spring cleaning, some of these items may be in your donate pile:
  • Kitchen items such as: plates, bowls, silverware, mugs, pots & pans, baking pans, colanders, cutting boards, serving utensils—and anything you find is essential in the kitchen!
  • Dish towels, bath towels, washcloths and laundry detergent
  • Pillows, comforters, blankets and sheet sets
  • Lamps with lightbulbs
  • Plastic Hangers

We currently are not able to accept furniture donations to pass on to families. We would like to encourage donation of gift certificates to places parents can purchase furniture and other household items. Gift certificates starting at $50 for these stores are greatly appreciated: Goodwill, Ikea, Value village, Target, JC Penney, and Fred Meyer.

More helpful ideas:
  • Purchase some of these items on and have them shipped directly to First Place. When you use the Amazon School Rewards link here, a percentage of your order is donated back to First Place.
  • Forward this blog to your friends and neighbors, or post it in your office break room.
  • Donate the proceeds of your spring garage sale to First Place.
  • Link to this blog from your Facebook page. Challenge your friends to get involved.
  • Ask your work department to each pick something off this list to donate.
For more information or to set up a time to deliver a donation contact Lisa Foss at (206) 323 6715.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

First Place Announces Brand New Partnership

First Place is announcing an exciting and brand new partnership with Antioch University Seattle and City University of Seattle. Below is our press release with the details.

March 25, 2010

A Washington State Educational First:
Antioch University Seattle, City University of Seattle and First Place Form New Partnership To Help Kids and Graduate Students

SEATTLE — Antioch University Seattle, City University of Seattle and First Place proudly announce the formation of a multi-disciplinary partnership to meet the training needs of Antioch University Seattle and CityU of Seattle students and the service delivery needs of First Place school’s students and their families. This partnership is a first of its kind in Washington State.

All three institutions anticipate the pilot will begin in September 2010. At that time Antioch University Seattle Psychology students will work with children and families on site at First Place, impacting the community while receiving course and practicum hours toward their degree. In addition, students from CityU’s Albright School of Education will begin their practicum by working with students in classrooms at First Place.

“CityU is proud to partner with First Place to provide extended opportunities for our future Education and Early Education teachers so that they may hone their skills in a collaborative and unique learning environment, simultaneously serving the needs of this special community,” comments Dr. Steven Olswang, Provost, CityU. “Our long history of providing teachers who work with special populations fits squarely with the populations First Place serves.”

“Having our Psychology students getting practicum hours working with First Place children and families will allow us to send psychologists out into the community that are trained to handle both educational and social emotional issues that are faced by many children and their families, not just homeless families,” stated Dr. Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet, President of Antioch University Seattle. “This is new kind of community partnership and we are very proud to be a part.”

In the partnership, students from both Antioch University Seattle and CityU will provide clinical assessment, intervention, advocacy, classroom teaching and various support services. First Place will work with professionals and students from both universities on educational philosophy and pedagogy and the unique needs and strengths of their clients.

“CityU students will gain experience working with clinical psychologists in a classroom setting. Action research by CityU students will report on their efforts to expand teaching pedagogy through working with students coming from challenging home lives,” commented Craig Schreiber, Ed.D., associate dean, CityU’s Albright School of Education.

“First Place has a history of creating strong and lasting partnerships to fulfill our mission to provide stability and education to families at risk for homelessness,” said Dr. Doreen Cato, Executive Director of First Place. “Especially in these difficult economic times it is imperative that we work in concert with others who share our community goals. We have found just such a partner in Antioch.”

About First Place:
First Place is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization located in Seattle’s Central Area. Our mission is to educate and nurture children whose families struggle with the risk or reality of homelessness, where we offer housing, culturally relevant education and support services enabling families to achieve permanent stability. Our vision is hope, home and education for every child, one family at a time. Learn more at

About City University of Seattle:
Founded in 1973 in Seattle, Washington, City University of Seattle is a private, not-for-profit university that has awarded over 45,000 degrees and certificates worldwide. City University of Seattle’s goal is to change lives for the good by offering high quality and relevant online and in-class education options to any person in the world with a desire to learn. The university is comprised of The School of Management, The Gordon Albright School of Education and the Division of Arts and Sciences. Headquartered in the Pacific Northwest, City University of Seattle offers classes at locations throughout Washington, Hawaii, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Slovakia, Greece, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Romania, The Czech Republic and China.

About Antioch University Seattle:
Antioch University Seattle is a bold and enduring source of innovation in higher education. Students’ passion to advance their lives, personally and professionally, is developed through academic programs that respond to the world’s needs. Students become educators, therapists and counselors, creative leaders and entrepreneurs who contribute to the common good. Together, we form a visionary community that strikes a rare—and essential—balance between idealism and experience. Learn more at

Chris Cooper, First Place, 206.388.7775

Leslie Cohan, City University of Seattle, 425.709.5403

Lori Dugdale, Antioch University Seattle, 206.268.4106

First Place Students Read 320 Books In One Day!

On Friday, March 19, 2010, First Place held it's first Read-A-Thon in honor of National Reading Month and the love of reading at the school. Every class participated from preschool in the Griffin Early Learning Center all the way up to 6th Grade. After every book read, students wrote the name of the book on a leaf and added it to a reading tree in the school's multipurpose room.
Students came to school in their pajamas and classroom had guest readers to help break up the day! Here is a picture of the final tree with all 320 leaves.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Action Alert: Support Housing Trust Fund

The Washington State Housing Trust Fund is a vital funding source in our state and we are at risk of losing this fund. We are re-posting information from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and urging you to write to your Senator.

Just before the end of the regular session, the House of Representatives approved the Senate Capital budget with an amendment to fund the Housing Trust Fund with $50 million. An investment of this size will create at least 1,500 jobs, generate $10.3 million in taxes for local governments, and bring in $28.7 million in income for local businesses. Now is a critical time to contact your Senator to urge support for this critical investment.

It is your advocacy that will ensure the Trust Fund is funded at $50 million. Many of the projects that are "in the pipeline" and ready to begin will build housing for those who can least afford it - families and individuals struggling with or leaving homelessness, the disabled, and seniors on fixed incomes. Many of these individuals and families only source of income is the small $339 per month cash grant from the GA-U program. This tiny amount allows these Washingtonians to afford the basics like housing and food.

The Housing Trust Fund is essential to providing housing for those who need it the most. The Senate needs to know that the Trust Fund not only creates jobs, but also creates a path out of homelessness for thousands of people throughout Washington.

Contact your Senator today!

Read more from other organizations: YWCA Action Alert, Building Changes, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

First Place Graduate makes National Headlines

Breaking News!

First Place graduate, 11-year-old Marcelas Owens, has been advocating for health care in honor of his mother since he lost her in 2007. In the past year, Senator Patty Murray has been telling his story to advocate for better healthcare and has shared his story twice in front of President Obama.
His story is now being heard and seen by thousands of individuals through news coverage on MSNBC and CBS Evening News.

Today, March 10, is an important day for Marcelas as he speaks in Washington DC in front of Congress - it is also his eleventh birthday.

Read local stories on Marcelas: KING5, Q13 Fox, Seattle Times.

Hear Marcelas' story in person!

Marcelas will be speaking at our Annual Fundraising Breakfast on Wednesday, April 28, 2010.

RSVP today to hear this inspirational young man share more of his experiences and how First Place was a catalyst for his advocacy.

Learn more about the Annual Fundraising Breakfast.Marcelas Owens (left) with Tod Leiweke (right) at the 2009 Breakfast.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Unsung Heroes Rick Teegarden, TOPS School, and Ann Borwick

First Place really appreciates the generosity of our Seattle-area friends. We recently received several great donations that took a lot of planning and care by their organizers.

High school senior Rick Teegarden from Bellevue coordinated a drive that brought in over 2500 coats, a good number of which came to First Place. These coats will keep our clothing bank stocked for a good, long while. We really appreciate the time and efforts of caring community members like Rick. It’s especially inspiring to see the support from young people for their peers at First Place.

Rick was in 7th grade when he first began the coat drive. He was active with Bellevue Youth Link and its Teen Closet which at that time, he says, was woefully under-stocked for the winter months. So he took the idea of a coat drive to his middle school and got to work. Now he partners with several city shelters and justice organizations to make sure kids have the ability to stay warm during the chilly winter.

Our long-time friend Ann Borwick also sewed 60 pillow cases for the kids to take with them when they left for mid-winter break. The cases went into treasure boxes made by the TOPS 8th graders, with lots of other fun things inside like arts and crafts supplies.

Each pillow case is made from a different, colorful, kind-of zany pattern. First Place has received some great gifts from Ann in the past, such as aprons for the Griffin Early Learning Program to use when they practice painting and other crafts.

And don’t tell, but word is that Ann’s next project will be pillows and cases for preschool nap time. The kids will be excited when those arrive!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Classical Concert will Raise Awareness about Homelessness

Sing Us Home — A free classical concert to raise awareness about homelessness with 65-voice choir and orchestra.

Please join First Place Sunday, March 28th, 2010 at 3:00 p.m. at Seattle’s First Baptist Church for an afternoon of hope, community and music sponsored by Seattle First Baptist and The Greater Seattle Council of Churches.

Sing Us Home features an array of top notch musicians and soloists, including 65-singers, an orchestra, and the Lakeside High School Chorale.

The program will feature Henry Mollicone's Beatitude Mass (for the Homeless), written in 2005. Mollicone's music has been compared by reviewers to that of Bernstein, Britten, and Sondheim. His compositions are tuneful, dramatic, lyrical and powerful. The Beatitude Mass intersperses sections of the Latin Mass with texts from interviews with people living in homeless shelters.

This ten movement choral/orchestral work weaves four of the five movements of the ordinary of the Latin Mass with several other texts. The work begins and ends with beatitudes, a literary form which begins with the word "blessed" and, in this case, is applied to the situation of those who are homeless. No doubt this will be a powerful event that you will not want to miss. You can learn more about Henry Mollicone and the soloists here.

This event is free, however, there will be a free-will offering during the concert, but to increase the giving we are encouraging those who are able to purchase a donor pass in advance for $50 which will reserve you a seat. 100% of the donations will go to First Place.
If you are interested in a purchasing a pass you can do so:
Bring your relatives, colleagues, friends, and loved ones and enjoy an afternoon of music all to the tune of helping homeless families in the Puget Sound area.

Directly following the concert will be an awareness fair with local organizations who work to eradicate homelessness.

If you have any questions about this event, please email Melissa Collett at First Place.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Kids Not Cuts": First Place Students Advocate in Olympia

“Kids Not Cuts!” was the Have a Heart for Kids Day theme this year. More than 4,000 people from throughout the state gathered in Olympia on Monday, February 15th to rally for the issues that are most important to Washington’s kids.

Have a Heart for Kids Day is a yearly lobbying day organized by The Children’s Alliance to bring attention to the issues affecting children who often are not able to advocate for themselves.House Bills important to our students and parents right now include:
House Bill 3177 Housing Trust Fund & House Bill 1956 authorizing the housing of homeless people on property owned or controlled by a church.

Early Monday morning students, parents, teachers and volunteers loaded buses at First Place to head to Olympia for the annual Have a Heart for Kids Day rally.
In anticipation of the day, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classes researched bills the House and Senate are considering right now and wrote letters to their legislators telling how they felt about those bills and whether they should pass. Here are a few excerpts from letters written by First Place students:

Dear Representative Pettigrew,
I am writing in regards to HB 3177.

My family and I live in a shelter. If my parents didn’t find shelter we would be homeless. My family now has hope for a better future. I think it is really important to pass this bill because in the future families like mine will need a safe place to live.

Dear Representative Chopp,
I ask for your support for HB 1956, authorizing the housing of homeless people on property owned or controlled by a church.

Recently in my school’s neighborhood, a church hosted tent city. They never messed with anybody and they looked happy and peaceful. I think it’s better that they stay there than under the free way. Please consider this bill.

Dear Representative Orwall,
I am writing in regard to House Bill 2621. I want to pick this bill because it will keep our children current with technology by providing opportunities for specialized learning.

I think this is a good plan because I go to a school that has small classes and personal instruction. We do lots of learning projects like this letter to you. Our school gets lots of support from local businesses and community volunteers. I have gone to my school for 2 years and it has been a good experience and I have learned a lot.

Please vote for this bill so it can help other kids learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math.

Student letters also talked about funds for school nurses, support for animal protection laws, and, of course, more time for recess.
During the day Representative Eric Pettigrew and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp took time to meet with First Place students and their parents, and listen to their letters and stories.

Other exciting parts of the day included marching through the capitol campus up to the steps of the Legislative Building, joining a rally of 4,000 people calling for steps toward a healthy economic future for Washington kids. First Place students made and carried signs with slogans like “Kids Not Cuts!” and “Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation” to support programs that are vital to the health and success of kids.

Most importantly, First Place families saw that their stories and presence do make a difference in how legislators think about and respond to issues and they know that their voice is an important one.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Myths of Homelessness

"As soon as you get camp set up and get into your blankets and fall asleep, it's time to get up and pack up your stuff and start the day." – Connie

Myth #6: Homeless People Sleep All the Time

Huffington Post writer Christine Schanes has been sharing some of the common misperceptions about homeless people. Here’s what a few of them had to say.

"Sleeping is kind of rough. Sleeping on the streets you have to watch other people. You have to be real careful of the weather and other people. You could get kicked in the head. Other people like to mess with the homeless." - Joe

"For the moment, let's just say riding around all night on the bus and trains keeps you out of jail." - Maurice

"Problems I encounter - I have people stalking me for crimes that they have committed against me, including poisoning me, drugging me. So, therefore, I do not have a place to sleep or sleep on a regular place or regular sleep times. So, therefore, I cannot keep appointments or regular life. Sleeping times are hard to get as well as keeping my health correct." - Antonio

"Out of all the years my family and I were homeless, we slept in shelters and got enough sleep. Except for one night when we slept in a car which was a horrible experience." - Barbara

Check out the full article, and the other Myths of Homelessness at

First Place families have told us they faced some of these same stereotypes when faced with homelessness. Here's the links to the first five myths:

Myth #5: Sleepwalking will End Homelessness

Myth #4: There’s Room in the Inn

Myth #3: Unsheltered People Only Count at Night

Myth #2: “They’re All Bums!”

Myth #1: “Get a Job!” also had an interesting article on how families are generally the last line of defense, and one of the strongest, for someone facing homelessness. Families are there to provide loans when everything else falls through or housing until a job situation can stabilize. Find the full article at