Seattle World School and the Friends’ Role

Seattle World School is Seattle Public Schools’ culturally and linguistically diverse school for newcomer middle and high school students. It is one of only a few schools in the country designed as a preliminary entry point for refugee and immigrant children in their quest for academic achievement and full participation in American society.  The focus is on English acquisition in a comprehensive curriculum.  The school is at 1700 E. Union, in Seattle’s Central District.  It serves the entire city of Seattle.

Seattle World School studentsOur students arrive from all over the world, from war-torn countries and refugee camps, on work  or permanent visas, or as immigrants seeking opportunity.  Some have no previous education while others have a strong academic background and simply need to learn English. Most are very low income with a wide variety of personal circumstances.

The school was established in 1980 as the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center (SBOC) and is now known as the Seattle World School.   Until 2011, only basic orientation to English and academic skills was provided.  After one to three semesters, students transitioned to neighborhood schools.   This orientation program continues to serve newly arrived immigrants and refugees as they begin to learn English as well as math, science, history, and electives.  Students take classes to prepare for transfer to a regular middle or high school, or, since 2011, to the World School high school.  Once they have sufficient English, students can choose to continue their education at any Seattle middle or high school.

Seattle World School student

The World School high school track provides standard academic curriculum leading to a high school diploma. English language support is integrated with academic courses in a project-based learning environment. The program is for students who don’t speak English as a first language, ELL students from other secondary schools, and even students who have moved on from ELL services in other schools.  Native English speakers can also attend, if they choose to do so.

The school has a specialized on-site health center, enrollment center, and family support center.  The family support center helps families participate in their student’s education and reinforce their academic success.  Students have access to extended day academic programs, extracurricular activities, and tutoring. A multitude of volunteers from all over the city make these programs possible. Community agencies also partner with the school, providing academic support and bolstering the school’s emphasis on multicultural awareness and respect.

For more information, visit the school’s website.

About the Friends of Seattle World School

We are a network of individuals from different ethnic backgrounds and professions and we function as an informal PTSA.  We came together in 2007 when it was clear that language, cultural and logistical factors made it difficult for students’ families to organize as a traditional PTSA.  Our group includes representatives from community-based organizations that serve refugees and immigrants, volunteer tutors, staff members, leaders from various ethnic communities, former teachers and school staff, parents of former students, and local citizens who want to support the school, its students, and staff.  We advocate, raise funds, and support efforts to improve opportunities for our students.

Seattle World School students

Our purpose is to partner with the Seattle School District and the community at large to ensure that our students develop the academic and social competencies needed to graduate, pursue higher education or vocational training, and find opportunities for a better future in our community.


Our current efforts include:

  • Ensuring the School District fulfills its commitment of support for the World School
  • Advocating for the school’s unique role and its students’ special needs
  • Reinforcing the link between ethnic communities and the school
  • Providing college and vocational scholarships and mentoring for alumni of the school (who graduate from any Seattle public high school)

We encourage the participation of anyone who shares our goals.

Please contact Diane Steen: for further information about the Friends or volunteering.