About Seattle World School

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 youth.  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 (SWS).  Initially only basic orientation to English and academic skills was provided.  Students from all over Seattle could attend.

Until 2011, students transitioned to neighborhood schools after demonstrating enough proficiency in English.  Then, through efforts of Friends of SWS, the school became an accredited high school from which students could graduate.  Students now take classes in all required high school subjects.  They have the option to graduate from SWS, or to transfer to a neighborhood school when they feel ready.

Seattle World School student

The school has moved many times since 1980, from Aki Kurose, to Hay on Queen Anne, to Meany, and finally to TT Minor in the Central Area, where it is today, thanks in large part to Friends of SWS.  The TT Minor building was extensively remodeled before SWS moved in, in 2017.

SWS has teen health, enrollment, and family support centers.  The family support center helps families participate in their students’ education and reinforce their academic success.  SWS provides after school academic programs, extracurricular activities, and tutoring. A multitude of volunteers makes these programs possible. Community partners provide academic support and bolster the school’s emphasis on multicultural awareness and respect.

For more information, visit the school’s website.

About Friends of Seattle World School

The original goal of Friends of SWS was to ensure that the District fulfilled its commitment to the special needs of these newcomer English language learners.  We advocated for a permanent building site, investment by the District, and focus on academic opportunities and success, specifically geared to this ELL population.

Seattle World School students

Our current efforts focus on helping these students transition from high school to college or vocational training.  We do this through our Seattle World School Alumni Scholarship and Mentoring program, which began in 2007.  A group of volunteer mentors provide needed funds and 1:1 support for students throughout their pursuit of continued education after high school.  Our program has grown and now serves over 60 students each year.

We welcome the participation of anyone who shares our goals, through volunteering or financial support.

Please contact Diane Steen:  seattleworldschoolfriends@gmail.com for further information about the Friends or volunteering.

About Our Students

SWS has open enrollment and accepts non-English-speaking students aged 11-21, throughout the academic year.  Enrollment fluctuates depending on world conflicts, natural disasters, changing economic realities, country violence, and immigration and refugee policies.  New students arrive weekly.

Nearly all students (>95%) are poverty level.  Many came without parents or family members, and many still have family in their countries of origin.  Quite a few students are homeless or living in precarious circumstances.  Students live all over Seattle, with most in less expensive North and South Seattle neighborhoods.

A multitude of languages and dialects are spoken at SWS.  For many students, English is not a second language, but rather a third, fourth, or fifth.  As of Fall 2019 (update coming), first languages included Spanish, Maya-Quiche, Aguacateco, Mam, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic, Japanese, Afghani, Tagalog, Ilokano, Urdu, Thai, Portuguese, Swahili, Uzbek, Cambodian, Fallani, Taishan, Kinyarwanda, French, Russian, Creole, Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya, and many other African dialects.

The World School employs many teachers and instructional assistants who speak one or more of the students’ languages.  This allows for instructional support in the students’ native languages, for the largest language groups.