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    Students with disabilities often drop out of college due to challenges with executive functioning, self-determination, and adapting to all of the changes that come with being a young, independent adult. Students who have received special education services in high school have a higher probability of success in college-level programs and classes if they have extra support services that go beyond accommodations.


    To meet this need, Seattle Public Schools is creating a new pilot program called BRIDGES U (BU).

    Student seated with his computer at college balcony.

    The goal of BRIDGES U is to give extra support to adult students in special education who are 18-21 years old, have not graduated yet, want to attend and succeed at a two-year college, are willing to participate in college activities and clubs, and also want to work/volunteer.


    The student is dually enrolled in Seattle Public Schools and one of the local Seattle Colleges (North Seattle, Seattle Central, South Seattle, or Seattle Vocational Institute). The student goes through the college admissions and registration process like any other student and has access to Disability Support Services (DSS) through the college. Each student in BRIDGES U is assigned to a Seattle Public Schools certified special education teacher who acts as the student’s IEP case manager.  The BU teacher provides specially designed instruction, guidance, support, and connection to college activities and clubs. However, direct contact between student and teacher may not be as frequent as what happens in high school.  ORCA cards are provided. Students are expected to demonstrate the maturity to learn and have the skills to succeed at the college level. College classes are not modified for students.  If a student needs accommodations, they work with the college's disability support services office.  Students also want to work/volunteer and be a part of college life. Parents are expected to be supportive, but also need to let their young adult independently navigate college and work.  Students are encouraged to meet as many of their high school graduation requirements before coming to BRIDGES U.  However, students who have officially graduated from high school are no longer Seattle Public School students and cannot attend BRIDGES U.


    The adult student is responsible for all tuition, fees, books, material costs, etc. However, the IEP case manager will help the student navigate and access the financial aid options available through the college and other funding sources.  If students are participating in the 13th year Promise Scholarship program, they need to graduate in order to receive the benefits of the 13th year Promise Scholarship.  This means that they would not be eligible for the BU program given that they have graduated.

    Students smiling and posing for a picture together.


    Each college has their own unique programs and class offerings. Depending on a student’s college placement scores and program-specific prerequisites, BRIDGES U students can access a wide variety of programs at Seattle area colleges.  Examples include:

    • Running Start
    Program for qualified students who wish to take college courses that satisfy high school graduation requirements and earn college credit.  Need to have taken and passed at least one Running Start course while in high school.

    • Apprenticeship and Education Center
    The Georgetown Campus trains more than 4,000 apprentices and journey-level workers annually in 20 different trades. Each of the training centers provides classroom and laboratory space with training equipment focused upon specific trade training needs.

    Each program offers certificate options. The variety of certificates plus an associate degree option provide students with the flexibility to reach their personal goals. The apprenticeship programs offer immediate employment while training at family-wage jobs. Students learn in the classroom and labs with the college, and obtain practical hands-on experience in the industry. Upon completion, the student is knowledgeable and experienced in his or her chosen trade or occupation.  Georgetown Campus

    • Learning Center at Seattle Vocational Institute (SVI)
    The Learning Center Seattle program is free of charge to eligible students, who are 16 to 21 years old, and have not completed high school but want to earn their GED® to go on to college or technical training program (tuition–free) and/or start a career. Students who meet the age eligibility requirements and already received a GED® certificate are also eligible to enroll in the Learning Center Seattle program.  Learning Center at SVI

    Students writing in a small group.

    • Adult Basic Education (ABE)
    Adult Basic Education classes are for adults who are already proficient in the English language but wish to improve their basic reading, writing and math skills.

    Reading instruction emphasizes comprehension, vocabulary development, critical thinking and study skills.

    Writing skills include the review and application of language and grammar rules, correct usage and spelling, and writing sentences and paragraphs. Students learn to use writing as a mode of personal expression, as a valuable learning tool and as a necessary skill when pursuing a job, earning a living or acquiring further education.

    Math instruction includes skills development in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of whole numbers, fractions, decimals and percentages, and introduction to algebra and geometry.

    • Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (IBEST)
    Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (IBEST) programs create an opportunity for students at the basic skills level, both English as Second Language (ESL) and Adult Basic Education (ABE) students, to enroll in college level programs and earn a certificate in a high demand industry.

    In an IBEST classroom, a basic skills instructor and a college subject instructor teach together, with methods to support both literacy education and workforce skills. Students attend an additional IBEST support class to support success and improve English and math skills.

    ACHIEVE at Highline College
    ACHIEVE is a comprehensive post-secondary transition program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  It includes credit and non-credit classes, intensive advising, involvement in campus life, community-based internships, and job placement services. All ACHIEVE students are assigned an Educational Case Manager and Employment Consultant who work with the student to draft and implement a comprehensive, individual plan for employment. Specific courses are determined based on skills and competencies needed for the student to achieve his or her identified employment goal(s)
    .  Student referrals are made by central district staff to ACHIEVE.  Eligibility and enrollment is determined by ACHIEVE staff on a competitive basis and applications are submitted directly to the ACHIEVE program by the students and/or their families.

    Student at ACHIEVE at Highline College.

    -Disability category not important.

    -IEP team decision to join BRIDGES, but central office makes site assignment.

    -Not graduated yet, but have completed as many of their high school graduation requirements as possible.

    -18-21 years old before coming to BRIDGES U.

    -At least a middle school level of academic skills. Students need to be able to meet minimum college test placement requirements and prerequisites to succeed in most of the college classes/programs. However, program prerequisites vary widely and some programs may put more emphasis on completing program outcomes than academic achievement. This may mean that a student would need to start with adult basic education classes, but with the idea to advance further.

    -Willing and able to take at least one class per quarter at the college and have a good chance of succeeding in that class. This also means good attendance.

    -Willing and able to join at least one campus club or organization.

    -Willing and able to work and/or volunteer/internship while dually enrolled with SPS and the college.

    -Complete the BU B-Pass

    -Have an understanding from the parents that the student is an adult attending college, making their own choices about courses, jobs, campus experiences, etc.


    Anne Anderson,



    North Seattle College

    Erik Bishop,



    Seattle Central College

    Judy Camann,



    South Seattle College, West Seattle

    South Seattle College, Georgetown Campus

    Megan Sanchez,

    BU @ Highline College ACHIEVE Program



    Student speaking to the School Board.