Spokane non profit delivers on promise of free college

Spokane non profit delivers on promise of free college

Persistence has paid off — quite literally — for dozens of Spokane students. Not only are they about to get their high school diploma, but also four years of college paid for.

It’s a promise Reach For The Future, a Spokane based non-profit made 11 years ago to a class of second graders at Lidgerwood Elementary school. Through fundraisers and donations, it raised more than $2.1 million for 42 kids to receive a college education or vocational training. The only catch? Students were required to graduate high school and stick with an after school program taught by Lauren Garske. She’s watched the students grow and mature for more than a decade.

“I always say that these were my first set of kids, I have two of my own now, but I always call them my first kids,” Garske said. “On several occasions they’ve called me mom, which is a pretty awesome compliment.”

Student Brenna Foster said the program, and Garske, set her up for a promising future.

“If it wasn’t for her and this whole program I would have dropped out of high school probably, it’s sad to admit,” she said. Foster will attend Spokane Community College in the fall to study medical assistance.

There’s still a lot of work ahead for the group of students but also a lot to look forward to. All but four from the original 46 second graders will graduate high school and receive the college education they were guaranteed. Those students, along with members of their family attended a special graduation ceremony Thursday night.

“I love each and every one of you, and I am just so damn proud of everything that you’ve overcome and done so far,” Garske said. Her work is not over yet. The non profit will continue to employ her for at least another two years while she supports students during their first two years of college.

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