On Tuesday I had the privilege of welcoming hundreds of students, parents and educators as they advocated for the College Bound Scholarship and State Need Grant. Students started the day on the Senate floor where we recognized them with Senate Resolution 8618, acknowledging the major impact of the College Bound Scholarship. It was truly amazing to watch the students’ excitement as the State Senate recognized their hard work to make it through high school and into college.

From there we rallied in the rotunda, where cheers of support for the program could be heard through the entire Capitol. The speakers touched on the importance of staying engaged in the political process. When students cheered at this, I felt excited that so many young people were resolved to keep fighting for access to higher education.

The College Bound Scholarship provides a tuition scholarship for students throughout Washington. The scholarship is open to seventh and eighth graders who qualify for free or reduced lunches and also sign a pledge to do well in school and stay out of trouble, with students experiencing foster care automatically enrolled.

The College Bound Scholarship gives students a pathway to college from a very early age, and we are now seeing evidence that students enrolled in CBS are more likely to graduate high school than their peers of the same income bracket who are not enrolled. We see College Bound students doing better in high school because they know if they keep their grades up, they’ll have a college scholarship waiting for them. It helps them once they’re in college because many of their families wouldn’t be able to afford college without the support. This is showing tremendous potential to close the opportunity gap and ensure that every student has a chance to succeed.

It is imperative we get our students across the finish line by graduating high school, and from there we must provide greater access to higher education. The future of our community rests in the hands of these students, and with growing income inequality we must ensure students of all socioeconomic backgrounds have the opportunity to get living wage jobs in the state of Washington. That is why we must continue to support the College Bound Scholarship and State Need Grant because if we don’t, our disadvantaged students will continue to miss out on the great opportunities that exist in our state.