After watching too many talented and bright students come up short in earning a college degree, Tim Herron, a National Board-Certified teacher who taught mathematics in Tacoma Public Schools for 10 years, developed the Act Six Leadership & Scholarship Initiative. Act Six connects urban ministries and faith-based colleges to equip emerging urban leaders to provide transformative leadership for their university campus and their home communities.
In 2002, Whitworth began working with Herron to launch the first Act Six affiliate, in partnership with the Northwest Leadership Foundation, which provided full four-year scholarships for 11 students from the Tacoma/Seattle area in fall 2003. Each year since has brought a new cadre of students to study and lead at Whitworth; they now come from Spokane, as well. Many students come from low-income families or are first-generation college students. At Whitworth, they’ve held leadership positions in ASWU and in their residence halls, competed in athletics, and won academic honors and awards for research.
The initiative has been a success. Current Act Six scholars attend seven Christian colleges around the U.S. To date, 90 percent of the 434 scholars who have started college have graduated or are still enrolled, reflecting graduation and retention rates that far exceed national averages.
Many of Whitworth’s Act Six alumni have used their degrees to become leaders in their home communities. From the first cadre, which graduated in 2007, Holy Chea (Communications Studies) works for The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation as a community initiative coordinator, and he manages its Youth Philanthropy Board. Delia Orosco (Elementary Education) is a college advocate for high-schoolers in Tacoma through the organization Upward Bound, serving as interim director. Sarah Mabini (Biology) coordinated a diabetes research laboratory at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, in New York, for two years before completing a physician assistant master’s degree program at Methodist University, in North Carolina.
Denice Randle, ’07 (English), earned a master’s degree in education and taught at Tacoma’s Henry Foss High School as a College Bound instructor for the Metropolitan Development Council. She is now the council’s director of adult education and employment. As a student, Kyle Kim, ’11 (Journalism), was a reporter and editor for The Whitworthian; he later completed a summer internship at the Los Angeles Daily News and spent a year studying journalism in Australia. He is now a journalist for the GlobalPost, in Boston. Benjameen Quarless, ’12 (Philosophy), was selected from more than 1,000 applicants to participate in the 2011 Freedom Ride, a 10-day bus journey that retraced the route taken by the original freedom riders of 1961. The ride was organized by PBS’ American Experience to mark the 50th anniversary of the original rides. He has since returned to the Seattle area, where he is interning with State Farm Insurance.
Danjuma Quarless, ’10, received first place for the original research he presented at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Summer Research Fellowship Program; he is now a biomedical Ph.D. candidate and research fellow at the J. Craig Venter Institute. Quarless said, “[Act Six at Whitworth] set me on a path that is different than most people’s, and with goals and end points that most people don’t think about. Whitworth challenged me to be a better person.”