Patty in the News

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) was recognized Tuesday in the Alder Hall Commons Auditorium for championing legislation that increases financial literacy efforts for the general public and opens career pathways for students, and her support for programs such as Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP).

Murray became the 19th recipient of the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships’ (NCCEP) Champions for Student Success Award. NCCEP is a nonpartisan nonprofit that is based in Washington, D.C., that strives to increase access to higher education for economically disadvantaged students. The organization gives the Champions for Student Success Award to outstanding congressional leaders who promote student success by advocating for public policies that work toward improved public education for all students.

Growing up in Bothell, Murray was one of seven kids in a happy family. However, when she turned 15, her father was diagnosed with multiple-sclerosis and lost his job.

Fortunately, Murray and her siblings had good schools and supportive teachers who helped them go on to college and succeed — an experience that inspires her to motivate and support students in similar situations.

“I believe every one of you deserve a chance like I did … to go where you want to go,” Murray said to a student audience Tuesday in her acceptance speech. “And that’s why programs like GEAR UP are so important because each one of you here deserves the same chance to succeed, to go to college — maybe even here at UW, though I went to Washington State — to start an exciting, successful career, and maybe even run for the U.S. Senate one day.”

A federal program funded by the U.S. Department of Education, GEAR UP aims to increase the number of low-income students prepared to enter and succeed in college education.

Approximately 35,000 students in Washington state receive services from 10 GEAR UP programs, which provide mentoring, tutoring, test preparation, and financial aid assistance, among other services.

“[Murray] is always helpful and shares the common experience many students have: struggling with financial challenges while pursuing education,” said Weiya Liang, the Washington State GEAR UP director. “We always work with congressional leaders to share their stories, and she’s always helping us focus on the need for education.”

The UW has a contract with the Washington Student Achievement Council-administered GEAR UP program to provide professional development training to educators working in 40 schools statewide. In addition, the UW Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity oversees two GEAR UP grants, one each for Eastern Washington and Skagit Valley students.

“I think it’s really impressive how [Murray] is not only a U.S. senator, but she’s really involved in education … and she talks about how important it is for students to be involved in learning,” said Alondra Perez, a Grandview High School freshman and GEAR UP student.

Dr. Gene Sharratt, executive director of the Washington Student Achievement Council, concluded the ceremony by saying people can always tell where a “lamp-lighter” (a leader) has gone by the shine they leave.

“Senator Murray, you are leaving an excellent glow behind,” Sharratt said.

- The Daily