Attendees were welcomed by representatives of the Puyallup Tribe on the morning of May 15. Making tribal connections has been a priority of the WPN in 2018-19.


For the Passport to Careers (PTC) program, the 2018-19 academic year has been defined by three themes: expansion, improved program quality, and stronger relationships. The 2019 PTC State conference, which took place May 15-16 at University of Washington – Tacoma, echoed these themes.


255 Washington Passport Network (WPN) members attended the 2019 conference, a 34% increase over last year’s record attendance, making this the largest professional gathering in the 11-year history of the PTC program. For the first time, workshop sessions included content specific to supporting Tribal foster youth, Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URMs), and unaccompanied homeless youth. Due to the addition of the apprenticeship opportunities pathway, there was also content relevant to apprenticeships and technical school training. The expanded two-day format accommodated longer workshop sessions, more time for networking, and two keynote speakers.


Alumni speaker Chernor, who came to the US from Sierra Leone as an unaccompanied refugee minor (URM), explained the challenges he faced as a student at Centralia College learning a new language and culture. Federal foster youth are eligible for PTC due to the 2018 expansion.


Improved Program Quality

The theme of the conference was Supporting the Whole Student. Using Western Michigan’s Seita Scholars’ 7-Domains framework, workshops and speakers were selected to offer curricular balance across life domains. As our student & alumni speakers Chelsah, Jose, and Chernor reminded conference attendees, students need support with mental health, cultural and personal identity formation, housing, life skills, community connections, and finances – as well as academics – to succeed in post-secondary education.


Alumna speaker Chelsah (right) and Colleen, her PTC designated support staff from Seattle University, argued that mental health support is critical to effectively supporting PTC scholars’ success.



Jose (left), a PTC scholar who graduated from Washington State University on May 4th, 2019, attributed much of his motivation and success to the support he received in remaining connected to his cultural identity. His PTC designated support staff Sharon and Maria de Jesus helped him cope with microaggressions and overt racism on campus, and find support and belonging. In fall 2019 Jose will attend the University of Minnesota to pursue his graduate degree.


Stronger Relationships

For the first time at a PTC state conference, attendees met in 7 regional groups to network and discuss better ways to coordinate Passport services for students throughout the year. The importance of strong relationships reverberated across presentations, and the conference provided an array of formal and informal opportunities for WPN members to strengthen existing relationships and start new ones.


Dr. Alfred Perez from Seattle University shared his personal journey from foster care to the professoriate in his closing keynote address. He stressed the importance of relational permanence and challenged audience members to look for opportunities to forge strong, lasting relationships with PTC scholars.



The College Success Foundation team would like to thank the following people and institutions for making this conference possible:

  • Our hosts: the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and the University of Washington – Tacoma
  • The Passport Leadership Team who helped plan the conference
  • Our amazing student and alumni speakers: Chelsah, Jose, and Chernor, and their adult supporters Colleen, Kristi, and Maria de Jesus
  • Our keynote speakers Dr. Donna Beegle and Dr. Alfred Perez
  • All of our dynamic workshop presenters
  • Our photographer, the generous and talented Victor Fernandez
  • All of our attendees


We Look Forward to Seeing You Again In 2020!