by Katherine Knoll
The Act Six Scholarship and Leadership Initiative, founded in 2002 by Tim Herron, now celebrates its 10th year.
In what Esther Louie, Act Six developing member and assistant dean of intercultural student affairs at Whitworth University, calls “a decade of achievement,” the Act Six Initiative has assisted in providing college opportunities for hard-working students for whom university education may have seemed out of reach.
Many of the program’s scholars — close to three-fourths of them — are first-generation college students, and the same proportion hail from low-income families. For this reason, Act Six is often mislabeled, Louie said.
Taylor Powell, Whitworth senior and Act Six scholar, said some assume the scholarship is free money for those of a minority race.
“That’s the miscommunication: ‘You got [the scholarship] because you’re black.’ No, I went above and beyond to get to college. And if you’re of color a lot of times you aren’t expected to go to higher education,” Powell said.
Students selected for the program undergo intensive training over the course of several months prior to their time on campus. During this time, they study and ready themselves in the seven core themes of the program: vision, diversity, leadership, service, community, preparation and transformation.
Once in college, they continue to study and build on these themes.
“It is about developing leadership; invigorating the inner-city, or any city, to bring forth future leaders,’’ Louie said.
This summer the Act Six Initiative recognized its first decade. The four-day celebration and convention kicked off Aug. 1 with dinner at Gonzaga University for past and current Act Six scholars, faculty and affiliates. Events included a career fair, professional headshots and the opportunity to network with companies and organizations in the region.
Many attendees were members of cadres past, (cadre meaning a small group of Act Six scholars), including five of the 12 graduating members of Cadre One. Esther Louie said that it was great to see so many alumni travel back because it meant so much to them.
“I feel so much love when I see all the Act Six people together. We call it ‘Cadre Love.’ As an Act Six student at Whitworth, it means I really love you, and I care about you,” Powell said.
Whitworth President Beck Taylor presented a speech welcoming the Act Six community.
“Beck greeted us with big, huge, open arms. I didn’t expect to be greeted with so much love. He sees so much potential in us,” Powell said.
An address was also presented by Governor Christine Gregoire via video at the ceremony. In the video, she acknowledged the admirable work of the Act Six community and the need for strong, intelligent leaders in Washington.
Whitworth and Act Six alumnus Jeremiah Sataraka attended the ceremony.
“It was great to see the recognition that Act Six received from government leaders,” Sataraka said.
Sataraka graduated as a part of Cadre Three with a major in sociology, and since has worked with both AmeriCorps and The Posse Foundation before returning to Whitworth to be a resident director.
“It was a good opportunity for me to reflect on how much Act Six has grown and how much impact the students have had on the community,” Sataraka said.
And indeed, the Act Six Initiative has seen true expansion since its beginning.
“The people here at Whitworth, we built it,” Esther Louie said. “We became the model that people came to look at.”
Though the entire program began here at Whitworth University, it has now spread throughout the Northwest region, including colleges in Tacoma, Seattle, Yakima Valley, Spokane and Portland.
“That’s a major change, just the sheer number who are making a difference. The alumni network is growing; students are going abroad to study, work. We’re just now starting to see the impact on colleges and on communities,” Sataraka said.
Contact Katerine Knoll at firstname.lastname@example.org