‘This is all to help the kids be successful. We need them to be successful.’

Fundraiser to support middle school ‘Learning Labs’ is Saturday
By Brandon Gustafson | Apr 10, 2019

Mukilteo’s Jan Link has a lot of experience in public schools. She was a an elementary school and high school principal for many years, and based on her extensive career in academics, she deemed that there was more work to be done for the kids, primarily those between 11 and 14 years old.

Link, a 30-year Mukilteo resident, conducted research in the Edmonds School District the last three years, and through that research, she founded Learning Labs, an after-school program currently offered at Olympic View Middle School. The program is for students struggling with their coursework, and the goal is for all students to be earning As, Bs, and Cs, and to pass their state tests.

“We are teaching them that they can’t afford to fail,” Link said. “Some of them still think getting Ds is OK. We’re trying to teach them that it needs to be an A, B, or C.”

The Learning Lab is a three-year after-school program that follows students from sixth grade to eighth grade, helping them prepare for high school and state testing.

“We’re working with 130 kids right now,” Link said. “There’s 350 sixth-graders, and we’re working directly with 130. All our students are in the sixth grade, and we start with the whole class and follow them through.”

When the students’ grades start slipping, they’re directed towards Learning Labs, which is for three hours after school. Link said the extra time isn’t mandatory, but that all students sent her way end up staying and not opting out.

“I haven’t had one parent of a student who doesn’t want help. Parents really do care; oftentimes, they just don’t know what to do.”

The lab is free, and is through Link’s nonprofit organization Academic Link Outreach, available each day after school. The lab has a part-time instructor who works with the kids and monitors their grades.

Link said her work is based on four principles: parental involvement, rewarding the students’ successes, monitoring students’ work, and providing a safe atmosphere to learn in.

At Olympic View, Link’s first-ever Learning Lab, the program has its own dedicated space.

“It’s been going so great,” she said. “The teachers are on board and are appreciative, the parents are on board ... This is all to help the kids be successful. We need them to be successful.”

Link said the work at OV has been so great that she is helping with the creation of two new Learning Labs – one at Alderwood Middle School in the Edmonds School District, and one in Kennewick – starting next school year.

To assist with the creation of those labs, and to help with the one at OV, Academic Link Outreach is hosting an Educational Summit and Gala at the Historic Flight Foundation Saturday, April 13. All proceeds go towards the Learning Labs program.

“The main purpose is to raise money for the schools,” Link said. “The other purpose is to get people together who appreciate education and to reiterate the need and options that we have.”

Link said the community has been supportive, and local businesses have donated food, wine, gift cards, and more for door prizes at the fundraiser.

Link said she hopes to show the community how successful the Learning Labs are.

“It’s not just a fundraiser; we’re trying to get the message out and get visibility to what we’re doing.”

Link is hoping that when more schools see the success of Learning Labs, they’ll work to include it; both statewide and nationally.

“Once we’ve shown them how it works, schools have to figure out how to get these done and in their schools,” Link said. “It’s not expensive – it just takes time and a belief that getting Ds and Fs is unacceptable.”

Link said she thinks often of her two great-grandchildren and the legacy she hopes to leave behind for them in schools.

“I look at our beautiful area, homes, schools and my great-grandchildren who will be attending Olympic View someday,” she said. “I want them to have a school and community that will give them a culture that pushes them so they can go to college and be successful.”

The suggested donation for the Educational Summit and Gala is $75 for adults and $25 for students. Doors open at 5 p.m., and the program begins at 5:30. To get tickets, visit academiclinkoutreach.org, or call 425-314-6500. Mail checks to Academic Link Outreach; PO Box 1292; Mukilteo, WA 98275.

The Historic Flight Foundation is at 10719 Bernie Webber Dr. in Mukilteo.




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