Renton grants help high school grads who can’t afford college
As Dechae Hester started his senior year at Renton High School, he knew he wanted to become a dental assistant. To do that, he planned to take his final year of high school more seriously. And in November, Hester found out he had been accepted into the program at Renton Technical College to become a certified dental assistant.
But he didn’t know how he would pay for it — until earlier this month.
“At one point, I just completely gave up. I forgot about it,” Hester said. “And so when I heard them say, ‘Your school is going to be paid for,’ I was like, ‘Wait, what? What are you talking about?’”
Renton High School graduates like Hester now have a chance to go to the city’s technical college for free. State Rep. Steve Berguist, a Renton Democrat who is also a substitute teacher in the district, spearheaded the pilot program.
Called the Renton Program, the new partnership’s goal is to create a new pathway to higher education for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend.
It covers up to two years of a student’s first associate’s degree. Graduates at all four of Renton’s high schools are eligible — regardless of their grade point average, income, or ability. The new state budget provides $400,000 toward the free college program.
Liliana Urias, another senior at Renton High School, also wasn’t planning to go to college.
“I didn’t have the resources or a way to pay for college,” Urias said.
She said she couldn’t afford it on her own and didn’t feel she could ask her parents for help when only one of them is working.
Urias also didn’t want to take out loans.
“I know loans get to you,” she said, “and I was scared.”
With help from the Renton Promise, this fall, Urias plans to study to become a blood technician at Renton Technical College. She’ll be the first in her family to attend college.
With her tuition and other fees covered, and because the phlebotomy program only takes a few months, Urias might be able to continue her studies and become a certified nursing assistant.
“When I told my parents, they were very happy,” Urias said. “They’re grateful for this grant and they’re grateful for me, that I decided to go to college and become somebody.”