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We couldn’t wait until September 15th. In fact, there have been welcoming events happening all this year! Here are some coming up that you don’t want to miss. Please don’t let this sit in your inbox! Forward, invite your friends, and be sure to make a note in your calendar for the events you’re attending. See you there!

Interfaith/Intercultural Friendship Picnic

Saturday, Aug. 19, 12-4pm – TOMORROW!
Hosts: Network for Unity, East Shore Unitarian Church, Islamic Center of Eastside, Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church
Location: Crossroads Park, Spray Park Shelter B: 999 165th Ave NE Bellevue WA

Enjoy an afternoon filled with food, fun and games! We are inviting all nearby residents to come and share food with us. We are proactively seeking diversity. So if you feel you won’t fit in, we definitely want you there. All we ask is that you come with a dish and an open heart.

Crossing Kirkland

Saturday, Sept. 9, 12-3pm
Host: Crossing Kirkland
Location: various stations along the Kirkland Corridor; see map

City-wide block party near and on the Kirkland Corridor will feature family friendly events, fun activities, food trucks, and more. Walk, bike, and meet your neighbors!

Welcoming America Resource Fair

Wednesday, Sept. 13, 12-4pm
Host: Hopelink
Location: Bellevue Center, 14812 Main St. Bellevue, WA 98007

This fair will connect these new arrivals to the vast array of services available to them in the King County area by inviting local non-profits to share resources for job placement, health insurance, transportation opportunities, ESL classes, and more! The event will also coincide with our regular food bank hours. Through this event, we want to celebrate the values that ensure that our community remains inclusive and welcoming to both newcomers and existing residents. Metro bus #245 and the B-Line both stop near the Hopelink Bellevue Center.

Eastside Timebank Welcoming Potluck

Thursday, Sept. 14, 6:30-8:30pm
Host: Eastside Timebank
Location: Redmond City Hall, Bytes Cafe (1st floor)

Learn about the Eastside Timebank where neighbors help neighbors, earning an hour of credit for each hour of service they provide. Offer your skills and talents when you can and receive help when you need it. Everyone wins! Bring a dish to share for the potluck from 6:30-7:30. New member orientation from 7:30-8:30.

Help make Welcoming Week a success on the Eastside! September will be here before we know it and events are coming together. Whether you’re hosting an event or just want to know how you can be involved, please join us next Tuesday, August 8th from 12-1:30pm at the Kirkland Library.

We’ll give updates on events that are planned, answer questions, and provide support for event hosts and organizers. Please bring a dish to share for lunch if you can. 

Tuesday, August 8, 12:00-1:30 pm 
Location: Kirkland Library, 308 Kirkland Ave (large meeting room)

PLEASE NOTE: Due to this special Welcoming Week meeting, there is no ERIC Connection meeting tomorrow.

Ballots for the August 1 primary are being mailed out today. Please vote! There are contested races happening across East King County. Who will provide the best leadership for creating welcoming, inclusive, and equitable policies? Who will best represent the voices of immigrants, refugees, and people of color?

Voting info in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. (Click on links at the bottom of the page to access all languages.)

Be heard. Vote.

There are two funding opportunities available:


Metropolitan King County Council has approved additional, critical funding for legal assistance available to support immigrant and refugees in King County. The appropriation of $250,000 is added to the $300,000 passed by the Council on April 17, 2017, bringing the County’s total investment in legal assistance for immigrants and refugees in 2017 to $550,000. This funding has been made available, in partnership and coordination with the City of Seattle, to non-profit organizations that provide legal representation services and community navigation services for legal representation to King County residents who are in detention, facing deportation or in danger of losing their immigration status.

“Our work to support these communities, integral to the economic, social and cultural fabric of our region, will never be finished,” said Council Chair Joe McDermott. “This additional investment by the county to support legal services for immigrants and refugees is incredibly important in the face of increased divisive rhetoric and actions by the current Presidential Administration. Everyone who lives in King County should feel safe and welcome, and this investment will help those who are most vulnerable.”

The total investment to support immigrants and refugees by King County in 2017 now totals $1,000,000 which includes the Resilience Fund developed in partnership with the Seattle Foundation and additional funding for community organizations to develop culturally appropriate educational and informational materials for the diverse immigrant and refugee communities in King County.

Up to $1.45 million will be awarded to one or more agencies for legal representation, and up to $100,000 for Community Navigation services, to one or more agencies.

These grants will be awarded for a term of 15 months, from September 30, 2017 to December 31, 2018. The submission deadline is 5 pm, July 12, 2017.

For more information please click here to read the RFP for Legal Services Fund. And click here to read the RFP for Community Navigators Services.

Please contact Katherine Cortes, Finance & Operations Manager, Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, for any questions related to the application process. Applicants may email questions until 5 pm, July 5, 2017.


From the office of King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci, grants are now available to support sports programs and physical fitness activities serving the residents of King County Council District 6. The goal of Get Active/Stay Active Grants is to help youth, adults and seniors participate in physical activities that promote health and wellbeing.  Grants are expected to range between $10,000 and $25,000, although amounts outside that range will be considered.  Please complete and submit the attached application form by July 10, 2017.  Funds will be distributed on a competitive basis.

Eligibility Requirements

Local government organizations and 501(c)3 organizations are eligible to apply.

Types of programs:  Grant proceeds can be used for a wide variety of programs, but must involve amateur sports or physical fitness activities.  Examples include organized team sports, fitness programs, physical activities for youth, seniors or people with disabilities and many others.

Types of expenses:

  • Program implementation costs such as coaching, space rentals, etc.
  • Camp and program fee scholarships
  • Athletic and fitness equipment
  • General operating costs, to a limited extent and only if linked to specific programs
  • Capital projects are eligible

Service area:

Programs must serve residents of King County District 6, which includes all of Mercer Island, Beaux Arts, Medina, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point, and Yarrow Point and parts of Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Bothell, Woodinville and the Sammamish Valley.  If you do not know whether your service area includes District 6, King County provides a district finder based on mailing address.

How to Apply

By July 10, 2017, email a cover letter and a completed application form to

If you have questions, please contact Joe Cunningham at the email above or by phone at 206-477-7774.

Additional information or a tour may be requested after applications have been received.

Successful applicants will complete a contract with the King County Parks and Recreation Division, which administers the funds.  Funds should be available in the late Fall of 2017.

Physical activity is essential to our health and wellbeing and I am excited to see what we can do as a community to encourage people to Get Active and Stay Active!

Spotlight on AG Bell Elementary School in Kirkland, WA

By Debbie Lacy

“As a team, we decided to hold ourselves accountable, stop making excuses, and do the work.”

Heidi Paul, Principal at AG Bell Elementary (Photo credit: Debbie Lacy)

When Heidi Paul came to take over as Principal at AG Bell Elementary School in Kirkland five years ago, she was told by staff that it was a “misfit” school. One of the most diverse schools in the district, it was suffering from poor achievement and challenging disciplinary problems. While it lost its Title I school status years before, 40% of students were on free/reduced lunch.

Since then, the economic demographics of the neighboring community have shifted. Although fewer children are on free and reduced lunch, there’s a wide range of income levels – from children who are homeless to those from very high income families.

One of the first things Paul did was an audit. She listened closely, asking questions about the students, teachers, and parents. “I discovered well intended teachers lowering the bar of achievement and thinking they were helping. No one had ill intent but we weren’t seeing the big picture.”

Paul said she became more and more concerned that less dominant groups continued to track behind their peers.

Around that same time, Paul adopted a biracial daughter. She witnessed her daughter’s experiences of bias out in the community. As a white woman, Paul’s eyes were opening more and more to the reality of prejudice and racism.

The Challenges: Instructional Approaches and Cultural Competency

Paul realized early on that “this work is going to require us to be vulnerable in sharing data and acknowledging our challenges in reaching students.”

Two focus areas emerged: teachers’ instructional approaches and cultural competency. Paul admits she started with instruction first, as it was an area she felt more familiar with and confident about. “We were working so hard, but we weren’t unified in our approach. We started to collectively focus on the same research-based strategies to ensure more effective growth.”

“Instead of each of us running a marathon (to help students), we’re all in the same boat.”

Paul led the staff to root its efforts in success criteria where students were actively engaged in their own learning process. They were supported in knowing what they had mastered, what they were currently working on, and what was coming next in their learning.

Paul tells the story of a low-income Vietnamese student who was struggling academically and getting into trouble regularly. Paul told her staff: “We’re not going to harp on parents not helping at home.” They placed the boy in a pilot program at the school using the new strategies.

One day, he came to Paul’s office, full of excitement and emotion. “Ms. Paul, I’m proficient in math!” When she congratulated him and asked how he had accomplished this, he pulled out the success criteria and said, “I realized I’m not dumb. I just needed to learn how to factor.”

“We started celebrating little moments,” Paul explained.

The Transformation

“Two years ago, I was becoming even more culturally aware and getting more concerned, watching my daughter struggle.” One day Paul was helping her daughter with a writing assignment. The teen was overwhelmed and frustrated, ready to give up. Paul kept asking questions, trying to find out how she could help. “It’s because I’m the only Black kid in the class,” her daughter finally said.

“And I said, ‘Why does that matter?’, which was the worst response. Of course it mattered.” Paul pauses after sharing this vulnerable moment as a parent, then continues, saying, “And I was seeing all my beautiful brown students sitting in my hallway for disciplinary reasons. Why?”

Paul said, “We were setting goals but not making any real progress.” Teachers had been focusing on the popular growth mindset approach and grit, but not seeing any difference in outcomes for the students whose struggles were painfully predictable.

It was time to address the root problems – not in the students, but in themselves as educators.

Paul pushed back when she heard comments that amounted to placing the blame on the students or their families. “I used data from other schools that were doing better with their minority kids.  As a team, we decided to hold ourselves accountable, stop making excuses, and do the work.”

Paul formed a leadership committee. They did a learning walk at a school that had a larger African American population than Bell. They read every word of Anthony Muhammed’s Overcoming the Achievement Gap Trap. The committee decided that they couldn’t wait for district-based trainings to help solve their problems. Paul took it upon herself to learn more and sought outside resources such as Boston’s Deep Equity conference.

From that training and all the materials they read, the message was clear and consistent: “Teachers need to work on themselves – their own awareness – first, before they even start planning for the students.”

Paul shared she was nervous and unsure, but committed to the real work ahead. She and a teacher team led her staff through cultural competency training and activities, engaging them in dialogue that was painful at times.

At this point in the interview, Paul invited me to follow her into the hallway outside her office – a place where students, parents, and staff routinely pass by.

She showed me large papers where she and her staff posted work related to their awareness building. This year, they completed a 3-part cultural responsiveness training. Handwritten notes name their struggles with bias, their wishes and hopes for themselves and their students, and their commitments.

The Tip of the Iceberg

As Paul shared her efforts and the success that’s followed, she was quick to say, “None of us feels like an expert. Before, we were trying to say being inclusive is ‘we’re all the same,’ and we had a lot of work to do. We still do.” Paul mentions the predominantly white staff and PTSA board and the need to be aware so they can better connect with – and involve – immigrant families, among other goals.

But, their work is paying off.

In 2016 Bell Elementary won the Washington Achievement Award for closing the achievement gap for Latino students. To win this award, a school has to demonstrate at least a 10% decrease in the gap. (Bell was the only school in East King  County, including the Lake Washington, Bellevue, and Issaquah School districts, to win this award in 2016 for its work with Latino students.)

Lake Washington is engaged in a range of efforts to address both the achievement and opportunity gaps. Paul prefers to emphasize the latter, stressing that the onus is on educators to ensure opportunities are equitable.

One of the exercises her team participated in and also brought to students involved the iceberg metaphor. The tip of the iceberg is what we see about others based solely on outward appearance and the assumptions we make from first impressions. The largest part of the iceberg is beneath the surface and invisible, holding the beauty and complexity of each person’s unique life experiences.

Paul and her team are taking the courageous and necessary steps that allow them to see the full picture – not just the entirety of each individual student, but the complex reality of the systemic issues that contribute to outcome disparities for students.

Under the direction of Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce, Lake Washington recently assembled a District Equity Team comprised of staff and administrators, parents, and community members. Its work will get underway in the fall.


Debbie Lacy is the Co-Founder and Director of the Eastside Refugee and Immigrant Coalition, which supports East King County municipalities, organizations, and schools in fulfilling their commitments to creating inclusive, welcoming, and equitable communities. Debbie’s son attends AG Bell Elementary.

Pull Together: A panel discussion about the Kinder Morgan pipeline and its threat to the Salish Sea, Puget Sound, our climate, economies, and communities. Taking place June 14th at East Shore Unitarian Church, 12700 SE 32nd ST., Bellevue WA. Doors open at 6:30pm. Program 7-8:30pm. Refreshments provided.

Ramadan Iftar Dinner: Sunday, June 18th, 8:30pm at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center, 16600 NE 80th St, Redmond, WA. Open to all.


Welcoming Week is coming Sept. 15-24. Would you like to host an event? Let’s get ready! More info here.