White House honoring Rainier Beach High PTSA leader

Carlina Brown has worked to engage parents and improve the southeast Seattle school's image.
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Carlina Brown

Carlina Brown has worked to engage parents and improve the southeast Seattle school's image.

Carlina Brown, president of the Rainier Beach High School Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), will be honored this Friday (Aug 10) at the White House as a 2012 Champion of Change. One of 12 to be recognized in the nation’s capitol, Brown has served five years with the PTSA, the last two as its president.

It doesn't  help that Rainier Beach, often stigmatized as a troubled school, has placed as one of the state’s lowest ranking schools — or that crime in the area is attributed to the school. Nor does it help when Seattle Public Schools grossly misinforms people about how many Rainier Beach HS students qualifiy to attend a four-year college, as reported by the Seattle Times.

These are some issues that Brown has taken aim at correcting. Since joining the PTSA when her youngest daughter transferred to Rainier Beach, Brown has worked to bolster the school’s academic offerings and parent involvement, and squeltch the negative, often unfavorable, media coverage and perception of South Seattle.

Crosscut caught up with Carlina Brown on Thursday to talk about what it means to be one of the few people selected from millions of PTA members nationwide as a Champion of Change.

Crosscut: First off, congratulations on being one of the twelve recognized as a Champion of Change. How does it feel?

Brown: It’s overwhelming. I’m completely in awe right now. It is such a big honor and a validation for parents and what the PTSA has been doing.

Q: What are some of the things you and the PTSA have been doing at Rainier Beach High School that helped earn you this award?

Brown: We’ve been very vocal and active in the community. Rainier Beach was a school that didn’t really have anything other than the basic curriculum like math and English, so we’ve worked at making other programs like culinary arts available.

We’re working on changing the view of the area. A lot of times the media portrays South Seattle negatively, like the shooting that happened at Jack in the Box on Rainier Avenue. Right away people think it’s someone from the high school, and it’s not. 

Also, there’s lots of undercurrent conversation about the school closing, and we want to bring that out of the closet and talk about it.

Crosscut: So you’re in D.C., being honored by the White House, is President Obama going to be there? Do you get to meet Obama?

Brown: [laughs] You know they haven’t told us anything about that at all. He’s said that this is one of his top priorities. I would hope he would be there.

Crosscut: What are some of the PTSA’s plans for the future?

Brown: Our focus will be more on parent engagement, reaching out to the parents, having one-on-one conversations with them. It’s important to engage with parents and their relationship in the classroom and at home.


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