2023 Graduate Profile: Raishawn Swensen

Raishawn Swensen and family

Raishawn Swensen started at North Seattle College (NSC) at the end of 2021 when the pandemic was at its prime and the world was on lockdown. Protests were in the streets and everything and everyone was unsure of the future. She had just had her second child and was determined to raise her children in a world where education was not an institution that didn’t serve black and brown families but instead was a community-based home where everyone felt they could be successful, safe, and like they all had space to be themselves.

NSC made Raishawn into so much more. She graduated with her Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education and this is her story.

Every Tuesday and Thursday I was going into space where I never felt safer. We cried, laughed, and learned together. If we had the right ears in our classrooms, I am sure we would have changed the world. When I didn’t feel I was enough, when I felt like I heard one too many no’s and when I felt like maybe, just maybe Early Childhood Education (ECE) wasn’t ready for the change, my instructors, and cohort made me remember my WHY!  

I was raised by a single black mother who didn’t graduate high school and the education system failed her. She was raised in a time where you could still spank the students, and yes of course my mom and her siblings being one of the few black students were spanked daily. No one helped my mom. No one saved her or her siblings, or gave her or her teenage mother the tools they needed to navigate the system. In turn, she didn’t know how to give us the tools we needed. However, with every fight in her body, all four of my mother's kids graduated high school and her oldest (me) graduated with two different degrees in education. My WHY is for my mommy. A woman who navigated life by herself and started in education where she had to fight and figure out life alone. As long as I live I will fight and advocate for families and communities like the one I grew up in.

I remember my whole life saying I would never be in education. I was going to nursing school when I decided to have my daughter. Scared to death to hand her off to a system that wasn’t for my people, I instead started working at a center where I enrolled her. I quickly realized how much children that looked like my daughter and families who may not have looked like us but came from where we came from, deserved a teacher who knew what she was doing. I was in survival mode for a year before I started understanding my classroom and made bonds with my kiddos and their families. My daughter continued my WHY, and the families I serve continue to remind me of my WHY everyday when I get to share space and collaborate with them for their children and families goals and what I can do to support them working in Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) with Early Intervention.

Today every place I go, I advocate for equity in ECE. I advocate for a safe space for all families to get more than the minimal rights organizations put in place just to keep up with what’s going on, just to keep grant money, and just to keep the appeal of the community. I challenge all admins, all teachers, all people that work with children and families to do better. I fight for representation and fight for more people who look like and share the cultures of the communities and families they serve to not only be in spaces that serve but also have higher positions within those organizations who get to make decisions and changes to programs. My WHY is to challenge, continue learning, and always understand and acknowledge the communities I will forever serve.

Every instructor in the ECE program at North Seattle College has taught me something and made me a better person. I felt as though everything they said was genuine and authentic. Just a few examples would be how Ninder Gill taught me every opportunity that comes my way say yes! Even if I don’t always think I know how to do it. I WILL LEARN. Ms. Noris Daniel taught me that America is in fact not a melting pot, and to call it a melting pot means to take away from each unique culture, language, and flava that everyone brings. “Power to the people”. We are instead a quilt. So I started a non-profit called Quilt Of Equity that will provide outreach programs to families starting from pregnancy all the way to college.

Though I continue to be told no, I continue to be told the world isn’t ready and that I cant do it, my kids, and their families and my WHY reminds me daily that I in fact will change this world by empowering families to take control of their education and to empower educators to take control of their classrooms and how they impact their students and families. If no one listens to me they will listen to them! And i will make sure of it.