Hoodie Project Gets Students Excited About EWU

April 17, 2024

What began as an EWU alumnus gifting their elementary school mentee an Eagle hoodie has now grown into an initiative that each year donates nearly 1,500 EWU hoodies to school kids throughout eastern Washington.

The Hoodie Project acts as a liaison between Eastern Washington University and Washington schools. The project provides hoodies to fifth grade students at Spokane Public Schools, and gives them the opportunity to learn about college life.

“The Hoodie Project is about college awareness,” says Jana Jaraysi, EWU’s director of admissions. “We want to show students that they can go to college if they want to, that there’s support through financial aid, and that it can be a possibility for them.”

The first hour of the event is a Q&A session with Eagle ambassadors, student volunteers who are the face of the university. The ambassadors help with campus tours and outreach – visiting participating schools to share their college experiences and answer the students’ questions.

Students at Stevens Middle School, in Pasco, Washington, pose in their new hoodies.

“I love seeing the kids get excited about hoodies and answering their questions. Fifth graders ask some amazing questions, and they’re interested in what we have to say,” says Matt Slater, president of the Eagle ambassadors.

“The Hoodie Project is important because we are promoting Eastern, as well as college life overall, to kids who are entering their teenage years. They’re thinking about the future, and they want to know more about college,” says Slater, who has spoken with fifth graders at 12 different Spokane elementary schools.

Each year, the Hoodie Project is asked to attend more schools. Last year, thanks to funding provided from WSECU, the Hoodie Project expanded to schools in Yakima. This year, they’ve added schools in the Tri-Cities as well.

“The support from WSECU allows us to reach more students, from middle school to high school, who may not think college is for them or know that there is funding to help them achieve their education goals. Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to do the activities and spread joy to future students,” says Jaraysi.

In this extension of the program, staff from EWU’s financial aid and admissions visit eighth graders. They speak to college bound students more specifically about funding, scholarships and housing before they receive their Eastern hoodie at the end of the event.

Stevens Middle School students enthusiastically welcomed the EWU hoodie team.

“The Hoodie Project is very important because it brings financial literacy and post-secondary awareness to students who might not have much exposure to it. It also allows us to start the conversation with middle schoolers, to open their minds to the idea of life after high school. It makes the conversation easier when they enter high school,” says America Simental, an EWU regional admissions advisor, who participates in the Yakima events.

Simental’s view was echoed by Yvonne Robinson, counselor at Yakima’s Wilson Middle School. “The eighth grade students that are part of the Hoodie Project love it. They wear their sweatshirts around school following the event, and like to gather together and talk about college,” says Robinson.

“Many of our students do not have parents who attended college and don’t talk about [higher education] in their homes,” Robinson says. All the information shared about college was important for our students to hear.”