Rainier Scholars and Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) have established a new partnership supporting Tacoma students of color on a path to college graduation and a lifetime of choices. It represents a critical step towards Rainier Scholars’ strategic commitment to serving more multigenerational African American (MGAA) students and families in the region.
Jennifer Ward will serve as chief operating officer of Rainier Scholars Tacoma. An early Rainier Scholars staff member who held a variety of roles with the organization from 2003 to 2015, Ward holds a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies and a bachelor’s in human-centered design and engineering, both from the University of Washington. She spent nearly six years at Equal Opportunity Schools, working on national initiatives to expand advanced learning opportunities for students of color. During this time, she continued to support Rainier Scholars by teaching high school leadership courses empowering students to understand the root causes of institutional racism and explore remedies and solutions to combat it.
The Tacoma program will build on Rainier Scholars’ commitment to serving students most underrepresented on college campuses with a unique program design centered around MGAA students and families. By focusing on the needs of a group facing the most complex set of barriers, we will be more effective in expanding opportunities for all the scholars we serve.
Ward says an important component of building a strong program will be community engagement. “There are so many amazing local organizations and leaders in Tacoma doing incredible work supporting underrepresented students and families. We’re excited to both learn from and bring our expertise to this community for the benefit of those furthest away from opportunity.” This summer, the program will host several community-focused events around Tacoma, including book giveaways and other literacy building activities.
The Tacoma partnership is indicative of Rainier Scholars’ commitment to strategic growth, with the goal of supporting more underrepresented students of color in the region. Sumiko Huff, who served as the organization’s academic director for ten years, is now director of strategic growth and program design and is collaborating with Jennifer Ward to build and sustain a successful program model.
The first cohort of TPS fifth graders to participate in the program will be selected during the 2021-22 school year, with programming scheduled to begin in summer 2022.
Learn more about Rainier Scholars Tacoma here.