News from Rainier Scholars – Tacoma

by Jennifer Ward, January 2022

Exciting things are happening with the Tacoma program! Active recruitment is underway, after countless time and energy spent meeting with school leaders, building a new application platform, soliciting nominations, and hosting family information meetings. To date we’ve hosted 14 information meetings and have met with over 100 prospective families.

We’re also excited to announce that our team is expanding! The search for our Director of Programs is currently underway. Learn more here. 

Outside of recruitment our team has been busy exploring the question, “what is the essence of Rainier Scholars?”.
It’s important that we honor the Tacoma community by building a program model reflective of its needs, but we also don’t want to lose some core elements of what makes Rainier Scholars, Rainier Scholars.

We’re very lucky to be able to glean insights from the 20+ years spent serving Seattle, Highline and Renton school districts, and want to build a program reflective of lessons we’ve learned along the way.
To this end, here are some highlights from the Tacoma program, along with rationale for shifts we’re thinking about or have made to the original program design.

  • Summer Stretch Academy – Instead of a 14-month Academic Enrichment Phase, Tacoma’s academic intensive will be called “Summer Stretch Academy” and will be compromised of three summers and two school years.
  • Why? We’ve learned that the Saturday commitment poses challenges for families involved with sports, and the twice per week school year commitment makes it difficult for students to get involved in extracurricular activities.
  • In order to continue our commitment of 1,000 additional hours of advanced learning and instruction, we’ve shifted that lost time to one additional summer and school year.
  • Eagle Prep – We will eventually offer a second entry point into our program. Eagle Prep students will join us the summer before 7th grade. We will pilot this program at one middle school to start and will cap admission to 30 students. Prep scholars will have a 14-month academic intensive and then join the Academy scholars for programming in 8th grade and beyond.
  • Why? Having a single entry point has long been a challenge for our program. We know that some students would be a great fit but might need an additional year or two before they’re mentally and/or academically ready to make such a big commitment.
  • Adding this extra cohort allows us to serve even more students in the community!
  •  Open-sourced materials – One hallmark of the Seattle program is the exclusive curriculum and services scholars and families gain access to when joining the program. In Tacoma, we’d like to find opportunities to offer our expertise, programs, and/or services to students and families who are not officially a part of Rainier Scholars. Ideas we’re looking into include afterschool book clubs for students in 2nd-4th grades, co-developing workshops with other community organizations targeting non-RS students and families, and opening up some current RS workshops to the community at large.
  • Why? Upon our expansion to Tacoma, it’s become abundantly clear how this community works together and supports each other. We want to honor that quality by being good neighbors and supporting the community at large, in addition to doing great work with the scholars and families selected to join Rainier Scholars – Tacoma.

 We’re still several months away from the start of our very first summer with our inaugural cohort but are staying energized by all the planning and designing we get to do in service of the greater Tacoma community. More updates to come!