Meet our New Director of Recruitment & Community Engagement

by Zoe Hardwick

Q: Describe your role  

I meet with kids whose families are in the 4th grade and help their families find new possible opportunities and resources that will benefit their future. The recruitment piece is a longstanding role to recruit scholars for the program, but the community engagement part of it is new. Engagement means engaging the community, not just those participating in Rainier Scholars, but the community at large. We strive to provide the kind of opportunities we do in the program to other community members; our goal is to uplift everybody! As we engage with folks in a less transactional way, a byproduct is that we get more folks who trust our organization and are more likely to want their kids to participate or refer us to other families. So, the engagement piece also leads to the recruitment, and vice versa. They feed into each other.  

Q: What inspired you to have the career you have today?  

Like many others at Rainier Scholars, I am from an underserved community, and I know how difficult it was for me to get where I wanted to go, which was graduate college and find a career that works for me. If I can make that journey easier for other folks or alert people to the opportunities that are there for them, then I feel fulfilled. Often, folks might not be aware of the opportunities available to them because they rule themselves out early, thinking they don’t have enough money or that their dreams simply aren’t doable, and I want to let people know it’s possible!  

Q: What are some qualities that make Rainier Scholars special to you?  

Rainier Scholars is longer term than many other programs. 12 years is insane! It’s beautiful. Another thing that stands out is how many scholars choose to come back and work for the organization. They have chosen to become champions for the organization and devote their careers to current and future scholars, which point towards the impact of the program and the amazing environment Rainier Scholars has cultivated.  

Q: What led you to Rainier Scholars?  

I originally contacted the organization to volunteer. No matter what I am doing in my life or where I am, I try to volunteer in something involving youth and education. The funny thing is, I never ended up volunteering, I was referred to the open positions at the time, and now I work here!  

Q: Name a skill that should be taught in schools but normally isn’t.  

I learned to ask better questions. There are teachers who are great at encouraging students to ask questions by prefacing the class with, “there are no stupid questions” but I didn’t have that. I struggled with being vulnerable and showing that I didn’t understand something. I had teachers who viewed not knowing as a failure, but I learned over time that it doesn’t matter what you do whether you are a scientist or a basketball player, every successful person thrives on constructive feedback. I wish there were more teachers with that mindset, and there was a better way to teach that skill.