Rainier Scholars Partners with Degrees of Change 

Rainier Scholars – Tacoma has launched a new partnership with Degrees of Change, a not-for-profit organization that prepares diverse, homegrown leaders to succeed in college and career. Working with Degrees of Change’s Seed Teachers initiative, the new collaboration aims to recruit student advisors for Rainier Scholars’ summer programs while providing hands-on, in-classroom experience to Tacoma-based college students. 

For Jennifer Ward (she/her), Associate Executive Director – Tacoma, the partnership is the culmination of a long-time desire to work with Degrees of Change. When she connected with their COO, Kelly Bay-Meyer, the two began exploring how to work together to advance their similar goals. “Their Seed Teachers participants are just the right age for the student advisor roles in Rainier Scholars’ summer programs. So, we both got really excited about how it could work,” Jennifer remarked. 

“Seed Teachers is a new program by Degrees of Change, Tacoma Public Schools, Franklin Pierce School District, and Pacific Lutheran University that offers diverse Pierce County students a cohort-based, debt-free path to their college degree and teacher certification — all leading to a high-impact teaching job back in their home community,” Kelly explained. “One of the core components of Seed Teachers is scaffolded, paid work experience throughout college. When we learned that Rainier Scholars – Tacoma was seeking full-time student advisor interns during the summer to provide case management and teaching assistance in the classroom for their incredible Rainier Scholars, we immediately saw this as a serendipitous partnership. Seed Teachers scholars gaining invaluable teaching experience with local students, and Rainier Scholars engaging with aspiring teachers from their same home community is as much of a win-win as we could possibly hope for!” 

The Rainier Scholars – Tacoma/Degrees of Change effort will launch its pilot year this summer by reserving several student advisor spots for Seed Teacher students. Student advisors will work with Rainier Scholars – Tacoma’s summer programs, where they’ll be assigned to a specific classroom and oversee 10-12 students. Advisor responsibilities include conducting one-on-one check-ins with students to review daily assignments and reinforce active learning skills. They’re also responsible for organizing recreation and social activities with their advisory and acting as a confidante and frontline resource for whatever students need throughout the summer. 

Seed Teachers who become Rainier Scholars student advisors will gain experience mentoring students, observing teachers and honing their classroom skills as they pursue their teacher training. “It’s a great opportunity for Seed Teachers to test the waters and ensure teaching is a good fit,” Jennifer said. “But there are also tremendous benefits for our scholars. I always see a difference in how student advisors show up when they have a sense of purpose. There’s a level of determination and clarity for not only what they’re doing but why they’re doing it. Seed Teachers who join our summer program are likely to be proactive and motivated because the program is an opportunity to connect to the vision they have for their career.” 

During this pilot year, we will be intentional about maximizing opportunities while also being amenable to adapting as we learn more about how this initiative and our program can collaborate. “That’s one thing I’ve valued about working with Degrees of Change staff. They’ve been so open to exploring and discovering possibilities to create a partnership that truly benefits both our organizational missions,” Jennifer explained. “At Rainier Scholars – Tacoma, our team values connecting with local partners and strengthening our ties to the community. I think this partnership with Degrees of Changes is a great example of the impact of that value.”