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Monica Parker: What makes me most proud to come to work is to watch our scholars and families in action. These are young kids who are making a commitment to their education early. It’s really impressive to see them make that commitment and to see their families provide the support they need.
Rainier Scholars’ purpose is to provide academic support and leadership training for motivated low-income students of color who are often the first in their families to go to college.
Colin Roberts: What sets Rainier Scholars apart is really the longevity and the consistency of working with students and families from fifth grade through college graduation.
Marilyn Lopez: We look at the student as a whole. What are their interests, what are their strengths, and what are areas that they can grow in?
I feel very honored and privileged to be able to work with students and their families one-on-one. It’s beyond the surface level of relationship-building. I get invited to their homes. I get to see where they’re growing up and where they’re being raised. I get to learn more about their families.
Colin: I heard a great story of students who were in different cohorts, so started a couple of years apart, went through the whole program and were traveling abroad. One of them got an Airbnb and got there and the host was another scholar. It’s a testament to our program that our students are out traveling the world or working in other countries.
Monica: Our founder, Bob Hurlbut, read a book called A Hope in the Unseen. In the book, there’s a reference to a program in New York City called Prep for Prep. Bob thought, “I wonder if we could start something like this in Seattle?” He found some supporters for the concept. he found a teacher, Sarah Smith, who’s now our executive director, and with a team of folks, they began to build out our program.
It’s rewarding for me to be a part of an organization where we can see the immediate impact of our program in terms of scholars being able to get academic support and leadership training, but there’s also a longer term benefit or ripple effect. I think of it as an impact on our city, our state, our world essentially, that takes time, of course, but that’s one of the beautiful things about this program.
For Rainier Scholars, it’s absolutely worthwhile to invest in our relationship with Aldridge. The reason why that’s important is because we’re a mission-driven organization. If we have to spend our time and energy focused on aspects other than that mission, then our families and scholars don’t get the support that they need.
Marilyn: I love coming to work. I am so at ease walking in just because I know the caliber of the staff member, and my colleagues are wickedly smart and super funny. It’s just the most amazing environment that I’ve ever worked in. From brainstorming ways to improve our services every year, to really zoning in on issues that keep popping up and how to resolve them, I really love the teamwork atmosphere.
Colin: I noticed that when I started here, there was a really strong emphasis on continuing our own learning. Every year, we read at least one or two books as an entire staff and talk about them, and reflect on how that research, or that information, or that story, impacts our work.
The goal that we are shooting for is a tricky one. It’s not a simple problem that has a simple solution. It’s a big multifaceted, complicated problem. It’s a really human problem, and so we have really human solutions for that.