Kudos for Rainier Scholars’ College Interns

The employers of our most recent group of college interns gave consistently positive feedback on working with our scholars, 100% of survey respondents indicating they would hire a Rainier Scholar again! They were recognized for their ability to adapt and thrive in structured as well as unstructured environments. Here are some quotes from workplace supervisors about the strong work-ethic, problem-solving ability and initiative of this group of future leaders.


“Alan is exactly what we are looking for in our future talent pipeline. He learns quickly, shows initiative and works well with teams.”


Brighton Jones:
“Bisrat made a big contribution to our culture. He genuinely wanted to be a part of not only our business but our office. His enthusiasm is contagious.”

CascadiaConsulting-StephanieShirley1Cascadia Consulting Group:
“Shirley was great, (with a) high quality of work, enthusiasm and energy, positive and willingness to learn!”


Girls Who Code:GirlsWhoCode-CasiSam2
“Sam was well qualified to handle these responsibilities with little need for constant monitoring or training, and the summer could not have been as successful for our organization as it was without her help.”

Copy of Skanska-ChipLewamJeanne1

Skanska Construction U.S.A:
“Lewam is an intelligent, fast learner who took on any task, no matter how small, with dedication….by the time she left she was doing the work of an entry level Assistant PA.”

University of Washington, Department of Chemistry:
“Jasmine is an independent worker that takes initiative in her projects. She took our lab into new directions by adding a new material for our lab to study and also a new technique for our lab to use to characterize solar cell materials.”

“Diana was an immense help to our data team as they try to move forward into the international market!”

Read more about our internship program and find out how you can get involved!

Posted in College Support (CS), Community Support, Internships, Leadership Development, Mentorship | Leave a comment

A Dream of Something Better

Jonatan Castillo, Cohort VIII Scholar and Lakeside Senior with Diego Merlos, Cohort VII

(R) Jonatan Castillo, Cohort VIII, Lakeside Senior, (L) Diego Merlos, Cohort XII

Like so many other students before me, Rainier Scholars has changed my life. I am part of a community of scholars who strive for academic excellence and will defy the odds to earn a college degree. I am surrounded by people who are invested in my success and I have access to opportunities that have changed how I think about my future.

I came to this country in 2005 with my mom and my sister. We moved from Mexico City to join my father who had found a job as a construction worker. My father always told me that education and school would come first no matter what and my father spoke with wisdom. Both he and my mom had to quit school and never earned their high school diploma, but they had a vision for me and my sister, believing that education would be the key to a better future. My mother and father make sacrifices every day to ensure this will happen.

People may remember me as a quiet and scared 7th grader in the academic program, but what I remember is for the first time in my life I was surrounded by other kids like me, kids who liked school and believed in getting a good education. There were times growing up where I had to pretend I didn’t like school just to fit in. But at Rainier Scholars it was OK to be smart, however that didn’t mean it was easy. It was hard work and there were endless amounts of homework. Even though I liked the challenge, there were times when I wanted to quit. My father would tell me “I know it’s hard right now but remember you are working for your future,” so I persevered.

Rainier Scholars has helped me build a plan for my future. I am surrounded by powerful role models who help me envision what is possible. My student adviser, Myles Jones, served as a mentor, someone to look up to who understood the struggle. I am now a student adviser in the 14-month program working with 6th graders and I see myself in my boys. They are learning to have confidence in their abilities. They are learning to persevere and work hard and they know I believe in them.

As the son of a construction worker with a 9th grade education, I never imagined attending a school like Lakeside. I never imagined creating my list of college choices and including schools from around the country and I never thought a career in engineering was a possibility. Rainier Scholars has opened new doors and expanded my horizons. My world is bigger. I have also learned I am a Math and Science guy. I like to take things apart, fix things and see how they work. My dad uses his hands to build things, that’s important work. I’d like to use my skills and abilities to design things and understand how systems work. I want to help solve problems and take on new challenges. I want to make my mom and dad proud.

When I think back, it all started with two parents who had a dream of something better for their children. Their love and vision combined with the support and opportunities from Rainier Scholars has changed my future.

 Jonatan shared his story at Skanska’s annual Bricks & Books Auction on October 2, 2014.


Posted in 11-year program, College Graduation, Leadership Development, Scholar Voices, Student Advisors | Leave a comment

Scholars Provide Hope

 Staff looking up(Blog post author Karen O’Meara Pullen, back row, far right)

My husband and I have stopped watching the evening news. In a summer of wildfires, epidemics and hatred “spiraling out of control” we found ourselves in a bit of a spiral ourselves, wondering where in the name of all that is hopeful we could find some promise of a better future for our grandchildren.

And then, in August, came some hope. For the 10th time I had the opportunity – the blessing, really, and I don’t use that term lightly – to work with Rainier Scholars in their Leadership Development Retreat sessions. The world became, somehow, a bit more under control. These young people, statistics would predict, should be ready to drop-out. They are students of color, from low-income families, many brought up by single parents. But despite their circumstances, despite the dire statistics, they are ready to lead this troubled world to a better place.

True, having served as a classroom teacher and school administrator for more than 40 years, I have had many moments of delight in the promise of young people. To remain in that profession, one can’t help but be a hopeful person; every September brings new promise and anticipation. Nonetheless, regularly I would encounter a student who was particularly sullen and unresponsive, another who was confrontational, a number who had perfected the art of eye-rolling over a challenging assignment, whole groups of teenagers who virtually dared me to interest them.  One boy told me he didn’t have to learn to spell because “his secretary would do all his writing for him.” (This was before Spell Check). Every so often, however, I would encounter a class that really jazzed my professional juices – a class I would look forward to every day, a class that brightened the dreariest February Monday, a group of kids that were engaged, funny, curious and kind. I didn’t have a group of those day-brighteners every year, but when I did, they kept me coming back every September, looking for the next.

RS_Leadership 2014_MedRez-2371

When I “retired” four years ago, little did I expect I would find a succession of classes that would exhibit that spark and willingness to ask and to share and to learn. In every session, every Leadership Retreat, I have found that mix. Every single one. Ten in a row. By the time the Scholars get to the high school Leadership Development stage of their time with the program, they have been guided, goaded, encouraged, sometimes chastised and celebrated; they have been “schooled” (in the best sense of the word) in a sense of integrity and responsibility. The work (and it is work) we ask them to do is strenuous. The readings are challenging. Could my 17 year-old self have slogged through an analysis of Machiavelli or prepared a comparison of the world views of Thomas Hobbes and Thomas Jefferson? Not likely. Could any of my previous classes stayed in character as a “president” of a fictitious university as it faced a financial crisis and student strike? I doubt it. Rainier Scholars regularly take on those tasks with thoughtful willingness and spirit.

Tony Wagner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education surveyed college professors and corporate employers asking them what they look for in their application process. By far, both groups said the key skills required for success in the 21st century are the ability to solve problems creatively and to work collaboratively in groups. (No 1600 SAT scores? Apparently not a priority.) And those skills are just what the Rainier Scholars are honing.

Throughout the 5 retreats (each 3 intense days of study and discussion) in this phase of Rainier Scholars, the students examine the tasks of leadership, the attributes of leaders, the lessons leaders might provide and – perhaps most importantly – they have the opportunity to try out their own skills and styles in a variety of situations and setting, understanding the difficulty of leading not only effectively but ethically as well. As one student reflected at the end of this summer’s session, “I have learned that to be a leader you don’t have to be in a position of authority or have a big personality” but  sometimes one can “lead from behind” understanding a clear vision and working with others towards a common goal.

Here’s what I hear frequently in the classrooms with the Scholars: “As Santiago said, ….”; “I respectfully disagree with you, Michelle …;” “Well, another way of thinking about this might be….” That sense of open inquiry is clearly a part of who the Rainier Scholars are and how they operate – and how they will be taking some significant leadership roles in the years ahead.

What is it about the existence of Rainier Scholars that helps me sleep at night? It’s their willingness to work hard, to listen to one another, to tackle thorny issues with determination, creativity and collegiality. It’s the hope that they bring to one another, to their schools across the city and across the country. And the hope they bring to a needy world. Perhaps my grandchildren will be able to watch the evening news with less foreboding and despair than I.  The real news is that there is hope in these young people.

Karen O’Meara Pullen was a middle and high school teacher and administrator for nearly 40 years in New England before moving to western Washington in 2007. Committed to promoting equitable education for all young people since her first teaching job in Zimbabwe, she has served as an instructor and curriculum developer for Rainier Scholars for the last 4 years.

Posted in 11-year program, College Graduation, College Matriculation, Community Support, High School Graduation, Leadership Development, Teacher Perspective | Leave a comment

A Picture of Future Leaders

Cam Tu Blog Group

“What does it mean to be a Rainier Scholar?” is a common question I would ask college scholars in my meetings and workshops. The summary of responses include leadership, diversity, and community as well as the program’s embedded trinity of values: Perseverance, Courage, and Integrity. Being new to the Rainier Scholars community, it has been my goal to understand the essence of what is unique about a student who made this 11-year journey, and what assets they bring to the world post-graduation.

It seems a Rainier Scholar has been groomed from a young age to embody the value of perseverance. The interview questions for young applicants immediately ask them how they would feel giving up their summers and changing schools. Families and scholars reflect back on those foundational experiences and remember the tears, sacrifices, and intense commitment they made for their college-bound dreams.

Courage comes into play when the doors are wide open for students to go beyond their comfort zones, to travel beyond their borders, both literally and figuratively. Scholars are spread throughout the country for college, internships, and employment. The Rainier Scholars program not only asks students to defy the odds to earn a college degree, but also encourages highly selective colleges, out of state experiences and career opportunities with competitive companies, while valuing the unique individual choices and pathway of each student. At the heart of Rainier Scholars is the support of a solid community. Scholars have staff members, a growing alumni network, and countless organizations and individuals who lend their guidance and resources.

The journey does not come without trials and tribulations. Scholars are tested with challenges such as culture shock and intense competition as well as gender, race and class issues. With each barrier, a scholar has built-in strength to persevere and to find the courage to make a difference. Adiza Ameh (Cohort IV, Pomona College Class of 2016) is an activist at her school; she joined the Student of Color Alliance and the Pan-African Student Association to organize educational events for historically underrepresented populations. Sigrid Santos (Cohort I, University of Washington Class of 2014) holds her own in a male dominated construction management field and upon graduation with a dual degree earned an immediate job offer.

A Rainier Scholar has the responsibility to not only achieve goals for themselves, but to consider the legacy they will leave behind.  Khoa Nguyen (Cohort V, Davidson College Class of 2017) interned as a journalist at the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative because he considered it to be his civic and moral obligation to play a part in his community and address issues of social justice.  Sallie Lau, (Cohort III, Williams College Class of 2015) with a great career outlook in finance, speaks of her long-term goals of going to graduate school, finding a nonprofit to support, and being on the board of several organizations. Ellis Simani (Cohort V, Claremont McKenna Class of 2017) envisions a future as a social entrepreneur after gaining firsthand experience with the nonprofit Landesa witnessing the impact of global work with land ownership.  Any organization would benefit from the diverse leadership and social justice awareness a Rainier Scholar would bring to the table.

Through my lens, being a Rainier Scholar means to persevere through economic and institutional challenges, to defy the odds of their circumstances, to build inner strength and to find the courage to take on the responsibility of leadership roles while maintaining the integrity of their own core values and the guiding beliefs of Rainier Scholars.

The picture of future leaders at Rainier Scholars is exciting. Jimena Diaz (Cohort II, Dartmouth College, Class of 2014) is leaving for the Amazon to research migratory fish species. Isolina Campbell Cronin (Cohort II, Spelman College Class of 2014) is now a teacher at Uncommon Schools in New Jersey. Abe Bui (Cohort II, University of Pennsylvania Class of 2014) is working in finance at Cascadia Capital in Seattle.  Alex Anderson (Cohort I, Swarthmore College Class of 2013) has created a video for younger cohorts to lend his expertise as a Fulbright Scholar in China

Coming close to my one year anniversary of working at Rainier Scholars, I am eager to take part in shaping the paths our scholars will take.  Oh, the places they will go…

Posted in College Graduation, College Matriculation, College Support (CS), Staff View | Leave a comment

Building the Resume of Life

Rainier Scholars Martin Nguyen and Saedah Ham recently won the Liberty Mutual Insurance Video Challenge,  an annual nationwide contest to create the most creative and compelling video outlining the benefits of interning at Safeco. Martin, a Cohort II college scholar and New York University rising sophomore, reflects on his internship and how it is helping him chose his path forward academically and professionally.

martin grad

For the second consecutive summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to be a Liberty Mutual intern at the Seattle Safeco Insurance office. Working for Liberty was a great experience, providing me wonderful insight on the business world, and more specifically, the insurance market. At Liberty they truly strive to help you find your interests and determine how you can pursue them within the company. Although I worked in the Agency Distribution and Field Management department this summer, my manager often suggested that I get exposed to the work of other departments to give me a more well-rounded experience. And as cliché as it sounds, I believe the greatest aspect about being an intern is the opportunity to learn and the room for growth. As hard as I tried to do my best work at all times, my managers never expected me to be great at everything and of course I wasn’t. I made a bunch of mistakes, but that’s what I think makes a great internship experience, making mistakes, learning from them and challenging yourself with new experiences.

Safeco Martin N

Entering my sophomore year in college leaves me at an interesting crossroad in my life. I’m at the point where I have to decide what specific field of work I want to hone in on, which is a bit stressful. More times than not, students including myself, assume productive internships have to fall into the category of work that they are studying or are looking to study. It seems counter-intuitive to waste time and effort doing something you don’t think you may have interest in. I’ve spent my past 4 summers working at a variety of internships, and I would be lying if I said I enjoyed every single one of them. But at least now I know specific areas and careers that aren’t a perfect fit for me. The value of an internship isn’t necessarily how perfectly the experience relates to your studies, it’s greater in the grand scheme of things. It’s life experience.

Posted in College Graduation, College Support (CS), Internships, Leadership Development, Mentorship, Scholar Voices | Leave a comment

Scholars by the Bay: Charting their Courses

San Fran Scholars

It was my great pleasure to visit the Bay Area last week and catch up with a few of our college scholars. Four students joined me for a group dinner in Palo Alto and then I had the chance to visit with some of them at their internship sites. It was a great trip and all of my visits this summer have really driven home how much our scholars are growing as leaders in Seattle and beyond. I’ve witnessed them gaining confidence as they seek out and win opportunities to grow. They’ve truly become ‘captains of their own ships’, working toward their future with thoughtful intention. There are not following a path someone else prescribed, but charting their own courses. Here are some highlights from my visit with each scholar.

Jamie Li Cohort I, Dartmouth ’13 is working full-time at Yahoo! in marketing. Jamie moved to the Bay Area after graduating last spring, and is coming up on her 1-year anniversary of living in “The Real World”! She has finished two of her three 6-month rotations in her marketing rotational program and she is learning what she likes and doesn’t like in her work. For example, Jamie learned that she actually really enjoys the analytical side of marketing and she is excited to become a data nerd. She is considering graduate school in business and might be taking the GMAT soon.

Winson Law - Cohort III, Middlebury College student is interning at Thinking Beyond Borders, a nonprofit education organization that empowers and inspires students through education to become meaningful agents of social change. Specifically they seek to increase participation in gap-year programs, especially among low-income communities of color. Winson’s research includes studying college access programs and he interviewed our friends at Prep for Prep and our very own Jolenta Coleman-Bush to better understand this work. Winson is living in San Francisco, and has experienced the joys (independence and experiencing life in “the city”) and challenges (expensive housing and reliance on public transport) that come with it. He has a deep appreciation of college access programs and is personally grateful for all the choices and opportunities Rainier Scholars has provided him. He will be factoring in this recent summer nonprofit experience as he explores social entrepreneurship and human-centered design as possible careers.

Ellen Wu - Cohort V, University of Washington student is interning at Facebook in software development and she “likes” it (pun intended). Her work started with a 2-week crash course in coding within the FB environment and now she’s working on developing a cool new mapping app (I can’t share any details as it’s probably proprietary.) The Facebook campus is unique and feels really young. Its seven buildings are arranged around a central lane, with restaurants, cafes and shops. Ellen led me on a tour and we crossed paths with founder Mark Zuckerberg twice. Ellen is having a great growth experience, she’s out of her comfort zone and soaking it all up. Next, she will evaluate whether she will continue to pursue a career in software.

Myles Jones - Cohort III, Seton Hall University student is interning at Google in HR. Myles put his Seton Hall tour guide skills to excellent use giving me a tour of “Googleplex.” He loves working there! There is a spring in his step and a genuine excitement to be part of all the amazing things Google is working on. He shared that his favorite new product is the self-driving cars, which I actually got to see driving around on the 101 freeway. Myles remarked that in this internship he can really be himself and it feels natural, fun and fulfilling.

Segen Haile - Cohort III, Santa Clara University student is interning at PricewaterhouseCoopers (a Big 4 accounting/audit firm). Segen is having a blast in her first internship at a dedicated accounting / audit firm and is happy to be making progress on the path she has been planning since the start of college.  Segen is putting in a lot of hard work and doing well, and she’s hopeful that she might be able to continue her work with PWC beyond her internship. Segen definitely senses that life after college will be very different – she shared that her daily routine is to get up early, work all day, hit the gym, make a quick dinner, and go to sleep.  Rinse, repeat.  She has very little “free time” to pursue other interests, like reading, and it’s dawning on her just how fast time can pass by.

Posted in College Graduation, College Matriculation, College Support (CS), Internships, Leadership Development, Staff View | Leave a comment

Summer Opportunites, Future Careers

I’m starting my 5th year as an Academic Counselor (AC) at Rainier Scholars, first working with the Academic Counseling and Support (ACSS) phase 7th -9th graders and for the past 2 years with the Leadership Development (LD) phase 10th – 12th grade students. In my role as an AC, I meet monthly with each of my scholars to support them academically, socially and emotionally. To achieve this I have developed strong relationships with the scholars, their families and schools.

Recently, I started working alongside the LD Director, Susie Wu, as the Assistant Program Manager, as well as an AC I’m looking for greater opportunities to grow in my own leadership, just as I counsel our scholars to do the same. This summer I’ve had the opportunity to go on a few internship site visits in my new role. Typically a site visit consists of a brief conversation with the internship mentor and mentee follow by a small Seattle Aquarium.Kevin Martineztour where our interns are working. Throughout every single tour, the mentors expressed their appreciation, commending the scholars on their maturity, professionalism and positive work ethic.

The site visit at the Seattle Aquarium was notable for a number of reasons; the internship at the Seattle Aquarium is fast pace, but more casual than many of the office settings. Students volunteer as often as they like and they are one of nearly one-hundred student volunteers.

I started the visit by meeting with Dave Glenn and observing Kevin Martinez (Cohort VIII, Bush School junior) interacting with a group of young kids. I could instantly feel and see Kevin’s passion for his job; he physically brought himself down to their level and was able to narrate detailed facts about the marine life. In my discussions with Kevin and Dave, I found out that Kevin had no interest in marine biology until this internship, now he wants to pursue the field. Kevin said that he was interested in biology and science, but did not have any idea what marine biology was. The spark of Kevin’s passion was brought on by learning about marine life and the positive impact that public education and conservation can have on improving life for every being on our planet. After only 3 weeks of interning, Kevin has become a natural marine life interpreter and has drawn upon the expertise of the adults at the aquarium to act as mentors in his learning process.

A large part of the success of our interns relies on the strength of the formal and informal adult mentors that our students connect with at each organization. Doing an internship is more than just working in the summer to earn a little money or to stay out of trouble. A strong mentor is able to help guide our students on how to interact with adults in a professional setting, to understand the importance that seemingly small tasks have to an organizations’ success and to facilitate the exploration of new passions for our scholars. Kevin’s growth this summer reflects the opportunities that are available to each of our scholars which go beyond making them strong college candidates, but aim to prepare our scholars to be the new leaders of their generation.


Posted in College Matriculation, Community Support, High School Graduation, Internships, Mentorship, Organizational Mission, Staff View | Leave a comment

Nikki’s Farewell

Nikki D at DeskNikki Danos has served as Rainier Scholars’ College Counseling Director for the past 5 years making an indelible mark on the organization. Respected and appreciated by her students, their families, her colleagues and peers, her diligence and dedication to making sure every scholar succeeds, as well as her warmth and irreverent humor will be missed. Below are Nikki’s reflections on her time at Rainier Scholars and its impact.

Over the past couple of months, people have been asking me if I’m excited about starting a new job or sad about leaving my present one. I never know how to respond to those questions, so I’ll simply tell you what’s on my mind on my last day at Rainier Scholars.

1. I am proud. When people ask where I work and I tell them Rainier Scholars, if they’ve heard of the program, they are immediately impressed. If they haven’t, I tell them about it. Either way, I take great pride in associating myself with this organization. I am also proud of our students and where they’re going to college. It lifts me up every day when I think about their bright futures.

2. I am changed. Not that I am anywhere close to where I’d like to be in terms of understanding racial and class issues, but I am light years ahead of where I was five years ago. This job has humbled me, taught me about micro aggressions, and helped me understand that there is a major difference between the students Rainier Scholars serves and the rest of the world.

3. I am grateful. It has been an honor to work with people who live the Rainier Scholars mission every single day. It has also been refreshing to be my authentic self at work. Thank you for allowing me to be who I am and for sharing your lives with me.

2. I am excited about the future. I have watched Rainier Scholars grow in all the right ways over the past five years, and there’s no stopping this organization from changing the landscape of education and creating pathways for students who never thought that a college degree was possible. I am also excited about my new adventure of working for an all-girls, Catholic school. I’m sure it will come with many challenges, the commute notwithstanding, but I’m ready to face a new set of obstacles.

Thank you for making my time here unforgettable.



Posted in College Graduation, College Matriculation, Leadership Development, Staff View | Leave a comment

Write, Feel Good, Write More (repeat)

Tom, Barbara and Sarah
I’ve been volunteering at Rainier Scholars for close to ten years now – the last eight of which writing stories for their newsletter. I love it. I think it is the best volunteer gig in Seattle. Why? First off, in the complicated and contentious world of education, Rainier Scholars has its act together. It sets lofty goals and achieves them – year after year. Second, for someone who likes to write, it provides a mother lode of stories. Third, everything about the program makes me feel good.

The ultimate goal of Rainier Scholars is nothing less than helping the segment of our population which faces the most barriers to a quality education, (low-income students of color, most of whom do not have a family member who has attended college,) go to, and graduate from, college. Students enter the program the summer before 6th grade and stay directly involved with Rainier Scholars for 11 years. Since 2001 there have been thirteen cohorts of students – a new one joining the program every year. Each cohort has a different personality, a different style as you would expect when you mix up sixty-some odd students from all around the Puget Sound. But what doesn’t change and what I never get tired of writing about, is the pact made between the student and the program, which is, very simply, if you give your best effort, we will get you into college – a good college where you will thrive.

As you can imagine, there are myriad levels of support and expertise that go into making good that commitment – on both sides of the equation. Pick up any back issue of the newsletter and you will get a taste of the efforts put in by student and program alike. The results are life changing. For families that had no expectations of college for their children, these Rainier Scholars are the first to bring home a college degree.  Take Denzel for example. He enters the program, and a year later is admitted to University Prep for middle and high school. He graduates from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Or Paloma. She enters the program, and a year later is admitted to The Northwest School for middle school, moves on to Garfield High School. She graduates from Columbia University in NYC.  Along the way Rainier Scholars helps them find paid internships during high school and college, and secure financial aid packages which cover the vast majority of their college tuition and room and board. (About $600,000 worth of education for the pair.)

To date, 56 Rainier Scholars have graduated from colleges ranging from Agnes Scott College to Yale University and there are over 500 students in the pipeline planning on doing exactly the same thing. You can run the numbers on the financial aid and come up with some impressive ‘return on investment’ numbers, but for me, it is just as compelling to see these individuals’ stories play out over the years. Each has an ebb and a flow to it. Children growing up in a society where privilege and opportunity exist side by side with financial stress and lowered expectations. Families forced to live on the margins even as the wealth of the area continues to grow.

These are the people I get to meet and stories I get to write when I interview the students, parents, staff and teachers of Rainier Scholars. It is a rich vein, filled with hardship and striving for sure, but also resolve and transformation. I have written scores of these stories and while there are recurring themes, each has its own unique flavor and most provide moments of revelation. Like when a student says he’s “lucky” to have the unrelenting pressure of the nightly homework because other kids don’t have the same opportunity, or when a single mother knows because of Rainier Scholars if anything happens to her, her daughter will be OK, or when a teacher becomes like a jazz musician in the classroom, riffing off his students’ energy. How the world is revealed to these young men and women is endlessly fascinating and satisfying, particularly in a time where educational systems all too often, despite their best intentions, remain challenged in helping those most in need.

Rainier Scholars has always affected me on a visceral level. I feel good every time I come in contact with someone associated with it. It can be Diana’s smile when I walk through the office door, or with Sumiko discussing the differences between Cohort X and Cohort XI, or David graphing an “expectation gap” between affluent and low-income families. It is Kiana writing from the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy, (where I grew up), or Quincy telling me of his dream to be a doctor, or a mother who has given everything towards her daughter’s education. It’s Jimena and Syade, Mohamed and Jakirra, Olachi and Raphael – students who are the future of this country; it’s Ronnie, Susie, Sarah, Bob and so many more mentors and advocates. Individuals and stories of such goodness that I cannot help but be filled with hope and anticipation of the next story to be written.


Posted in 11-year program, Bob Hurlbut, Organizational Mission, Parent Perspective, Scholar Voices, Volunteers | Leave a comment

World Cup Life Lessons

world cup soccer ball

At Rainier Scholars our summer session begins each day with a program assembly. It’s a time when the entire community comes together, daily announcements are made, PIC Awards (Perseverance, Integrity and Courage) are recognized and Academic Director Sumiko Huff provides an activity or story that engages and inspires students on their educational journey. The 2014 World Cup has provided great material for Ms. Huff, a fanatic soccer fan who traveled to Brazil in June to be a part of this worldwide sporting event. Here are a few of her “World Cup Life Lessons” for our youngest scholars.

World Cup Life Lesson #1

How many of you have experienced someone telling you that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, or skilled enough to be successful?

Prior to the World Cup this year, very few people thought Mexico had a chance. They played poorly throughout qualifying and skated in at the last moment due to a US victory against Panama. In the run up to the group stage, Mexico was not even on the radar to be successful.  Before their first game, the Mexican coach came out in the press and said boldly, “I am confident we will win,” and the press and fans smiled and said “sure, that’s great.”

Mexico came out and beat Cameroon 1-0. Then they played the host nation and heavy favorites Brazil to a 0-0 draw. In their last game of the group stage, Mexico surprised everyone and beat Croatia 2-0, easily qualifying for the second round. They came out strong and had a vision to win. They played with confidence, had courage and took risks. They gave 100% and they brought their best to the field. It was heartbreak with the Netherlands in the final seconds but this Mexico team did their country proud.

Lesson #1: It doesn’t matter who thinks you can’t win or says you can’t succeed, never let that affect how you play the game. If you bring your best to the field, you will get results!

World Cup Life Lesson #2

How many of you have ever lost at something? How many of you hate losing?

The World Cup is played in stages, with qualifying rounds starting about 2 years in advance, and including over 200 countries. The final tournament has 32 teams from different regions of the World. The first round is the group stage, when teams are drawn by lottery and play round robin against each of the other three teams in their group. A win gains 3 points, a tie 1 point. The top 2 teams from each group move on.

This year the US drew “the group of death,” and had to play Ghana, a team that had knocked the US out of the tournament twice previously, Portugal, a team ranked #4 in the world and boasting the best player in the world, Christiano Ronaldo (keep your shirt on son) and Germany, ranked 2nd in the world and a veritable powerhouse that had made it to 4 previous semifinals in the World Cup. The US chances of a 2nd round showing (always the minimum goal of any team in the Cup), looked bleak (see life lesson #1).

In the first game of the group, Portugal fell to Germany by an astounding 4 goals. Then the US came out and played Ghana–winning the game 2-1 with a thrilling 86th minute goal by the substitute John Brooks. But it would be their only win of the group stage. They then tied Portugal 2-2, while Germany tied Ghana by the same score. Suddenly, the US was in position to control their fate and secure a spot in the second round with a tie or win against Germany! Oh, but its Germany…

The U.S. played their hearts out, but in the 2nd half, Germany pulls ahead with a goal from Thomas Müller. No matter what they tried, they couldn’t get a goal back. Now it depended on what happened in the Portugal Ghana game. Those two teams were in a heated battle, with the shoreline going back and forth. Finally, in the 80th minute, Ronaldo scores the winning goal for Portugal, and they gain 3 points in a 2-1 win.

The US and Portugal are tied on points. It all comes down to the difference between goals scored and goals against for the two teams. And the US goes through, because Portugal had been beaten so soundly by Germany in their first game. So the US goes through to the second round with one win, a tie, and a loss. And in doing so, they learned a lot about how to play well together, they learned they can come back from a deficit, they learned their young players, including Seattle’s DeAndre Yedlin, could come off the bench and have a huge positive impact.

Life Lesson #2: Even though you may not win, you can triumph if you give 100% effort.

World Cup Life Lesson #3

How many of you have ever experienced a setback, or been disappointed when things don’t go well?

In the 2nd round, the US was matched with Belgium, a European powerhouse of a team stacked with great players from the European leagues, including stars such as Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany from the Premier League champions Manchester City. The game was a battle, and the US played courageously, thwarting chance after chance that the Belgians fired at their goal (thank goodness for Tim Howard). They held on through regulation time, extending the game to overtime play, two more 15 minute halves. Then in the 93rd minute, Belgium scores. The US heads hung, but only for a second, and they battled back–stretching the Belgian defense with a flurry of chances.

But as they pushed forward, they had to take risks, and Belgium managed to capitalize–in the 105th minute, Belgium scores again. Surely now, it was over. But with 15 minutes left in the game, the US never gave up, they pushed back with everything they had, and Julian Green, the youngest player on the squad, pulled back a goal. Still the time slipped away–but the US never quit. They battled until the final second. Ultimately unsuccessful for the win, they walked off the field with heads held high, knowing that they had given it their all.

Life Lesson #3: When you face a setback, double your efforts. In the end, you should always be able to look back and be proud of what you accomplished.

Final lessons to follow, check back later this week!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment