Find Your Cause: My Experience with Rainier Scholars

Photo of Karín Avellaneda

As Horace Mann, a pioneering American educator, said, "Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men -- the balance wheel of the social machinery". I strongly believe this and am committed to supporting it in any way I can.


The four focus areas of the Rainier Scholars program

After spending five years on the road as a strategy consultant and being mostly unable to contribute to the Seattle community, I became based in Seattle and really wanted to find a way to advocate for and advance educational and economic empowerment - two causes I care about tremendously. The first step was to find an organization, so last Spring I reached out to my friends from UW Business School who joined Teach for America after graduating. One of them had continued to get involved in the education network in Seattle, and she recommended two potential opportunities: volunteering in Green Dot schools, and assisting with the Rainier Scholars.

After visiting and exploring the Rainier Scholars summer program at the Bush School in Seattle's Madison Valley, I realized that my energies aligned with their target audience, and that I was excited and motivated to get involved with their work. Working with the Rainier Scholars would provide me the perfect opportunity to contribute to a phenomenally structured education initiative while also having the opportunity to support minority students. The organization operates under the assumption that every student deserves the chance to go as far as their hard work and talent will take them. They open doors for promising students of color, providing a gateway to college while forming future community leaders. 

The program chooses 60-65 students every spring to participate as a scholar. This is a four phase, 11 year, program model. The first phase runs parallel to their "regular" student path - providing rigorous academics over 14 months and facilitating placement into college preparatory programs in public and private schools. During the Academic Enrichment phase, scholars attend two six week summer sessions and attend class during the school year on Wednesday afternoon and all day Saturday. The curriculum is more advanced than what students do in their regular rhythm so the program provides tutoring and additional support so that students can tackle the additional difficulty. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to get to know some of these exceptional youths and support them. 

Last December, I began tutoring a sixth grader in math and the experience has been incredible! She is a bright young lady who is full of curiosity and vigor. She makes me so proud as she focuses on her studies and "staying the course" to succeed despite her social context.

I was very excited to learn later that Caiman had been working with the Rainier Scholars, and immediately volunteered to participate in the College Support piece of the model by volunteering to do resumé review and interview prep this January. I spent a morning getting to know two promising college students, guiding them through mock interviews and providing them a bit of "I've been there” wisdom. We then did a breakout for Engineering and Business students, and we explored how to "land a college internship."

I am glad that, as Caimanistas, we have the opportunity to engage in meaningful ways with programs that help develop youth in our community and promote inclusion and diversity for our industry. For me, even contributing in little ways serves a purpose in addressing inequity and creating a representative balance in corporate America.