Defying the odds

Seattle, Wash. (Aug. 12, 2011) — Eleven years ago, a group of students with hopes and dreams started their journey as sixth graders with Rainier Scholars, the only comprehensive college preparatory and leadership development program for promising students of color in the greater Seattle area. 

Today those same students are now entering their junior year at colleges across the country. Rainier Scholars is continuing to support them – and all 400 other scholars who have followed their lead – with the end goal of college graduation, career readiness and future community leadership. 

“Rainier Scholars by design is a transformative experience,” says Gordon McHenry, Jr., executive director, about the program that serves students most underrepresented on college campuses – African American, Latino, Native American and first generation Asian Americans. Over 80% of Rainier Scholars families are low income and more than 85% of those households are without a college degree. 

“We believe one's education, aspirations, and life possibilities need not be determined by birthright but rather by hard work and determination,” adds McHenry. 

But it’s not easy. According to the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, low-income students leave college without degrees at a much higher rate than their wealthier peers. Statistics also show that although an increasing number of underrepresented minority students are being admitted into colleges, a majority of them are not thriving and a significant number are not graduating. 

“The barriers for low-income, underrepresented minorities who are first in their family to attend college are overwhelming,” McHenry says. 

To defy the odds, Rainier Scholars has implemented a college support phase within its eleven year program model and Safeco Insurance Foundation has contributed a $300,000 grant designed specifically to help with this critical need. 

“We’re pleased to help Rainier Scholars take their program to the next level,” says Paul Hollie, director, Safeco Insurance Foundation. “We’ve had the privilege of working with a few of these students through our internship program and found the scholars to be smart, dedicated and well-positioned to succeed with the support of this program.” 

With assistance from Safeco Insurance Foundation’s grant, the Rainier Scholars College Support phase will offer a continuum of services for 150 scholars including a College 101 retreat, monthly contact from counselors, campus visits for all freshmen, annual workshops, social gatherings, career connection interviews, networking experiences and summer internships in professional fields. The focus is college graduation within four years. 

The Safeco Insurance Foundation’s donation to the Rainier Scholars is one of two large grants given this year through the foundation’s Transformational Grants program, which invests in established nonprofits that have used their in-depth expertise to creatively address basic-needs issues facing communities in the Northwest and promote positive change. 

About Safeco Insurance

In business since 1923 and based in Boston, Mass., Safeco Insurance sells personal automobile, homeowners and specialty products through a network of more than 10,000 independent insurance agencies throughout the United States. Safeco is a Liberty Mutual Insurance company.

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