Making the grade: Local program helps kids dream big for college

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SEATTLE- This time of year, many kids and parents are gearing up for high school graduation, and looking ahead to college.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the national high school graduation rate in 2012 was 80 percent. Here in Washington State, it was 77 percent.

One local program wants us to be at 100 percent, especially for kids who have the odds stacked against them. The non-profit is called Rainier Scholars.

They help students get to college, graduate from college and join the workforce.

“It made me focused and gave me like a wake-up call, school is important you have to do good stuff or not succeed in life,” says Kenyon Williams, a Rainier Scholar and freshman at O’Dea High School in Seattle.

Rainier Scholars started in 2002.

“This is a program whose mission is to ensure that high quality educational opportunities are accessible and attainable by students who are of limited means,” says executive director Sarah Smith.

The program helps low-income students of color, kids coming from a single family household and kids who will be the first member of their family to graduate from college. It’s an 11 year commitment starting in the summer after 5th grade.

“We believe that middle school is the real make or break time,” says Smith.

Some 500 kids apply every year but only about 60 are selected.

“We look at their work ethics, motivation; it’s really not about the test scores. It’s about their desire to put in the work and effort that down the line they will be successful at college,” says Smith.

Ninety percent of Rainier Scholars students are on track to graduate college within five years. On the national average, only 49 percent of Latino student and 40 percent of African American students will graduate in six years.

To learn more about Rainier Scholars, check out their website here.

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