During the crisis, we’re asking funders to continue to support the work we do to level the playing field for motivated, hardworking, low-income students of color.
Monica Parker, Esq., Associate Executive Director, Rainier Scholars
Founding year: 2001
Primary funding source(s): Individual donors and private funders
Description: Rainier Scholars offers a pathway to college graduation for hard-working, low-income students of color by providing access to transformative educational opportunities. Scholars engage in a proven, 12-year model that brings together academic preparation, leadership development, and personalized support.
On March 11th, we connected with Monica Parker, Esq., associate executive director of Rainier Scholars in Seattle, about how the nonprofit is coping with COVID-19. Monica talked about balancing public health needs with doing the organization’s essential work, communicating with families and staff, and developing contingency plans.
This situation is a rapidly changing one. First and foremost, we’re attempting to balance following the advice of public health professionals with continuing our essential work. We’re staying on top of county, state, and CDC updates regarding coronavirus, but as an education nonprofit, we’re following the lead of school districts. We’ve just learned that Seattle Public Schools (the largest district in the state) will be closing for a minimum of two weeks. The vast majority of our independent school partners have also announced shutdowns anywhere from two to six weeks, with online learning commencing.
We’re in frequent communication—with families as well as our own staff—to update them on how we are handling the situation and to address possible concerns. We’ve let families know that we’re planning ways for children to continue their learning in the event of extended school closure. We’re exploring online learning options for our curriculum for our older scholars, who often have access to the internet and devices—although we’re surveying them to make sure that they do have such access. For our younger students, who may not have online access, we are providing physical study materials, such as literature and math packets.
We’re continuing to do contingency planning for a lot of different scenarios, including possible impacts on our own funding. It’s our 20th anniversary, and we have our annual fundraising luncheon scheduled for late April. We’re having to consider whether to proceed or consider alternative options for the luncheon, such as hosting a virtual event and relying more heavily on digital media. If it’s not the usual in-person event, how might that affect contributions? We’re keeping an eye on how other nonprofit organizations are messaging event changes and the need for continued financial support in the midst of uncertainty. During the crisis, we’re asking funders to continue to support the work we do to level the playing field for motivated, hardworking, low-income students of color.