This piece was featured in the 2019 Community Impact Report. 

Ready to Rise is a leadership opportunity for students to join a cohort of high school graduates who will be attending the same college as them. Students transitioning into college are often not prepared to handle the social dynamics of this new environment. Time management, dorm life and encountering new personalities can feel overwhelming.

Here, students come together during a community retreat where they meet others from Tacoma and start to bond. We provide leadership and college preparation training in the summer where participants learn about the potential challenges they will face and resources available to them. It’s a chance for students to explore their own sense of identity and personal plans for their future.

In a second retreat, every year, Tacoma’s Ready to Rise college-going cohort are introduced to Ready to Rise students from around the state who will also be attending their college. Both retreats give students an early start to building a support network of peers.

Additionally, each college has a peer mentor, usually a second year student who has been through the program. From them, students learn about the resources they can use on campus. Once on campus, there are monthly meetings and trainings where students can learn together about ways they can take care of themselves at school.

We’ve seen that if students don’t identify with their campus, they won’t succeed. With Ready to Rise we help them see how personal relationships and connections will support them, and how important it is to have a network. With activities like rafting and hiking, we put students in situations where they can bond and face obstacles together, so they’re better prepared for the challenges ahead.

In the first year of Ready to Rise, we had just 30 students and grew to 60 the following year. Our goal this year is to engage 90 Tacoma area students who will be attending one of our partner colleges. We’ve added cohorts in Yakima, Clark County and WSU-Vancouver to our  partner schools which include UWT, TCC, and Western, and Central Washington Universities. As we partner with our colleges and universities we learn from them, and we help them understand what students need. We have found that students have the greatest success with the colleges that lean in and actually partner with us on programs that build college identity.


Lori Parrish is the Tacoma Site Director of Ready to Rise, a program hosted by Degrees of Change.