We’ve recently wrapped up another exciting adventure at the Foundation for Tacoma Students: our annual Policy Learning Tour! This event brought together policymakers, elected officials, state agency leaders, and all of us passionate about reshaping education and workforce pathways. This isn’t your typical adult field trip – it is instead a deep dive into the world of change-making happening right in our backyard. As the new school year approaches, we reflect evermore diligently on the future of our students, making this unique experience all the more erudite when it comes to pushing for a creative and lasting impact for all learners on the path to financial self-sufficiency.
Exploring The Learning Tour
We visited three incredible sites, each rethinking how students move from “learning to earning” in ways that foster creative problem solving and pragmatic solutions.
Tacoma Community College: Connecting Equity, Diversity, And Inclusion
Our first stop was Tacoma Community College (TCC), where we saw data-backed approaches to providing an equitable curriculum while cultivating strategic career tracks in need. Sporting an impressive food pantry providing meals, blankets, pillows and coats for toddlers during the colder seasons of the year. TCC is deeply engaged with creating a holistic ecosystem that not only supports their students’ academic progress, but provides access to special aid for family members and students experiencing unique circumstances altogether. With a focus on strengthening community partnerships, TCC is teaming up with local service providers such as the College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) and Workforce Central to make life better for students dealing with work, school, and all of life’s curveballs. Initiatives like the Titan food pantry and the student Welcome Center are real-deal solutions to real-life struggles. The college also provides 100% student admissions. Go Titans!
Palmer Pathways Pre-Apprenticeship Program: Learning That Packs a Punch
Next up, off to the Palmer Pathways Pre-Apprenticeship Program – where students receive a hands-on, industry-approved Career & Technical Education (CTE). Many students across different trades learn to build tiny homes that eventually end up being put to good use in the community and in turn give students the experience needed to scale for much larger projects relative to their pathway. The program is not just about earning passing letter grades on written exams, but it’s about ensuring students can walk out with real-world experience where each graduate has a game plan for their future.
Summit Olympus Charter School: Teaching Students To Be Their Own Teachers
Our last stop concluded with the Summit Olympus Charter School, where students are empowered to become self-directed learners. The school focuses on instilling students with healthy habits for setting up their own goals and building a mindset prepared for postsecondary education. In the classroom, teachers serve in more well-rounded roles, acting as personalized mentors or coaches who encourage their students to meet or exceed their goals. The school also values early internship opportunities to show students what a job is like and a clear roadmap for plans for their students’ post-graduation voyage.
Some Assembly Required: A Call To Action
While the stops we made on our Policy Learning Tour were undoubtedly impressive, there is a more significant takeaway. Our mission was not simply to explore education through a residual post-pandemic looking glass but to discover connections that further equalize postsecondary opportunities between a student’s journey through high school, college, and the workforce. Currently, our academic system is akin to a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces, and it is our responsibility to implement policies that fill those gaps to address systemic disparities.
How do we proceed from here? We have witnessed the potential for change, and it is now our duty to take action. The Policy Learning Tour is not a one-time occurrence but the starting point for something much greater. Taking the time to check in is a priority. It is a call to action, urging us to collaborate in improving the link between education and career readiness. By uniting, advocating for change, and raising our voices, we can ensure that every student’s journey from learning to earning is as smooth as possible.
Join us on October 25th as we prepare for the 2023 State of Public Education, where we will discuss crucial investments that address the challenges our current education system faces and what we can do to fund the future for all our students.