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Palmer Scholars acknowledges that our work is carried out on, and our office space is located within, occupied Coast Salish land, specifically that of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. We pay respect to Coast Salish Elders past and present, and extend that respect to their descendants and to all Indigenous peoples. To acknowledge this land is to recognize its longer history and our place in that history; it is to recognize these lands and waters and their significance for the peoples who lived and continue to live in this region, whose practices and spiritualties were and are tied to the land and the water, and whose lives continue to enrich and develop in relationship to the land, waters and other inhabitants today.

Our founders Merle Palmer and Rev. Al Davis created Palmer Scholars to address the societal inequities that prevent otherwise highly capable young adults of color from achieving their dreams and ending generational cycles of poverty.

Palmer Scholars serves underrepresented Pierce County young adults of color between the ages of 16 and 26. Coming from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, our Scholars often lack access to the information and opportunities needed to progress towards their educational and career goals. 

Our mission is to support underrepresented Pierce County students of color to overcome financial, cultural, and social barriers in their pursuit of higher education.

At Palmer Scholars, we do not believe a 4-year degree is the only avenue to a successful life. We expose our Scholars to all educational and career pathways and give them the tools to choose the postsecondary program that best fits their strengths, whether that is a 2-year, 4-year, or apprenticeship program. We have two-entry points for Scholars receiving our services:

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Palmer Pathways

Serving young adults between 18 and 26, who are neither enrolled in a postsecondary program nor gainfully employed and have an interest in pursuing a career in the trades.

Legacy Program

Serving young adults from the time they are juniors in high school through postsecondary program completion. Scholars may choose to attend any postsecondary program, whether that be 2-year, 4-year, technical college or apprenticeship.

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Our Scholars participate in over 100 hours of training on topics including career exploration, financial aid, self-advocacy, budgeting, and navigating higher education as a student of color. We help our Scholars choose the best next step for them, whether that be 2-year, 4-year, technical college or apprenticeship.

Train

Mentor

We carefully and intentionally match our Scholars with a trained adult mentor who is a leader in our community. Mentors guide Scholars from the time they apply for their postsecondary institution through postsecondary

program completion.

Support

Renewable scholarships, freshmen-year send-off packages including a laptop and dorm essentials, and in-person campus visits are just some of the ways we support our Scholars as they progress through their postsecondary program.

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Celebrate

Over the last 38 years, we have served over 600 talented young adults of color from across Pierce County. While nationally, low-income first-generation college students graduate at just 11%, our all-time graduation rate is 85%!

At Palmer Scholars, we recognize our Scholars cannot succeed in the classroom or in the workplace if they do not have their basic needs met at home. Our “Whole Scholar” model is a holistic approach that provides opportunities for our committed staff, board, and community volunteers to support Scholars in most all areas of life, beyond what is generally encapsulated in college access or workforce development programs. Our timeline of services below show the depth and breadth of the support we provide our Scholars. 

Since 1983,

we have served over

600

promising students of color from across Pierce County 

In the 2019-2020 academic year we served

192

121 current college Scholars

60 high school Scholars

11 Pathways Scholars 

Our all-time graduation rate for all Scholars served is

85%

Nationally, according to the Pell Institute, this rate is just 11% for low-income first-generation students

Scholar Spotlight

David C. (Clover Park '21, Stanford '25)

David is a recent graduate of Clover Park High School. With dreams of becoming a surgeon, David will be attending Stanford University in the Fall. David is committed to serving his community. He said, "I want to be a role model to others by elucidating the notion that despite coming from a low-income family you can prosper in life. I plan to mentor and support the next wave of leaders in my community with my testimony."

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“Unlike other organizations, Palmer Scholars goes beyond Scholarships. They bring kids up, give them skills before college, and follow up until they graduate. In my time as a Palmer Scholar, I felt like they truly were invested in my success.”

Shawn, Lincoln HS '15, University of Washington '19