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Land  & Labor Acknowledgement

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.


We also pause to recognize and acknowledge the labor upon which our country, state, and institutions are built.

We remember that our country is built on the labor of enslaved people who were kidnapped and brought to the U.S. from the African continent and recognize the continued contribution of their survivors. We also acknowledge all immigrant labor, including voluntary, involuntary, trafficked, forced, and undocumented peoples who contributed to the building of the country and continue to serve within our labor force. We acknowledge all unpaid care-giving labor.


To the people who contributed this immeasurable work and their descendants, we acknowledge our/their indelible mark on the spaces in which we operate today. It is our collective responsibility to critically interrogate these histories, to repair harm, and to honor, protect, and sustain this land.

Rev. Al and Mary

It is with a heavy heart that I report that our remaining founder, Dr. Alfred C. Davis,  Sr., has passed away. Rev. Davis, as he was known to most, was one half of the Palmer Scholars founding duo alongside our namesake Merle Palmer. While his name is not represented on our logo, Rev. Davis' impact on Palmer Scholars and the greater Tacoma and Pierce County community is one that will span generations. 

It was Rev. Davis' church, the Eastside Community Church (now known as the Eastside Assembly of Believers), that served as the host for our six inaugural Palmer Scholars, then referred to as Eastside Community Church Minority Scholarship Fund Scholars. Rev. Davis' deep connection to his Tacoma community and commitment to advancing economically disadvantaged youth of color, specifically Black youth, has been integral in securing the longevity of our organization. His legacy will continue on in our work at Palmer Scholars. In 2020, we awarded the first Alfred & Mary Davis Community Scholarship. Rev. Davis' son, Pastor Alex Davis has followed in his father's footsteps as an advocate and Board Member of Palmer Scholars, helping ensure that every decision we make at Palmer Scholars will continue to be informed by the values of our founders. 


Pastor Alex told us that his father, "has always believed part of his God-given purpose was to take care of those people who couldn’t take care of themselves, especially African American youth." I believe he fulfilled this mission to the highest degree. On behalf of the Palmer Scholars family, I share my deepest condolences to the Davis family. Please join me in keeping them in our thoughts and prayers during this undoubtedly difficult time. 


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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.


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.


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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.

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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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For nearly 40 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%!

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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


promising students of color from across Pierce County 

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In the 2019-2020 academic year we served


121 current college Scholars

60 high school Scholars

11 Pathways Scholars 


Our all-time graduation rate for all Scholars served is


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

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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."

“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

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