Our Staff

Education as a means toward opportunity


The Palmer Scholars Foundation was founded in 1983 by R. Merle Palmer, a man with an extraordinary vision for the youth of Pierce County. Merle Palmer was committed to seeing that all students were able to attend and graduate from college regardless of their race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. He started the Palmer Scholars Foundation with this goal in mind. Palmer Scholars has provided scholarship and caring mentors to over 400 students and we are proud to welcome our 33rd cohort of Scholars.

Jonathan Jackson

Executive Director

Jonathan is a Pierce County native, born and raised in Lakewood, WA. His professional experience has revolved largely around providing youth with access to resources they need in order to be successful in both their personal and academic/professional lives. An alumnus of the Act Six Leadership & Scholarship Initiative, Jonathan is a firm believer that an education is the primary means through which we can achieve upward social mobility, thereby increasing our capacity to bring about positive change in our communities. Most recently, Jonathan served as the Executive Director for the Fair Housing Center of Washington, a non profit civil rights agency serving western and central Washington in a 23-county area. Prior to this, he served as the Director of Development for the Foundation for Tacoma Students, a community-wide coalition of more than 250 community partners working to improve educational outcomes with a focus on closing equity gaps. He also served at the State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, where he administered a portfolio of state and federal grants, oversaw data quality, and worked with Washington’s 295 school districts to increase program quality and compliance. He has held various positions with local non-profit organizations including the Northwest Leadership Foundation, the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, and Communities in Schools, and also served as the Program Director for Palmer Scholars during our transition to identifying Scholars as juniors in highschool. Jonathan continues to be involved in his community through his role as a Board Member for the Northwest Furniture Bank, member of Pacific Lutheran University’s Alumni Board, volunteer application reader for the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, and member of the Tacoma North Rotary Club.

Mary Clements

Program Director

Mary graduated from the University of Puget Sound double majoring in Business and History.  She earned her Master’s in Higher Education from Stony Brook University.  Mary is originally from southern California but has lived in Tacoma since 2006.   As a first-generation college student, she has become very passionate with aiding underrepresented youth navigate through higher learning beyond high school.  Mary is an avid sports and outdoors fan and also enjoying days spent inside reading and quilting.

Tiffany Williams

Mentor Program Director

Tiffany has 10 years of experience working in the field of education and serving as a mentor to high school and college aged students. She holds an M.A. in Teaching from Concordia University as well as anM.A. in Contemporary Hispanic Studies from Oregon State University.  Her background is both in teaching highschool and college-level Spanish.  She came to Palmer Scholars after serving at Franklin Pierce High School in their Upward Bound program, spending two years working with aspiring first-generation college students.  In her free time you will generally find her reading, watching Netflix or texting college kids.

Kayla Kuboyama

Development Coordinator

Kayla graduated from The Evergreen State College with a Bachelor's in Political Science and Native Studies, and a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in Tribal Governance. She is originally from Hawai'i, but cannot surf. She was very lucky to have attended a high school that offered a lot of support for students entering college and she wants to support Palmer's work in filling those same needs for students here in Pierce County. When she is not writing grants to keep the lights on at Palmer Scholars, you can find her at a Special Olympics practice or binge watching trashy television.

Linh Dao

Finance Coordinator

Linh is originally from Vietnam, with a middle school teaching background, and when she came to the United States, she started a new career here by going back to college and completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting in 2016.  She came to Palmer Scholars with four years’ experience working as an accountant or bookkeeper and is excited to be a part of the Palmer Scholars team!