In 2018, Palmer Scholars piloted the Palmer Cares program, a two-pronged effort to ensure our Scholars feel supported in their postsecondary journey regardless of how far away from Pierce County they may move. While many Scholars are studying from home this semester as a result of COVID-19, we still found ways to get them started on the right foot.
When the program began, Palmer Cares was intended to fill the need many rising postsecondary freshmen experienced as they headed off for school. For many Scholars, their first day on campus was riddled with feelings of otherness and isolation as they unpacked their hand-me-down bedding while their peers unloaded carts full of brand new, brand name dorm accessories. “It was my first day on campus and I already felt like I didn’t belong,” 2014 high school graduate Jesse said in a speech he gave at our graduation celebration in 2018. That year, Palmer Cares care packages were filled with bed sets, linens, a pillow, school supplies, and other dorm room necessities.
After settling into their first term at their new school, we surveyed our Class of 2018 about their Palmer Cares package. While there was a resounding appreciation for the package, some Scholars noted that though the bedding we chose was nice, it didn’t really reflect their style. We recognized then that a big part of the move-in experience is actually going to buy your dorm accessories. The next year, we provided basic school supplies as well as a $150 gift card for Scholars to go with their mentors and/or guardians to make their own purchases. We were happy to see that this small change in programming gave our Scholars a bigger sense of autonomy in the early days of their newfound adulthood.
The class of 2020 has a first-year experience like no other. With most all of our Scholars studying from their homes in Pierce County, our Palmer Cares packages are responsive to the needs that have arisen. In addition to a backpack and basic school supplies, we also provided each rising freshman with a laptop to help them keep up with their online classes.
Beginning the postsecondary journey is scary for many first-generation students. Through our Palmer Cares program, we are ensuring our Scholars are equipped with the support and tools to thrive.