White Collar and Blue Collar and New Collar, oh my!
As a community organization, we constantly seek feedback from our Scholars, their families, and the greater community who has served us for nearly 40 years. During many internal discussions regarding the prospect of expanding our services for our new Palmer Pathways Initiative, we asked ourselves first – “but is this what Merle would have wanted?”
With overwhelming support from our longstanding partners, we know we can stand proudly as stewards of Merle’s life mission and say yes, Palmer Pathways is exactly within Merle’s dreams for Pierce County’s youth. Merle was ahead of his time in many ways. He didn’t believe in prescribing an avenue for success, only guiding the young people he met to overcome the obstacles on the way to achieving their dreams of higher education. As we look through our alumni records, quite a few didn’t take the 4-year route that many today think of as the only option. Our Scholars have studied to be firefighters and paramedics through Clover Park Technical College or have gone on to become dental assistants through Bates Technical College. Merle was certainly not blind to the reality many students face as they head off to a postsecondary institution. He was often known for shepherding students away from the dream school on the East Coast with a price tag to match. With the wisdom of a grandfather—as our Scholars often called him—Merle called for students to consider Pierce College for nursing instead of jumping into a 4-year degree because he knew the impact he and his friends could make on the lives of our Scholars could go much farther at Pierce than at an out-of-state school. When your dream worked, Merle was the biggest cheerleader. When it didn’t, he was your own personal life advisor.
With the wisdom of a grandfather—as our Scholars often called him—Merle called for students to consider Pierce College for nursing instead of jumping into a 4-year degree because he knew the impact he and his friends could make on the lives of our Scholars could go much farther at Pierce than at an out-of-state school.
As new pathways for Scholars open up, such as the white-collar apprenticeships the New York Times referred to in their article, we are reminded of Merle’s steadfast practicality. As more and more big companies such as Amazon and CVS welcome this “new collar” apprenticeship approach, we are excited to provide our Scholars with all the career-connected learning opportunities available to them. Together, we will make sure they find their way to a career that harnesses their greatest strengths!