Aileen’s story: a journey to confidence and self-advocacy at Rainier Prep

Nov 19, 2020 | Blog, Stories

Aileen, an 8th grader at Rainier Prep, a charter public middle school

Talking over a Zoom call, the new normal for students in the age of COVID-19, Aileen shared her journey from a traditional public school to Rainier Prep, a charter public school in Highline, Seattle. Now in 8th grade, Aileen started attending Rainier Prep in the 5th grade, following in the footsteps of her sister and two cousins. 

While the transition initially made Aileen apprehensive, what she found at Rainier Prep was a learning environment tailored to meet her needs. She found a school that allowed her to be herself while offering the support and guidance she needed to grow academically. 

One size does not fit all 

At her old school, Aileen felt ignored. Her teacher was not always available. If she got in trouble in class, she was sent away, out of class and not able to learn. When she had questions for teachers about difficult subjects, they did not always know the answers. Aileen felt like she was learning with them rather than being taught.

All this changed at Rainier Prep, but it didn’t happen overnight. 

When Aileen decided to attend Rainier Prep, she did not know what to expect. She thought it would be similar to her former experience at her old school. She thought she would be bored and not challenged by her teachers.

When Aileen started in 5th grade, she described herself as “stubborn.” She expected more of the same, but what she found was a dedicated staff that wanted to make the school work for her rather than make her fit into the school. She worked closely with a counselor and teachers who had a different way of communicating with her.

“Ms. Larson and Ms. Fernandez are two teachers who helped me,” Aileen said. “They put themselves in my shoes and worked with me to create a system of taking breaks when I felt overwhelmed. By being there, by always making time for me, I felt supported.”

Aileen soon realized her teachers were her advocates. They focused on helping her grow. They wanted to see her succeed. That shift helped empower Aileen to gain the tools to focus on her academic success. 

At Rainier Prep, students like Aileen are given customized tools, a flexible learning environment and individual attention they need to grow and succeed. By empowering Aileen to take breaks when needed and having teachers always available, Aileen has the space and support to learn at her own pace.  

Building Confidence 

At Rainier Prep, Aileen is celebrated and accepted for who she is by a group of teachers and staff members who have helped her have more confidence in herself. “Rainier Prep has made me a people person,” shares Aileen.

With the help and support of her teachers, Aileen discovered the freedom to express herself, stay true to who she is and transform her energy into something positive. Aileen channels that energy into her academic success. 

Rainier Prep has a strong focus on acknowledging students for their hard work. Every Friday, one student from each grade is named “Guide of the Week.” At the end of the year, students are awarded the “most valuable person” in their advisory (small group meetings). Aileen shares with pride that she has been a recipient of both awards.

“These awards helped me become the person I am today,” Aileen said. “If I can accomplish getting this, I can accomplish even more.”

Becoming her most powerful advocate 

Throughout her time at Rainier Prep, Aileen grew into an empowered young person in control of her future. She learned to become her own biggest advocate. In doing so, Aileen shows all the possibilities available to any student attending Rainier Prep.

“Before Rainier Prep I was in the same shoes as many students, I wasn’t interested in school and I was scared of new things,” Aileen said. “You will always have someone by your side so you don’t have to be afraid of new opportunities and feel supported speaking up for yourself. At Rainier Prep, we go big or go home and we definitely don’t go home.”

How you can help

  • To support students like Aileen, consider a gift to Rainier Prep.
  • To learn more About Rainier Prep, click here.