If Amari Troutt could impart one piece of wisdom to younger scholars at PRIDE Schools, it would be to take advantage of all the opportunities afforded to them.
Amari is graduating this spring from Innovation High School, part of the PRIDE charter public schools in Spokane. She started her journey in the charter public schools in eighth grade, after she enrolled herself in PRIDE Prep unbeknownst to her family. When Amari told her family, she thought to herself, “Amari, what did I just do?”
Fortunately, after a school tour, Amari’s mother approved. She appreciated the atmosphere – it was open, self-guided and independent – a fitting learning environment for Amari given her curiosity and personal initiative. She also saw the amazing opportunities for Amari to participate which were not always available in her previous schools.
At first, Amari found it hard to adjust to the new learning environment. PRIDE’s project-based learning offered more freedom in her education than she was used to in traditional school settings. The self-guided process made it easy for Amari to move quickly through her required work, but after she passed a test, she had to find ways to apply that learning.
“I wasn’t used to not having a full lecture, textbook and tests, so there was an adjustment,” said Amari. “I realized that my education is what I make it. Then I really bought into the school’s program and started participating because there was so much I wanted to learn and do.”
Amari was at the forefront of how PRIDE developed its academics, extracurriculars and social opportunities. In her four years with the school, she saw how systems became more stable and solidified. She also took on leadership roles in the school and helped her classmates find their success at PRIDE too.
“I was able to help build a culture and environment that is welcoming to all people, and that’s transformed my life a lot,” said Amari.
The mentorship Amari experienced along the way really inspired her to pursue Leadership with PRIDE, taking on roles such as the Student Body Secretary and School Ambassador.
“I stayed in leadership and took on more responsibilities because my mentors believed in me,” said Amari. “The confidence my mentor had in me gave me confidence in myself.”
Making Connections That Count
Amari places high value on connections and community through friends and family. In fact, she joined PRIDE initially because she had friends attending the school, and with whom she enjoyed her school journey.
This was especially important when the pandemic hit. While many young people across the country were deeply affected by the isolation created by COVID-19, Amari found that the tight-knit social circles she had established at PRIDE were able to connect safely. Zoom and outdoor distanced activities meant that Amari and her peers could continue extracurricular activities and socializing, just differently.
Now, when she thinks about her future, her friends are all in the picture, even if that looks different from Amari’s initial expectations. Something she gained from these connections and the challenges of navigating expectations versus reality, was a more open mind.
“PRIDE helped build that open mindedness that helped me see how success comes in different ways,” said Amari. “We can all be successful together and success comes in different forms.”
Asking for Help
“You can always reach out for help. There will always be people around you who are willing to help,” said Amari. “At PRIDE they help with character development – always pushing you to be a better version of yourself.”
Not only did Amari find that people were ready and willing to help within the school walls – they would do so in the real world, too.
An accomplished basketball player, Amari’s professional dream is to go into sports management or physical therapy with the NBA. To explore this aspiration, she tapped her personal network. A member of her church happened to just start a basketball team within the Pro-Basketball Association – the Lilac City Legends.
“I reached out to him and told him what my goals were. I wanted to learn how the industry worked and how I could fit into it,” Amari recalls. “He gave me his card, and it took a while for me to get back to him because I was nervous. What could I do? I’m just a high school senior.”
Her fears were quickly dispelled after speaking with her new contact. He told her this was his first time starting a sports team, so they could learn together. Amari now supports the Lilac City Legends’ office operations. She is learning how to navigate different working styles and personalities while getting a first-hand look at sports management.
“This is a learning experience that I’m really appreciative for,” she said.
The Future is Bright
A quick study, self-starter and not afraid to ask for help, it’s no surprise that Amari was accepted to every college in which she applied. Amari had dreamed of attending an HBCU in the south or southeast. However, financial aid offers varied. She chose to work with the Act Six Scholarship program which offered her a full ride scholarship to Gonzaga University.
While Gonzaga is predominantly white – not the HBCU she envisioned – Amari is going in with an open mind. She is flexing those skills she gained from her time at PRIDE and feels confident in her journey.
This was aided in part by the Act Six scholarship program, which guides scholars through the process together. So now, while she prepares to say ‘until later’ to her PRIDE family, she is excited to have already made connections with a new group of scholars from across Washington who will all be attending Gonzaga together this fall.
She is looking forward to staying connected with her PRIDE community and already has plans to visit a friend going to school in Tennessee. And she’s not stopping with domestic travel. Amari also wants to study abroad in Europe or South America and is preparing for international opportunities by continuing her Spanish language learning.
Looking back on her high school career, Amari is grateful for the opportunities she had to try new things and find her passions. She also reflects on the challenges she overcame – becoming an independent learner, opening her mind and building a more accepting worldview, studying and maintaining connections through COVID – these things and more have empowered Amari to continue seizing opportunities in her future.
“These last four years have been a lot of adversity, but that has made me stronger. I’m proud that I got to go through the journey that I did and accomplish the things I wanted,” said Amari. “I’ve learned that you can’t take anything for granted.”