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Originally published Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 4:20 PM

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Rainier Scholars: supporting potential

Rainiers Scholars is a private program targeting academically promising minority and low-income students. Its success getting bright students into top high schools and colleges deserves notice from education policymakers.

A TARNISHED symbol of public education is its gross neglect of academically promising minority and low-income students.

Structured interventions aid struggling students. Talented and gifted programs bolster the highest performers. Left out have been students with lots of promise but little else. They tend to be poor or minority students.

Addressing this embarrassment is the Rainier Scholars program, which launched itself seven years ago as an organizational talent scout for students who can thrive at Seattle's top high schools and the nation's best colleges.

Rainier Scholars does what every school ought to do. It identifies students with strong potential and provides constant and consistent support from the end of fifth grade through college. Students spend much of their summers studying chemistry, math, English and history. Nightly homework is mandatory.

A round of congratulations along with the city's admiration goes to the 40 students who started in the program's inaugural class and who graduated this month. They include 22 students from University Prep, six from Lakeside School and the valedictorian of O'Dea High.

One success builds upon another. The students now head off to some of the nation's top colleges, including Dartmouth, Smith and the University of Chicago.

Every child deserves this kind of opportunity. Every student deserves the chance to find out what he or she is made of. If the Rainier Scholars are any indication, they're likely made of the right stuff.

Our educational leaders must find ways to build upon the success of the Rainier Scholars. One program cannot help all of the students who need it. We know that poor and minority children are more likely to attend schools with fewer resources and less-experienced teachers. Yet, the lesson of the Rainier Scholars effort is never to underestimate the future potential of any student.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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