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BSD looking for families to host student-teachers

t Effort part of program aimed to improve district’s diversity.

As part of its ongoing effort to bring teachers of color to Bremerton classrooms, the Bremerton School District has joined the Reach Out Program in partnership with the Thurston Group of Washington State (TGWS) — a non-profit organization dedicated, among others, to enriching the educational experience of students of color in the Pacific Northwest.

“The Thurston group is about opportunities, options and education,” said founder and executive director Larry Jenkins.

The Reach Out Program, established by Jenkins in 2001, strives to provide students of color the vehicles necessary to go to college, earn a degree in education and come back to the Pacific Northwest to student-teach as part of a master’s program.

In partnership with select colleges and universities around Washington state, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) around the country, TGWS offers scholarships to students interested in earning master’s degrees, primarily in Education.

“We have a large database of financial supporters,” Jenkins said of how the group pays the way for students.

Jenkins cited the small number of college graduates, especially students of color, returning to the Pacific Northwest as the Reach Out Program’s driving force.

“The majority after graduation haven’t come back,” he said. “We started the program to bring local students back and in the meanwhile, bring other students here,” Jenkins said of the program, evolving from the Thurston County School District to the BSD to other school districts around the state.

“The Bremerton School District has showed great interest in the program,” Jenkins said. “Bremerton has been one of the dedicated districts we have really, really been working with.”

The Reach Out Program calls for students to complete their student-teaching certificate — students become certified to teach by earning the certificate — in one of the partnered school districts, and that’s where the BSD comes in.

“The challenge we’re facing is getting teachers of color in the district,” said BSD director of personnel Denise Zaske, emphasizing the district’s desire to maintain a level of diversity in the classroom.

The district joined the Thurston Group, hoping to attract teachers of color to the area and consequently give Bremerton school’s a diverse teaching representation.

“What we need to do locally is get people here,” Zaske explained of teachers of color. “We just don’t have the applicant pool in the area.”

To maintain the scholarship aspect of the program, making it affordable for the student, the district and Thurston Group is looking for host families who can provide transportation, food and shelter for students during their apprenticeship in the BSD.

Zaske said host families would house the student-teacher from August through November, with the student going home for the holidays in December, and again from January through March.

“We’re hoping the community joins us,” Zaske said of finding host families. “It’s a wonderful, genuine thing to do.”

Zaske compared hosting a student-teacher to taking on another child — temporarily, that is.

The response from student-teachers who have completed the program has been supportive.

“The plus about the Reach Out Program is that it introduces students of color to an area where we are greatly needed for diversity in the teaching community,” explained Kimberly Nowells, who returned home through the program, earning her teaching certificate through an internship at Chinook Middle School in Lacey.

Nowells, a high school graduate of Timberline High School in Lacey and college graduate of HBCU Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fl., was able to return home because of the Reach Out Program.

“As you are always told when you are younger, home is where the heart is,” she said.

Families interested in hosting a student-teacher are encouraged to e-mail the BSD at hostfamily@bsd.wednet.edu.

Additional information about the Thurston Group and the Reach Out Program can be found online at: http://www.thurstongroup.org/.

“It was an honor to be asked to join this group,” Zaske said of TGWS, an invite-only organization. “This is because of our commitment to diversity.”

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