Spearheaded by Degrees of Change, Ready to Rise Tacoma helps diverse emerging leaders thrive and grow together on the journey through college while equipping them for leadership in their community. For the 2019-20 academic year, Ready to Rise will select over 80 high school seniors from Tacoma planning to enroll at one of four participating colleges:




In the meantime, be sure to fill out your FAFSA or WASFA form! Go to FAFSA or WASFA for more information!



A Cohort Model for College Success and Community Leadership
Find supportive peers who have your back—whether you’re figuring out your way around campus, researching internship options, or learning to network in your hometown. Ready to Rise uses a strategy of multiple cohorts through each year of school, including the summers, to keep you growing and motivated every step of the way.

Stronger Communities with Educated, Passionate Leaders who are Ready to Rise
Bound together by shared values and training, Ready to Rise scholars learn to encourage and challenge each other while they receive ongoing support from each other, older student mentors, their colleges and Ready to Rise staff.  After their time together as Community Cohorts, Campus Cohorts and Career Cohorts, alumni graduate from college connected to each other in multiple ways and ready to lead in the community.  Together, they will weave a fabric of leadership that will shape the future of our cities and communities.


  • Eligible to earn up to $500 for attending summer events before your first year of college
  • Powerful training in leadership, time management, financial literacy and other helpful topics
  • Organized activities throughout the year that help you establish a community of friends who share your vision and have your back
  • A supportive mentor in your first year and the chance to return the favor in your second
  • Internship and career supports as you prepare for life and leadership after college
  • Networking opportunities with leaders and professionals in your home community


The first Ready to Rise cohort begins at home. Why go to college alone when you can go together with a group of peers from your community who share your vision and are committed to supporting one another?


The process of identifying participants begins as Ready to Rise staff work with school and community leaders to recruit high school seniors throughout the school year. Students apply for the program through an online application. Participants are then selected and trained throughout the summer, before heading together to college in the fall.

Timeline Details

Ready to Rise participants are selected and trained through a two-stage process throughout the spring and summer where they gain valuable skills for college success while demonstrating and growing their leadership potential and commitment to their community.

Application Deadline

Students interested in Ready to Rise begin by completing a basic online application. (Note that the priority deadline for applications was May 1, 2018. All finalists have been notified of their selection.) Applicants also need to complete the FAFSA (or WASFA) and apply to one or more Ready to Rise participating colleges.

Scholar Selection

Ready to Rise staff select Ready to Rise scholars from among those that have committed to attending one of the Ready to Rise participating colleges.  Finalists will be invited to participate in Ready to Rise on or before June 6th.

Summer Training (with Cash Stipend)

Beginning with a weekend retreat at the end of June, Ready to Rise participants meet with their community cohorts twice each month through September, including a summer expedition where they first meet their campus mentors. Over the course of these seven gatherings, participants can earn up to a $500 cash stipend. At the conclusion of training, participants head to college with a family-like community, ready to support and challenge each other on campus and beyond.


Who Should Apply

For Spring 2019, the program will select over 80 emerging leaders from Tacoma who plan to start at TCC, UWT, CWU or WWU for the 2019–20 school year. Ready to Rise is looking for students who are:

  • Motivated to learn and grow
  • Eager to foster intercultural relationships
  • Willing to step out of their comfort zones
  • Committed to serving those around them
  • Ready to make a difference

The selection process also places high value on applicants’:

  • teamwork
  • critical thinking
  • communication skills
  • academic potential

Applicants must be high school seniors planning to graduate in 2019 OR graduated in 2018 and are not currently enrolled in college.

Ready to Rise applicants must plan to apply and be accepted to one or more of the participating colleges listed above. While Ready to Rise particularly seeks low-income students and those who will be the first in their family to attend college, there are no income restrictions. Students from all ethnic backgrounds and with any citizenship or immigration status are also encouraged to apply.

Selection Criteria

In 2019-20, over 80 students from the Tacoma area will be selected as Ready to Rise scholars.

Because Ready to Rise is supporting Tacoma area students exclusively at TCC, UWT, WWU and CWU, the ability to successfully apply and enroll in one of those four schools is required for selection. In addition, we will be looking for students who demonstrate a love for their home community and an interest in growing their leadership skills in service of that community. Selection is based on these criteria:

  • To what extent will the student contribute to the ethnic, economic, and experiential diversity of a Ready to Rise cohort?
  • To what extent will the selected college be a good fit for this student?
  • To what extent will the student be a service-minded leader on the college campus and in the community?
  • To what extent does the student see a sense of purpose in his/her participation in Ready to Rise?
  • To what extent will the student be able and willing to persevere through hardship? How resilient is s/he to the challenges and struggles that life brings?


Summer Training

Beginning with a weekend retreat in June, Ready to Rise participants meet with their community cohorts twice each month through September, including a summer expedition where they first meet their campus mentors. Over the course of the summer, scholars can earn up to a $500 cash stipend as they:

  • establish supportive friendships and grow as a team
  • hone study and time-management strategies
  • learn about money management and ways to make, save and spend money wisely during college
  • deepen their understanding of culture and communication
  • explore personal development as a leader

At the conclusion of training, participants head to college with a family-like community, ready to support and challenge each other on campus and beyond.



After training with their community cohort, Ready to Rise scholars regroup at college to form campus cohorts, where they are matched with second year student mentors, and head into the school year with built-in support from other RTR students who share a sense of purpose as service-minded leaders.

Monthly get-togethers for social activities and/or trainings keep the campus cohorts connected to each other, help everyone grow as leaders, and offer an extra layer of support to ensure that students know about all of the resources their college has to offer.

Blending practical college success skills, leadership training, self-discovery and cohort team-building, the Ready to Rise training program revolves around seven themes:

Ready to Rise Program Themes

  • Identifying and aligning with our core values
  • Understanding the vision of the Ready to Rise program
  • Exploration of various leadership styles
  • Exploration and development of personal leadership strengths
  • Practical tools for leadership
  • Motivations for and perspectives on service
  • Frameworks for understanding service and community development
  • Connecting individual gifts and passions with community needs
  • Exploring differing cultural lenses and their effect on intercultural relationships
  • Understanding and communicating across differences
  • Exploring race dynamics in America and on the college campus
  • Trust-building and nurturing of authentic relationships
  • Acknowledging and supporting individual strengths and weaknesses
  • Exploration of community and campus assets and needs
  • Time and money management
  • Addressing the personal and social challenges of campus life
  • Becoming familiar with on-campus resources and how to use them
  • Dynamics of personal and organizational change



Starting in their second year, students participate in workshops about career pathways and receive coaching from a Ready to Rise Career Pathways Coordinator to help them develop solid post-college plans.

Career Cohorts are created based on similar career interests, and meet periodically to discuss their potential professions and share job shadowing, mentoring and internship ideas. Participants earn badges through a custom RTR app that helps them check off the classes and experiences (resume development, informational interviews, etc.) that will help them find and thrive in a job they love.


It’s easy to start your free online application, and important that you begin the process early to make sure your application is completed by the deadline. You can check your eligibility and then stop and return to the application whenever you wish.

Confirm Your Eligibility and Start Your App Today

Are you eligible to apply?
  1. Do you love your community and want to use your college education to make a difference as a leader on campus and at home?
  2. Will you graduate from high school in 2019 OR graduated in 2018 and are not currently enrolled in college?
  3. Do you live in the Tacoma area and, if selected, could you arrange your own transportation to regular evening trainings in downtown Tacoma?
  4. Do you plan to attend TCC, UW-Tacoma, WWU or CWU?

What You’ll Need and How it Works

Start your online Ready to Rise application by creating a username and password.

The application form has 10 sections:

  1. Contact Information. Your email, phone, address, and high school.
  2. Demographic Information. Some basics about you and your background.
  3. College Preferences. Where you plan to apply and what you want to study.
  4. Family Information. A little about your parents and siblings.
  5. Activities and Employment. Extracurricular activities and jobs you’ve held.
  6. Additional Information. Prior conduct and how you heard about RTR.
  7. Response to Essay Question. Tell us about yourself through a method of your choice (essay, video, other).
  8. Financial Aid Summary. FAFSA or WASFA summary information and scholarships.
  9. Transcript and Test Scores. High school transcript (required) and college entrance exam scores, if you have them.
  10. Photo and Agreements. A headshot photo and all the final legal stuff.

You can complete the first six sections in about 20 minutes.

The information you enter will be saved after you finish each section. You can leave and return to the application at any time using your username and password.

The priority deadline for applications is May 1, 2019. Applications received after May 1 will be considered as space allows.

Essay Question

The personal essay is perhaps the most important part of your Ready to Rise application.

To allow applicants some freedom to express themselves in a nontraditional way, you have the option to answer the Essay Questions in one of three ways: traditional essay, video, or an alternative creative medium + short explanation.

For whichever method you choose you should allow time to carefully consider, thoughtfully compose and thoroughly edit your response.

Essay Prompts
Ready to Rise seeks to identify resilient and service-minded leaders who want to make their college campuses and their home communities better. Please give brief-but-thoughtful responses to all three of these prompts.

  1. Tell us about one way in which are you consider yourself resilient. That is, what have you overcome?
  2. Tell us about one way in which you are service-minded. What’s an example of how you like to help others?
  3. We believe everyone can exercise leadership skills, under the right conditions. Tell us about one way you show up as a leader.

Please be aware that if you disclose information regarding child abuse, neglect or other harm to minors, reviewers may be required to report this information to the appropriate authorities.

Traditional Essay
It is critical that you compose your essay in a separate word processor so you can use spell check and edit carefully. When you have a final product, copy and paste your essay into the online form.

Use plain text only, as no formatting or special characters will be preserved. Insert a blank line between each paragraph. Your response must be no longer than 500 words. This is typically about one page, double-spaced. Use the word count feature of your word processor to check the length, then confirm that the complete essay is pasted into the form.

Record and upload a video of yourself responding to the three-part essay question.  This can be you talking to the camera, performing spoken word or a song, or another format of your choosing.  The video should be approximately 90 seconds in length.

Other Medium + written explanation

Upload a JPEG file of a drawing, photo or another medium that speaks to each/all part(s) of the essay question.  In addition, a brief (up to 100-word) paragraph explaining how the drawing/photo answers the essay questions for you.

FAFSA, WASFA and Financial Aid Summary

We collect basic information regarding your financial situation as one factor in considering your application. In order to provide this information, eligible students must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Students who are not eligible to complete the FAFSA due to their immigration status may be eligible to complete the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA) instead.
The following steps are required to complete the FAFSA and the Ready to Rise financial aid summary:
  1.  In order to complete the FAFSA, both you and a parent you live with need to create a FSA ID, which will allow you both to access and sign your FAFSA. Visit to create a FSA ID.
  2. Start your FAFSA at Visit the FAFSA Help Page for an overview of the process and answers to many common questions. If you have further questions, ask a counselor at your school for assistance. Please ensure that you indicated on your FAFSA to have results sent to every college that you selected on your Ready to Rise application.
  3. Once you and your parent complete and sign the FAFSA with your FSA IDs, you will receive a FAFSA Student Aid Report that summarizes the information you provided and shows your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
  4. With your FAFSA Student Aid Report in hand, answer the questions below. You cannot complete this section without your Student Aid Report.
    • How many people are in your parent’s household?
    • While you are in college, how many people in your parent’s household will be college students?
    • What was your parent’s adjusted gross income (AGI)?
    • Estimated EFC (Expected Family Contribution)

The following steps are required to complete the WASFA and the Ready to Rise financial aid summary:

  1. Start your WASFA at If you have questions, ask a counselor at your school for assistance. Please ensure that you indicate on your WASFA to have results sent to every Washington college where you plan to apply.
  2. Once you and your parent complete and sign the WASFA, use the information you provided to answer the questions below.
    • How many people are in your parent’s household?
    • While you are in college, how many people in your parent’s household will be college students?
    • What was your parent’s adjusted gross income (AGI)?
    • Estimated EFC (Expected Family Contribution)
If you are not eligible to complete either the FAFSA or the WASFA, you can indicate so on the Ready to Rise financial aid summary and continue with the application.

High School Transcript

An official or unofficial copy of your most recent transcript is required as part of the application process. You can get an electronic PDF version of your transcript emailed to you, or scan a paper version. You’ll upload the transcript as part of the application form.


What if I don’t know where I want to go to school yet or have not yet been accepted?

Go ahead and apply! That way we’ll have your application no matter what. Plus, Ready to Rise sends out helpful texts to all of our applicants with tips and resources for figuring out the best college fit and/or the steps to get there.

How does the $500 stipend work?

Students who are invited into Ready to Rise and confirm their participation are eligible to earn up to a $500 stipend in the summer before college by participating in RTR workshops, trainings and activities. RTR Scholars earn a stipend of $50, $100 or $150 per event, depending on the size of the event attended. In order to receive the full $500, scholars must attend all summer activities.

Do I have to be a U.S. Citizen to apply?

No. U.S. Citizens, Dual-Citizens, and Permanent Residents are eligible to apply for Ready to Rise.  Immigrants who are eligible for the Washington REAL Hope Act may apply for Ready to Rise as well.

Is Ready to Rise only for students of color? Only for low-income students?

No. The goal of the program is to select an intentionally diverse group of students, both ethnically and economically. While the majority of students selected will likely be students of color, low income, or the first in their families to go to college, White students and students from middle-class families who have experience relating to people from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.  Selecting students from a range of backgrounds is critical to creating a cohort that will serve as a model of healthy and honest intercultural relationship that is at the heart of a thriving and equitable community.

Why do I need to provide my family’s financial information?

Because Ready to Rise strives to select an economically diverse cohort, it is important that we have an accurate estimate of applicants’ financial situation. Further, in order for us to help provide suggestions for accepting college financial aid, it is critical that the program have an accurate estimate of the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

The information provided in the Ready to Rise application process is the same information that colleges will later receive through the FAFSA or WASFA and gives both Ready to Rise and families an early and reliable estimate of their EFC. All financial information is treated confidentially.

Does RTR provide a scholarship?

While we do not provide a scholarship, participants can earn up to a $500 stipend in the summer before college. We support RTR students through the financial aid process for the college they plan to attend and encourage students to apply for scholarships at their colleges and in their communities.