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An RA student who is also a drummer took the stage with Seahawks drumline Blue Thunder.

Featured Article

A Decade of Rainier Athletes

Executive Director and Founder talks mentorship, community, and tapping into kids' potential

Article by Bree O'Brien

Photography by Corky Trewin

Originally published in Bellevue Lifestyle

Ten years ago, Rainier Athletes welcomed its first class of student athletes at Lake Hills Elementary. Bellevue Lifestyle connected with Jesse Franklin in the aftermath of Rainier Athletes' Shape the Future Gala celebrating this milestone.

Rainier Athletes is “a long-term community that starts in fourth grade and continues through high school graduation and beyond,” says Franklin. Historically focused on sports, the program is expanding to also support students pursuing the arts, and STEM extracurriculars. Mentors come from local businesses, higher education institutions, and connections of existing mentors. The majority of mentees are people of color, speak a language other than English at home, and experience challenges associated with poverty.

Students are eligible to apply for the program if they qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and schools help select candidates. Once students apply, their families undergo a rigorous interview process. Rainier Athletes had three times the number of applications this year as in the past. In the next three years, Franklin would like to see the budget of the organization double and impact triple. Farther into the future, at the twenty-year celebration, Franklin hopes the Rainier Athletes community is lasting a lifetime, expanding its reach, and further increasing its impact.

Shape the Future was a sold out event, and guests included a wide variety of community members coming together to support authentic relationships. Hometown teams the Mariners, Seahawks, and Sounders are all partners and had a presence there. A focal point of the gala was the theme of “identity,” being proud of who you are and showing up authentically. Summing up the work of Rainier Athletes, Franklin says, “We’re in the business of showing youth their unlimited possibility.”

  • RA Board member Tom Bailey with guest David Feller.
  • An RA student who is also a drummer took the stage with Seahawks drumline Blue Thunder.
  • Incoming Bellevue School District Superintendent, Dr. Kelly Aramaki, with RA's Executive Director and Founding Mentor, Jesse Franklin.
  • Longtime RA supporter KJ Wright with RA mentor Steph and her family.
  • Shape the Future adds unique games like cornhole and a scavenger hunt to the standard gala offerings.