Undergraduate Academic Affairs

November 23, 2020

A new name and new endowment for a longstanding program working toward educational equity

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

This fall, the Pipeline Project completed their thoughtful work updating their program name. They are pleased to announce their new name: Riverways Education Partnerships. This name seeks to more accurately reflect the program’s mission and honor their community collaborations. In addition, the program received an endowment from Alyson McGregor. The Endowment will allow Riverways to continue building their year-long program with Neah Bay and other rural and tribal communities, support the assessment of their work and create new year-long programs for other schools across the state.

Alyson McGregor

Riverways Education Partnerships places equity and reciprocal relationships at the center of their work. Since 1997, UW undergraduates have been mentoring, tutoring and supporting K-12 students across the state. Riverways has built long term relationships with rural and tribal communities, as well as Seattle schools. Through this work, UW undergrads engage with students from diverse backgrounds, gain leadership skills, critically reflect on issues of equity in education and learn to build relationships with communities. The K-12 students they partner with work on literacy, environmental and STEM-related projects. Working with undergraduates also gives these students a glimpse into the college experience. 

“The work has always been about education equity,” says longtime director Christine Stickler. “Bringing undergraduate students into schools has a real impact on how they understand the enormous and deep impact that schools have in our community. For students to have an opportunity to understand how the education system works is an impactful way for them to understand the challenges, constraints and possibilities of the system.”

McGregor’s longtime support has been critical to Riverways’ work. McGregor first got involved with the Pipeline Project in 2003, when she funded a quarter-long poetry outreach project working with the Quileute Tribe in LaPush. In 2010, she went on to fund a year-long program called “Telling Our Stories, Imagining Our Futures.” This program takes place in Neah Bay, the home of the Makah Tribe. Through this program, UW undergraduates mentor Makah students in Neah Bay. Seeing college students from a similar background encourages the elementary students to envision their future, helping them learn about pathways to higher education and explore careers where they can live and lead in their home community. To date, 270 fifth-graders from Neah Bay have been mentored by 66 UW students. 


2nd grade Auston and Alternative Spring Break team leader Piya Banerjee

Second grade Jimmicum with then University of Washington student Piya Banerjee. Several UW students spent the week teaching and volunteering in Jimmicum’s home community of Neah Bay.

Auston Jimmicum, a member of the Makah tribe, UW alum and past Riverways mentor, remembers UW students visiting his fifth grade classroom. “It was the first time I had ever talked to college students,” reflected Jimmicum.  He goes on to explain “That’s what this program is doing: opening the students’ eyes, putting it in their heads that they have their whole lives to look forward to, and exposing them to this other world.” While tutoring students in Neah Bay as part of Alternative Spring Break in 2018, two of the kids in his group said they wanted to study at UW.  

The former name, Pipeline Project, originally reflected the intent to build connections and relationships all across Kindergarten, elementary, middle, high school and higher education institutions. However, the word “pipeline” became increasingly associated with negative phenomena such as the destructive oil and gas lines running through Native American lands and the school-to-prison pipeline. The name change process was initiated to respond to these concerns from students and community partners. 

Stickler started the process of the name change in 2019 in collaboration and consultation with the program’s students, alumni and tribal partners. One partner was Tami Hohn, the Lushootseed language instructor at the UW who suggested the concept of water and rivers as something that has connected communities around the world all throughout history. The word “Riverways” was selected to reflect the program’s core mission of connecting people, schools and communities. The words “education partnerships” were also chosen to center the collaborative nature of the program’s relationships with community partners and the Seattle Public Schools.

The team collaborated with their Native American Partners and came up with a new focus statement: “connecting with students, schools and communities toward tribal sovereignty and racial justice.” This bold statement takes ownership of their commitment to the anti-racist work that is the guiding core of the program’s work. It also honors their Native American partners’  unique struggle over land sovereignty.

“Collaboration is at the heart of our work,” explains Stickler. “I’m grateful to our Native American students for starting this conversation and am proud to have a new program name that reflects our commitment to partnership and equity. I’m also grateful to Alyson for her generosity and continued enthusiasm for our work. We look forward to working together to continue Riverways’ work of providing transformative and growthful educational experiences for both UW and K-12 students, while addressing historical inequities in public education in Washington state.”