Lots of Lutes at Ferrucci
15 PLU Alumni Use Alma Mater
Pride to get Junior High Students
Thinking About College Early
Of the 40 teachers on Ferrucci’s staff, 15 have attended and/or graduated from Pacific Lutheran Universityand their stories just keep intertwining:
• Ferrucci Principal Steven Leifsen ’96 and ’04 used to be PLU study buddies with seventh-grade Social Studies teacher Brent Anderson ’97;
• Brooke Gustafson ’05 and Tawana Bens ’05 not only graduated from PLU the same year; they now teach together in a combined English/Special Education classroom; and
• one current Lute—who is a Ferrucci graduate!—to this day credits Leifsen and teacher Ron Baltazar ’00 with, basically, changing the course of her life. Ferrucci’s extraordinary concentration of Lutes could be coincidental (or geographical), but the way Ferrucci Lutes show their alma mater pride is not only a purposeful part of the school’s décor, but also its mission.
Bigger-picture, the Puyallup School District works to create a college-going atmosphere in all its schools. Smaller-picture, Ferrucci takes that strategy to a whole new level.
Every teacher at Ferrucci hangs a bold banner outside the classroom showing his or her college. More than 200 college pennants from all across the country line hallway and office walls. One counselor writes to colleges constantly asking for swag—and keeps getting more and more.
“We want to create the mindset that college is an option,” Principal Leifsen said. “We tell students that decisions they make at 12 or 15 will impact their choices at graduation. We talk college readiness all the time.”
College students come to Ferrucci to mentor the younger ones, and whole AVID classes take field trips to local colleges and universities (“PLU is a phenomenal partner,” Leifsen said.)
“We want them to be prepared to get into college but also to do well,” Leifsen said. “We tell them, ‘It’s great to get in, and it’s even better to finish.’”
Nationally, Leifsen said, 98% of AVID students graduate from high school, and 95% get into college.
Maybe not surprisingly, several have landed at PLU—including current student Alex Mattich ’16. She was raised to become the first in her family to finish college, but the summer before she entered seventh grade, her little brother died.
“Everything got foggy,” Mattich said.
But AVID was clarifying.
Mattich said she has maintained relationships with Ferrucci teachers and stops in to observe and talk to students, but so far her PLU classes haven’t synced well enough with AVID classes for tutoring.
“There’s still time,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them, my school career would have been a lot harder with a different outcome. I’m so very grateful for that relationship because I have done so much more than academics.”