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Federal Way's TAF Academy ready to open its doors

Construction at the TAF Academy site is continuing this summer. The academy will operate in six portables on the Totem Middle School campus.  -
Construction at the TAF Academy site is continuing this summer. The academy will operate in six portables on the Totem Middle School campus.
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Students and teachers of Federal Way’s new Technology Access Foundation (TAF) Academy are gearing up for the start of classes in the fall.

The academy will specialize in math, science, technology and engineering instruction and will be funded by the Gates Foundation, the Paul Allen Foundation and Microsoft. It will operate in portables on the Totem Middle School campus, sharing some of the same facilities.

TAF and the district will work together to run the academy as part of a joint-operating agreement. The school district will provide the building, the teachers and the principal. TAF will provide the curriculum, the funding, advanced teacher training and one TAF coordinator. Within four years, the school will serve students in grades six through 12.

More than 100 sixth-, seventh- and ninth-graders have already signed up for classes at TAF. There are currently openings in seventh and ninth grade.

At a TAF Academy barbecue for students and parents last week, kids said they were looking forward to the emphasis on math and science and the smaller class sizes that TAF will offer.

Tenisha and Toni Gregory, twin sisters who will be ninth-graders at TAF next year, said they are hopeful that they will be successful in math because of the TAF Academy. Both students were previously in special education classes at Totem Middle School.

“In math last year they just passed right by me, I didn’t know what to do,” Tenisha Gregory said.

“They had pretty much given up on college because they were getting further and further behind and they were getting discouraged,” said the twins’ mother, Angie Gregory. “They’re actually getting excited about going to college again.”

Tenisha said she was relieved when the principal at TAF told her she would get the extra help she needed and she would get individual attention.

“I’m just glad that they’re not going to be lost in the system. The school has been very nurturing,” Angie Gregory said. “The teachers reassure me that they’re not going to get lost in the system. They’re going to make it through to graduation.”

Trish Millines Dziko, executive director of TAF, said the academy aims to serve students who have excelled in academics as well as students who have struggled. The academy is open to all students in the Federal Way School District, with priority going to those in the Totem service area.

TAF’s mission is to provide a rigorous curriculum for low-income and minority children, teaching them technology skills and preparing them for college. Minorities are currently underrepresented in technology careers. Although the foundation aims to reach children of color, students of all races are welcome in the program.

Brian Kiuna, a ninth-grader who will begin classes at TAF next year, said he chose the academy because he has always excelled in math and science and was looking forward to the extra emphasis in those subjects. He hopes to someday work in a technology career at either Microsoft or Boeing.

Kelli Goff, who’s son Dylan will be a ninth-grader at TAF next year, said her family chose the program because Dylan learns better with the hands-on style that will be a focus at TAF.

“It’s not all going to be just school books. It’s going to be getting in there and actually being able to do it which is a better way for him to learn,” she said.

Dziko said she was thrilled by the turnout at the barbecue. The TAF Academy will be the first ever of it’s kind. The TAF Foundation has previously operated after school programs in the Seattle and Highline school districts. One-hundred percent of graduates from those programs have gone on to college.

For more information about the TAF Academy, visit schools.fwps.org/taf.

Contact Margo Hoffman: mhoffman@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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