Play it Smart - Academic Coaches Make it Work
Darren Witcher wakes up at 4:30 a.m. for his
job as a project manager at Boeing. He does this so he can leave
early in the afternoon to hustle over to Seattle’s Rainier
Beach High School, where
he’s been the academic coach for 7 years.
Darren Witcher, from his UW days
There, he mentors his kids off the field, as well as on. He’s
also the defensive coordinator for the football team, which went
to the state semifinals last season.
Witcher’s tireless schedule requires the kind of discipline
he hopes will rub off on his student-athletes. He learned that
discipline at the University
of Washington, where he had to balance
academics with athletics. He played safety for the Huskies.
Witcher has created a culture of achievement at Rainier Beach. “We
have a 100 percent rate of graduation for our students involved
in Play It Smart,” he says. "And nearly every senior
on our football team that has wanted to play football at the next
level—more than 98 percent—has done so. That includes
junior college, D-III, D-II and D-I programs.”
Like all academic coaches, Witcher wears many hats. He’s
a mentor, a counselor, an advocate and a trusted confidant. He
challenges his kids to grow as students and citizens. And he’s
there for them every step of the way, giving them the support and
guidance they need to succeed.
“We put structure into the academic program, and introduced
a study table and tutors. And we saw big improvements with our
kids,” Witcher explains. “Each year, our grade point
average and SAT and ACT scores have risen.”
Read more about Play It Smart.