Grit, Tenacity, Tacoma: Introducing Impact | Commencement Bay Elementary

A journey that started with the community continues onward in togetherness with the community towards an audacious vision of closing the opportunity gap for Tacoma students. The culmination of many months of listening tours, community engagement, design meetings and parent outreach, has led to the founding of Impact | Commencement Bay Elementary.

 After all, it was through listening to the community that Impact’s leadership heard loud and clear the desperate need for an elementary school that is focused on culturally-responsive social emotional learning and academic excellence. I, myself, have listened to a multitude of local community stakeholders, including community-based organizations, community leaders, local businesses and families and have heard how the deliberate inclusion of SEL (Social Emotional Learning) and the offer of personalized learning plans in Impact’s school model resonated with so many of them. 

 As a city of citizens who take great pride in their ability to problem-solve, revitalize, inspire and innovate through programs, (I heard once that Tacoma had the most nonprofits per capita in the state), Tacoma has continually experienced prevailing through adversity. Buttressed by a huge military installation and presence with Joint Base Lewis-McChord, with pockets of distinct neighborhoods housing an array of passionate personalities, and blessed with a thriving, world-renowned Port, Tacoma is primed for a high-quality public elementary school that will serve its population that is greatly diverse in culture, language, prior educational experiences, home circumstances, learning styles, attitudes toward learning, and future ambitions. Is it any wonder that Impact is ready, willing and eager to roll up its sleeve and close the opportunity gap by co-building a school in the community with the amazing talents and passions of Tacomans? 

 So when it came time to think about a name for an Impact school in Tacoma that would incorporate bodies of water near and around the school, (as is Impact’s practice in naming their schools), there needed to be a name that would fit, metaphorically and psychically. Impact | Commencement Bay Elementary captures the spirit of the community by naming a waterway that connects Tacoma to the world, and has been a key to commerce that produced the very inception of the city itself, and which, not coincidentally, can be seen in a captivating hilltop view from school grounds. It is also the home of the Commencement Bay Superfund site, a testament to the revitalization that this industrious city craves and strives for. 

 Before Impact formally named the school, I reached out to and heard from contacts with multiple community partners, including the Multicultural Family & Hope Center, Bates Technical College ECEAP Centers, the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, and I also reached out to prospective families and community members, who voiced their preference for the name Commencement Bay Elementary. Comments included, “it sounds honest, open and local,” and that it sounds “really Tacoma.” That “really Tacoma” feel is so vital, to somehow impart the “grit” that many Tacomans identify with, this idea that relays courage, tenacity and resolve to keep being resilient, which, as it so happens, aligns perfectly with one of Impact’s core values, that of Bold Ambitions. Wherein there is the setting of high expectations that we rise together to achieve. 

 It is with great enthusiasm and excitement that I look forward to an Impact school that will affect great strides and a dynamic future for all of our Tacoma scholars and our community. 

 For more information, please contact Mimi Jansen, 253-777-3252 or email