Support for students rooted in garden tour

Support for students rooted in garden tour

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Puyallup Valley branch is busy gearing up for its second annual Garden Tour to take place on June 22.

Tickets for the event are $20 in advance and can be purchased after May 1 online at Brown Paper Tickets and after May 20 at Watson’s Nursery in Puyallup and Windmill Gardens in Sumner (cash only at that location). Day-of-the-tour tickets are available for $25 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the gate at 28th Avenue Court in Milton and the Hume Seed Company garden located at 11504 58th Ave. E.  More information about the tour can be found at

Six gardens have been chosen, each one with a different personality. They range from unique ways to grow vegetables organically to pristine arrangements and sitting areas that beg visitors to relax and enjoy the view.

Homeowners express their own personalities in their gardens using unique arrangements and visions guaranteed to delight all who take part in the tour.

Last year’s tour raised $8,000 to support the branch’s three science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) projects, Tech Trek, High School Scholars and the Innovative Teaching Grant that benefit girls attending Puyallup, Sumner, Fife, Orting and Chief Lechi high schools.

The High School Scholars program is a spring event where recognition is given to female high school juniors in the Puyallup, Fife, Sumner, Orting and Chief Lechi school districts for outstanding achievement in STEM classes. The following year, as high school seniors, the scholars may apply for the branch $1,000 Gwen Fletcher Scholarship. The 2018 scholarship went to 2017 high school scholar Pia Andrade from Sumner High.

Jenny Holmstrom, a Sumner High math teacher and AAUW member, was Andrade’s teacher when she was a junior and was clearly impressed with her high achievement in her class.

“She was just a very strong student, probably the highest-achieving girl in the whole course,” Holmstrom said.

Andrade is attending the University of Washington and, in addition to her classes, she is working on cancer research at the school.

AAUW’s Tech Trek program consists of a weeklong science and math summer camp for seventh-grade girls. Students are nominated by their STEM teachers and complete an application and essay, followed by a personal interview by AAUW members. The students who are chosen to attend the camp spend one week living in the dorm on Pacific Lutheran College’s campus, where they go to classes and are immersed into the college experience.

The cost for sending each student to Tech Trek is $1,000.  The camp is sponsored by AAUW Washington.

AAUW member Chris Wick said the camp has been running for local girls for the last six years. “With this year, we will have sent 57 girls to the camp,” said Wick.

The Innovative Teaching Grant is awarded on a rotating basis to one of the five school districts AAUW Puyallup Valley serves. STEM teachers at the secondary level are invited to write a proposal for the $1,000 annual grant. The purpose is to allow classroom teachers to extend students’ STEM learning experiences through projects or equipment that would not normally be available due to limited school budgets.

The annual Garden Tour helps fund all three of the STEM projects of AAUW Puyallup Valley branch.

“After the first year, when we had to make it up as we went, this year is feeling more like we have a plan and know the direction we are heading,” said Nancy Dahl, who is leading this year’s tour. She that the tour has revitalized the organization and has resulted in new members.

Puyallup AAUW president Bev Strodtz, thrilled that money raised from the 2018 tour enabled the branch to award seven scholarships to Tech Trek, said  she looks forward to an even bigger success in 2019.

Joan Cronk is a freelance writer and a member of AAUW Puyallup Valley branch.