Palma Scholars Program Overview
The Palma Scholar experience is distinguished in a number of ways from the already-rich experience enjoyed by all Catlin Gabel students. These include:
In addition to Catlin Gabel’s highly regarded coursework, Palma Scholars are automatically enrolled in Palma Seminars for each of their first three years in the Upper School. The seminar aims to prepare leaders for the 21st century with an interdisciplinary curriculum that promotes problem-solving, dialogue, and real-world engagement, while integrating knowledge and resources from a breadth of faculty, community members, and national experts.
The 2020-21 Palma Seminar
This Mortal Coil: In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, “everything has been figured out, except how to live.” In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will explore that question from a wide range of perspectives, pulling from the wisdom of the ages, our own lived experiences, and elders and experts in our community. We will examine different stages in life—from play and identity development in childhood to reconciling end-of-life scenarios. We will read works of philosophy and religion, converse with local faith leaders, and explore the psychological and sociological impact of our collective fear of death. And, we will produce biographical and autobiographical works, telling our stories and the stories of others.
Past Palma Seminar titles have included
- Climate Change: extensive attention to projected impacts around the globe and potential courses of action at local, national and international scales
- Revolutionaries: an activism-oriented course that built toward student-led social initiatives
- Sports and Human Rights: a survey of the many ways that sports engages with matters of great social importance, with special emphasis on the Olympics and World Cup
- Measuring Success: with topics ranging from education to business to sports analytics
- Divided States of America: a close examination of politics and identity in contemporary America
- Crime and Punishment: focused on criminal justice in America
Learn more about how the Palma seminars promote authentic experiential learning in The Caller article The Community As Classroom.
In their senior year, Palma Scholars have the opportunity to pursue a year-long project of their choice, under the guidance of the Palma Scholars Program director. The students enjoy great latitude in the nature of that project, with options ranging from intense academic research to community-oriented initiatives to hands-on endeavors. Past Palma Scholars have pursued Capstone projects that saw them interning with a state congresswoman, learning jazz piano, developing a podcast, and building a sailboat.
No Graduation Requirements
Aside from the Palma Seminar and Capstone, Palma Scholars have no graduation requirements at Catlin Gabel. This affords them the opportunity to customize their course load, pursuing a set of classes that aligns with their personal goals and cultivates their intellectual passions. While college admission requirements and course-specific prerequisites still play a part in the decision-making process, this grants Palma Scholars more control over their educational journey.
The Palma Scholars cohort participates in 4-to-7-day summer program retreats, focused on a project or initiative that relates to that year’s Palma Seminar work. The retreat is an opportunity for authentic hands-on learning, while also gifting the students and program director with quality time together. Most recently the cohort traveled to Clarksdale, Mississippi to experience the Deep South, looking into blues, the civil rights movement, and criminal justice, while also volunteering at Habitat for Humanity. Other retreats have included traveling to Eastern Oregon to experience living and working on a ranch and to Vancouver, BC to examine firsthand the impact of the 2012 Winter Olympics.
The centerpiece of the leadership development programming for Palma Scholars is a customized diagnostic tool that breaks “leadership” down into skills that can be identified, studied, and practiced. Built around Daniel Goleman’s groundbreaking work on emotional intelligence, it provides Palma Scholars with a rich and nuanced profile of their leadership skills and establishes priorities for instructional coaching by the director, which occurs in both monthly one-on-one meetings and weekly cohort meetings.
Palma Scholars are also members of the school’s Leadership Council. Run by the Athletic Director, the Leadership Council focuses on the specific application of leadership within the realm of sports, helping to equip the captains of the school’s athletic teams and Palma Scholars with the tools needed to excel in this setting. In addition, the Palma Scholars organize a monthly Leadership Speakers Series, in which community leaders from a wide variety of fields share advice and insights.
Service represents one of the program’s four pillars, and as such Palma Scholars are expected to make a meaningful commitment to a project or projects of their choosing. In addition, the program has taken on a leading role in the coordination and facilitation of the Upper School’s Community Engagement program. Each year, the Palma Scholars help to identify meaningful opportunities for student engagement in Portland, promote student-led initiatives at the school, and spotlight significant accomplishments from their peers.
Characteristics of a Palma Scholar
Who are Palma Scholars?
Academically accomplished, well-rounded students who are poised to lead and inspire others. Palma Scholars should embody each of the following characteristics:
Candidates have an academic record that places them at or near the top of their class with the potential to translate that achievement to Catlin Gabel’s curriculum.
A critical component of a Palma Scholar is the individual’s ability in, and dedication to, an athletic pursuit. The serious pursuit of athletics is an expectation of Palma Scholars because it fosters the drive, commitment, dedication, and success the school hopes these young people will demonstrate for the rest of their lives. We define this pillar in part through its competitive and physical elements; as such, for strenuous activities like dance and martial arts to qualify, participants in those fields should be regularly engaged in formal competitions. Students may participate in a sport Catlin Gabel offers or another high-level organized athletic activity outside of our offerings.
Palma Scholars applicants must demonstrate an interest in issues in the community and world with a corresponding service ethic and desire to create real, workable solutions.
Whether in the classroom or as a leader of a team, club, or activity, Palma Scholars must have the potential to serve as catalysts for other students. Their potential for leadership at Catlin Gabel could affect many aspects of school life as well as community, national, and international relationships.
The intent of the Palma Scholarship is to honor the accomplishments of the students as well as their potential by providing funding towards Upper School tuition. The award amount each Scholar receives will depend on several factors including the number of scholars selected each year and the amount of funds available from the endowment.
Awards are typically around 25% of tuition and are renewed each year as long as students meet the expectations of the program. Additional need-based aid is available for students who require further financial support. Scholarship decision letters will outline the total Palma Scholarship award package for all four years and will be delivered with the admission decision.
Families interested in applying for need-based financial assistance above and beyond the Palma Scholarship amount should apply by the January 21, 2021 deadline. It is important that you submit your financial assistance application by this deadline or we cannot consider you for need-based assistance in addition to the scholarship.
Families receive their total scholarship and need-based decisions along with their offer of admission. Although the percentage of the Palma Scholarship will remain fixed for the duration of enrollment, the need-based portion of the award could change if a family’s financial circumstances change in subsequent years.
- What is the amount of the Palma Scholars award?
- What level of athlete do I need to be for consideration?
- I don't currently do community service. Would I still be considered?
- What criteria for leadership will you use when considering applicants?
- If I am not selected to be a Palma Scholar, will I still be considered for admission?
What is the amount of the Palma Scholars award?
The Palma Scholarship honors the accomplishments and potential of the scholars by providing funding towards Upper School tuition. The specific amount of the award each Scholar receives depends on several factors including the number of Scholars and the amount of available funds. Awards are typically around 25% of tuition and are renewed each year. Scholarship decision letters outline the total Palma Scholarship award for all four years and is delivered with the admission decision.
Families interested in receiving need-based financial assistance above and beyond the Palma Scholarship amount should apply by the financial assistance application deadline specified in the Tuition and Financial Assistance page. It is important that you submit your financial assistance application by the deadline or we cannot consider you for need-based assistance in addition to the scholarship. Families receive their need-based financial assistance decisions with their offer of admission.
What level of athlete do I need to be for consideration?
Student-athletes applying for the award should be competing in athletics at a high level. This is an intentionally broad statement because there are many ways to demonstrate this requirement. High-level athletics could include regional or national level competition in a single sport. An applicant could also be considered high-level through participation in multiple varsity teams.
I don't currently do community service. Would I still be considered?
Yes. We review each application in a holistic manner. Applicants should have an interest in making a difference in their school or community that can be demonstrated in their application, essays, or teacher evaluations. All Catlin Gabel students participate in community service, and we expect our Palma Scholars to become leaders in this area.
What criteria for leadership will you use when considering applicants?
Students can demonstrate leadership in a variety of ways. Various roles in sports teams, school clubs, and community organizations constitute leadership. Students should demonstrate a willingness to make positive changes within their school and community as they progress through the program. In essence, Palma Scholars should have the empathy to see the problems and issues around them and the acumen to create actionable solutions. These students will serve as catalysts for their classmates.
If I am not selected to be a Palma Scholar, will I still be considered for admission?
Absolutely. Students who apply to be Palma Scholars but are not selected will still be considered for admission and are fully eligible for other scholarships and financial assistance. The Palma Scholars Program is highly competitive so we are still very interested in the remaining candidates who will be considered by the admission committee and notified of its decision in March.