J. Matt Miguel: CfY Gala Guest Speaker

J. Matt Miguel, CfY Alumni

J. Matt Miguel, a graduate of Chief Sealth High School, was part of the CfY program from 2007-2009. We were able to hear firsthand how CfY impacted him and how his life has changed because of the presence of a CfY mentor. Read his inspiring and moving speech below.

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen,

My name is Matt Miguel and I was a student member of Community for Youth from the years 2007-2009 at Chief Sealth High School. I’ve been to the CFY Auction multiple times. Once as a student, once as a guest, and today as a speaker. By this trend, I predict that I will be hosting the auction in the year 2021.

When I was asked to speak by my good friend and mentor, Damian, I was excited. Being able to give back to a program that has made such a big impact on my life is a true blessing. That was before I knew there would be over 300 of you here so naturally, I started to panic. My nerves began to settle once I realized how amazing this opportunity this was. I never imagined as a young boy I would stand in a place where I would be able to tell my story. And you all here to listen. Wow.

I had a hard time figuring out what to say in front of you all here today. Many hours were spent staring at an empty screen. What I did have written down was dull and kind of a boring speech that did not convey any real message. So, I went back to the drawing board. It wasn’t until I met with Janice and Damian earlier in the week where I finally had my “ah ha!” moment. The biggest impact that Community for Youth made for me was and still is my mentor.

For me growing up I didn’t have many role models. Any good role models at least. Most of my cousins and my half-sister, all older, were always in trouble and used by my parents as role models of what not the be. Ok, cool. I have an idea what not to be when I grow up but what about the ladder? I knew morally what not to do thanks to years of Sunday school but growing up I had no aspiration or drive to do anything – to be anything. I had an overwhelming feeling that being just good enough was enough, so as long as I don’t get in trouble with the authorities. Deep down I knew there was something missing.

On top of not having anybody to look up too, I was kind of a loner. Not many people from my middle school fed into the population of my high school and I had a hard time making friends. In addition, I really struggled with my self-identity. Back then,  someone else had to Take the initiative and strike up a conversation first. I was too shy and scared to say anything.

Damian and I met during one of the first meet and greets for CFY. I was sitting at a table with my dad and he came asking if he could sit with us and then he followed up by introducing himself. I remember thinking “who is this stiff in the suit?” but little did I know that this would just build the foundation of our relationship.

Meeting Damian has made such a big impact on my life. During camp we bonded around the piano while playing the first couple of bars of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, I would go to his old office near Pike Place, so he could help me with my math homework, and after we would grab a bite to eat at Dicks. We had a healthy student-mentor relationship, but it would later be defined on the last day of Freshman year in high school.

I felt like it was the end of the world. Confused and lost on what to do I found myself in front of his office door hesitant to go inside to ask for his help. I told myself “who else would I go to?” and then entered through the door. We talked, told him the situation as I balled my eyes out. It was about a girl I was dating at the time. I won’t go into further detail, but it was more than just breaking up. I was scared and confused, didn’t know what was going to happen. Damian was able to calm me down and help me think of my future.

With Damian’s support, I was able to get over this big obstacle, I realized I had my whole life to look forward too. There was so much more growing and so much more to experience.

After joining CfY, I came out of my shell. I took up leadership positions in the marching band, I started to join clubs and sports, and I would travel the world with my closest friends. Damian gave me the support when I needed it and it changed my outlook. I was able to focus on the big picture, my future. For that, I am truly grateful. I would not be the person I am today without Damian.

From here I would like to thank a few people:

Thank you, Damian. You continue to be an inspiration to me. I just hope that when I finally decide to become a mentor that I would be at least half a great the mentor you are.

Thank you, Community for Youth for your continued work to serve students like me. The bonds and relationships that are formed during the program are ones that students will remember for their entire life and will continue to shape their future even after graduating.

And finally, thank you to everybody here. With your generous donations here tonight, this mentoring program can continue shaping the lives for ones with less direction and guidance, like myself. Without Community for Youth there is no telling where I would be now, but I can say for sure without the support of my mentor I wouldn’t have been able to ask the girl I fell in love with as a freshman in high school to marry me.

I am Matt Miguel and I am Community for Youth.

Thank you all, again.

CfY Annual Auction Gala 2018

On Saturday, January 27th over 250 attendees raised $269,366 for Community for Youth! Student performers, a powerful speech from a CfY Alumni, and amazing auction items made for an unforgettable night. The generosity of all who attended is unparalleled and the support of our mission means so much. What a way to kick off 2018! View photos from the evening here.

Meet Our Community with Chris Ewing

Chris, right, and his mentee John

Seattle is an amazingly diverse and exciting city, but it’s also easy to find a comfortable niche and miss out on a lot of what it means to live in a vibrant, dynamic urban center. CfY has put me into some challenging conversations where I find myself tongue-tied or struggling to say something as honest and thoughtful as the people around me. It has exposed me to some raw personal experiences and insightful perspectives on social justice issues. It’s also shown me that when people commit to connecting and come back week after week, friendships form and understanding grows. I think I’m the same person I was before I joined CfY, but I’ve noticed that it’s easier to find the words to discuss some of our country’s social problems and that I also feel more inspired about our future.

My favorite memory of CfY is Launch Weekend. There was an energy at Launch that is hard to describe but is so positive and contagious. People come out of their shell and tune in to the strangers around them. It put me in a good mood for days.

Meet Our Community with Roger Lorenze

Roger and O’Tayvione

My experience with CfY has opened my eyes to how many people, especially young people, want to get involved and help others as mentors. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I never would have thought to get involved as a mentor. I also realized how many incredible young students that have so much to offer are looking for (and needing) the support and friendship of others. The combination of incredible people wanting to help and incredible people looking & needing help works. The friendships that are built and formed between mentors and students are awesome. My favorite moment with my student O’Tayvione, when he was describing our dog (Bear – a chocolate lab) to our Family Group as “our” dog. It made me feel really good.

 

Meet the Team: Elizabeth Thompson

Elizabeth Thompson, Data and Communication Administrator

Elizabeth Thompson is a down-to-earth Midwesterner, originally from Flint, MI. Before moving to the beautiful city of Seattle, Elizabeth earned her Master’s Degree in Arts Administration and started a position in the Education Department at Seattle Opera shortly after graduation. After that position, Elizabeth moved on to become the Data and Communication Administrator at Community for Youth. This position allows Elizabeth to promote and raise money for the students and mentors that CfY serves, and she could not be more grateful for that opportunity. In her spare time, Elizabeth loves to read, try new restaurants with her boyfriend, and bake.

Meet the Team: Stephen Song

Stephen Song, Director of Programs

Stephen Song has a deep personal and professional passion for social justice-centered youth development and college-access work. Stephen’s background in this field came first as an “at-risk” young person himself, then as a volunteer tutor and mentor, a researcher, and now is thrilled to continue this path as a CfY staff member. Stephen firmly believes in the power of mentorships to be a conduit for both mentor and mentee to learn, to grow, and to heal. And that this healing and relationship on the individual level ultimately impacts the health of our community.

Meet the Team: David Quigley

David Quigley, MSW Foundation Practicum Student

David was born and raised in New York City but has spent the past three years living in Anchorage, Alaska before moving to Seattle in the fall. He is currently pursuing his Master’s of Social Work from the University of Washington, and is excited to keep exploring the beautiful Northwest. David started his position with Community for Youth in September and is excited and looking forward to engaging with the incredible students, mentors, and staff throughout the year!

Meet the Team: Hayley Nolan

Hayley Nolan, Outreach and Partnership Coordinator

Hayley Nolan, CfY’s Outreach and Partnership Coordinator, started her journey with Community for Youth in September 2016 as an AmeriCorps Program Liaison. Originally from the Chicago area, Hayley was in Missoula, MT for several years before relocating to Seattle to work at Community for Youth. After seeing and feeling the powerful impact of the CfY community, Hayley knew this organization was something she wanted to continue to be a part of. As the Outreach and Partnership Coordinator, Hayley gets to grow CfY’s presence in Seattle while getting potential students and mentors motivated to join our community. When she’s not at CfY, Hayley loves reading, wandering through thrift stores, seeing live music, practicing yoga, gardening, being in nature, and cooking and eating delicious food.

Meet the Team: Erica Merritt

Erica Merritt, Facilitator

Erica Merritt is a Seattle native and has been in the field of Youth Development for over 20 years. Her passion and devotion to empowering youth is unwavering. Erica combines her love for youth and commitment to social equality to promote self efficacy, self love and self worth. Erica’s mantra is “Keep stepping and you will undoubtedly reach the destination of your dreams.”

Meet the Team: Justin Burgess

Justin Burgess, Program Liaison Americorps

Meet Justin Burgess, our new Program Liaison Americorps. Before moving here from Wyoming for this position, Justin worked as a clinical social worker and part-time manager of a local pizzeria & pub. With mentors having played a big part in his own development, he felt that “the chance to encourage others through a similarly life-changing process was an opportunity that I could just not pass up.” Justin has a proclivity for cooking and sundry outdoor activities. He also loves to learn through varying mediums including books, community activities, podcasts, and more. Looking forward in his work with CfY, he hopes to learn alongside, connect with, and share service-oriented experiences in the company of members of the CfY community.