Meet Our Community with Davis Vaughn

Davis Vaughn, mentor

CfY has been a great match for me because it has provided an opportunity to be around students and to get out of my comfort zone. An unexpected benefit was the relationships I built with the other mentors.  With such a diverse group of people coming together for the common goal of mentoring youth, I have greatly broadened my perspective by getting to know people that have taken completely different paths than me.

More importantly, my experiences with CfY have also given me insight into the daily struggles so many of our youths have to go through.  Many of the students are forced to take on so much at such a young age, and even with mentors, life is a battle for them.  I have gained a deep appreciation for how hard many of them are working and how powerful positive outside influences can be on their choices.

Meet Our Community with Bryon

Bryon at Camp Colman

I joined CfY for the potential connections I could make with other people and the opportunity I could gain through those relationships. My experiences with CfY have indeed opened me up to the value of genuine connections with other people. Those connections showed themselves for me while watching everyone swing on the big swing at camp. Everyone, including me, was helping the person on the swing to enjoy their experience. Then when it was my turn, everyone worked together to improve MY experience, and their cooperation and support of me gave me an even more joyful experience. At that moment, I felt the true connection that had been made.

Meet Our Community with Odessa Stevens

Odessa, left and her mentee, Ruby making their way through the exhibit

I became a CfY Mentor because I had spent a lot of time giving back in a variety of ways – it didn’t matter if I was part of a board, working, or lobbying, I never really saw a deeper impact. A lot of things get caught in politics and bureaucracy, and it gets frustrating. After a while, I realized that if I wanted to make the world a better place, it always stems back to our youth and their lives right now.

As mentors, we help contribute to the future of these students’ lives and therefore our community, our neighborhoods, our economy, and before you even know it, us as mentors. I became a mentor to make the world a bit of a better place, but I never imagined how much I would change and how supported I would feel every week. I came to CfY in a very broken place, but my mentee, family group, and community healed and helped me. I learned it is OK to be me and that everyone is different and amazing at the same time. I learned to slow down, to stop competing with myself and that my problems were minor in comparison to others.

With my student, it is hard to say who is truly the mentor, but in the very end, we are friends more than anything. I will never forget the time we went to the Work No. 360: Half the air in a given space at Henry Art Gallery. It was nearly overwhelming walking into a room filled with balloons. You could not see a step in front of you, let alone where the exit was. I think that Ruby (my student) and I both panicked for a moment, but took a deep breath and knew that panicking would not get us out of the room, and it would not give us a good experience. We found our way and got out just fine.

Meet Our Community with August

August

What does “community” mean to you? For August, a junior at Cleveland High School, it meant to be a part of something; something that would change her as a person. That something became Community for Youth (CfY), a program focused on building a secure and welcoming network for our students and mentors. August shared with us how the community aspect of CfY impacted her life.

“I joined CfY because I didn’t have any after-school activities at the time, and I wanted to be a part of something during my high school years. The prospect of being in a community with others in my age group and people there to help guide us or even just being there for us during our lives was a good ideal.

Joining CfY has been one of the best things I have done, as I’ve made new friends and become part of a nicely knit community. As such, I’ve made connections with people who I would have never met without this community. It has greatly improved my social skills, and I am bettering myself through this organization. The people I meet change me every time we talk. When the community gets together to talk about real issues in the world, everyone has something to say. It’s a great feeling, being a part of a community so diverse and accepting.”

Meet Our Community with Rovina Broomfield

Mentor, Rovina Broomfield

“As a mentor, my perspective broadened as I realized we’re all learning from each other, students and mentors alike.”

When Rovina joined the CfY community, she was looking for an opportunity to connect with and impact young people through mentorship. She was not only able to make an impact on a mentee, but has also seen her life change through CfY by developing new relationships, changing her perspective on mentorship, and creating lasting and invaluable memories. Rovina told us in her own words about her experiences with CfY and how they have changed her:

I became a mentor with CfY because I was looking for an opportunity to get connected with young people in Seattle via mentorship. I was grateful to find CfY and learn about the supportive layers and relationship structure within its mentoring program. The variety and support I’d receive as a mentor encouraged me to join and believe I’d impact the lives of young people.

Joining the CfY community has changed my perspective on mentorship and has taught me to value multi-generational relationships. As a mentor, my perspective broadened as I realized we’re all learning from each other, students and mentors alike. Being an expert is not a prerequisite for being helpful to one another. It has also been great for me to develop relationships with a range of people. I have made friends across the spectrum, from my parents’ age to my nieces’ age, and I really value the honest conversation and vulnerability we have with one another as trusted members of this community.

 

Meet Our Community with Darryl Graham

I became a member of CfY in order to engage with my community in a more meaningful way. I believe you get out of life what you put in, and volunteering with a healthy organization that attracts a diverse group of people is a good start.  Add to that, teenagers for spontaneity and energy, as well as clear vision and good leadership, and you’ve got a chance to participate in something special.  The experience has changed me by teaching me just how creative and resourceful people can be when they’re supported.  I’m no longer surprised when I see a group of students pull off brilliant skits or tell poignant stories with 45 minutes or less to prepare. I’ve also had to put myself out there and perform or show some kind of vulnerability with not much prep time, which has helped me ward off stagnation and kept me young at heart. I think my favorite part has been the totality of the experience as a whole. Being in the community for four years as a mentor has been an honor.  Each year is different based on the idiosyncrasies of the participants so it never gets routine, but it is reliably amazing to watch the group and the individual members change and grow as the year goes on. It’s also been great to have the same student mentee for the last three years and to be able to stay with him in the community throughout his entire high school career.  Attending his graduation and celebrating that achievement with his family was awesome and it is a memory I will cherish always.

– Darryl Graham, Mentor 2013-2017

 

Meet Our Community with Andrew Donaldson

Andrew and his student Diego

Why did you become a mentor with CfY?

I stumbled-upon CfY while looking for organizations that helped support the youth population in Seattle. I had coached youth sports in the past and was looking to get involved in something a bit more substantial. Once I found CfY and learned more about the organization through the staff and friends who had volunteered as mentors, I knew this was something unique to be a part of. What specifically attracted me was the format in which support was provided to both mentors and students; through 1:1 interactions but also through a family-style, community support system.

How has the experience changed you?

CfY challenges your thoughts and your assumptions from the start, but in a very thoughtful and meaningful way. It’s only Year 1, but I’m a better and more informed citizen because of CfY.  I’ve broadened my perspective and appreciation of the greater Seattle community in which I’ve grown-up in. I’ve learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I am now much more aware of my privileges and my responsibility to use those to help others. I’ve also made several new meaningful friendships and connections.

What’s your most favorite memory of CfY?

My first Launch weekend was really fun. Three separate communities (over 120+ people) come together for an outdoor camp weekend of fun, learning, physical and mental challenges, getting to know each other, and forming the initial bonds that shape the rest of the year. Attendees challenged themselves and fellow community members to push beyond their limits, which was very inspiring. The food, however, was very forgettable!

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Meet Our Community with Kiddus

Why did you join CfY?

CfY gave me the opportunity to seek guidance from adults who want the best for me, and to meet other students around my age who I can build relationships with.

How has the experience changed you?

CfY had a good impact on my life. It’s a place where kids can go and feel comfortable with who they are and express themselves without feeling judged.

What’s your most favorite memory of CfY?

The best part of my experience at CfY is when we went to Launch, played fun activities, explored the camp site, and shared cabins with wonderful people. I remember last year’s Launch when my group would talk and play card games just before our bedtime. I felt more of a connection with them because we didn’t have our phones or social media to distract us.

Meet Our Community with Mia Francois

Mia (left) with her student Kim

Why did you become a mentor with CfY?

I wanted to do something that had me think about someone other than myself. I’m single, with no kids and I felt like my life was self-serving. CfY was perfect.

How has the experience changed you?

CfY helped me to see others in their lens. At the minimum, understanding my lens is different and finding compassion. The workshop sessions are very well thought-out to help the mentors navigate through the program. Many of the lessons I still use in my daily life.

What’s your most favorite memory of CfY?

It was the privilege-wheel exercise with other mentors. We answered a series of questions that moved us back and forth on the spectrum of ‘privilege’. I enjoyed the open discussion from our diverse group. To me this is how change in the world begins.

For my student, it was taking her to the Cirque du Soleil show. I kept asking people to take our pictures and going up to different parts of the stage to get great shots. She said, “You’re so bold, I’d never ask that.” It was then I saw it clicked in her to live fearlessly.

 

Meet Our Community with Johairah

Why did you join CfY?

I joined CfY because I constantly heard my friends talking about their plans with their mentors or family group. I felt like I was missing out on a good experience, so I asked them if it’s worth joining since I was busy with other activities after school, and they said, “Absolutely! It’s a great program and they have food!” When they mentioned food, I knew I needed to give it a try. It was the best decision I’ve made, not because of the food, which is amazing, but because of the people there and the great support given to those who needed it.

How has the experience changed you?

CfY has impacted me in a way which has given me the strength to open up to others. Before CfY, I wouldn’t be able to speak up for what I believed in. I would keep all my struggles and secrets inside of me, unable to trust even my family or closest friends. However, joining CfY has allowed me to meet all these amazing people and know their own personal struggles and how they’re similar to mine. Every time I’m with CfY members, I have a sense of safety and security I can never get anywhere else.

What’s your most favorite memory of CfY?

The best part of my time at CfY was the session where we had a space to open up about anything we’ve struggled with. I don’t think I’m allowed to get into details but there was a certain rawness to the stories we’ve told that represented what we felt deep down in the bottom of our hearts. During that session I truly felt human. I felt the support from everyone in the room. There was no judgement, only empathy. It was during this time that I knew I could trust others again.