Meet Our Community with Hyun Choi

Huyn Choi (right) with her student Shu Fen on a hike at Rattlesnake Ledge

Why did you become a mentor with CfY?

It’s so easy to become consumed with your life in this day and age, everything becomes all about you, especially when you’re single, so I thought it was time I did something that was more than myself. I wanted to do something that was helpful, and become more involved in my community. At my former job, I was looking around at different opportunities to present to our employees, and when Peter (the former Executive Director) came by and told us about CfY, I was super impressed and figured it was something I wanted to be a part of. I’ve stayed with CfY for the past three years because I’ve been impressed with the community model. I love the different layers of relationships, from the student/mentor pairings  to the family group, to the greater community and the opportunities each layer offers to build relationships.

How has the experience changed you?

I don’t know if there has been any huge life changes, but it has brought me more awareness of the city I live in. I’ve gotten to meet and get to know so many more people that I would not have normally met and get to know different parts of the city.

What’s your most favorite memory of CfY?

I don’t know if I have one memory in particular, but I always enjoy Launch/Boosts. It’s great to see the relationships grow over those weekends and there’s often some fun unexpected event that happens that can make those times magical.


If you’re interested in becoming a mentor or know someone who might be interested, please email our Outreach and Partnership Coordinator Hayley Nolan at hayley@communityforyouth.org. You can also apply to be a mentor online. Click here!

Meeting Our Community with Emily Grant

Emily Grant, mentor since 2016

Why did you become a mentor with CfY?

I was looking for a volunteer opportunity in Seattle that involved working with high school aged students.

How has the experience changed you?

I joined CfY with the expectation that I would have a positive influence on a high schooler, but my experience has been so much greater than that. Everyone in the community, both students and fellow mentors, are so insightful and have made me a more self-aware and informed person. CfY has introduced me to incredible people that I never otherwise would have met.

What’s your most favorite memory of CfY?

Our first family group night. We had so much fun playing games and making pizzas. It is fun to look back on that evening because at that time we did not know each other, and now we are all great friends.


If you’re interested in becoming a mentor or know someone who might be interested, please email our Outreach and Partnership Coordinator Hayley Nolan at hayley@communityforyouth.org. You can also apply to be a mentor online. Click here!

Meet Our Community with Olivier Prock

olivier

Olivier Prock (left) has been a mentor with CfY since 2005. He was the first mentor to jump on board when we told him about the “Meet Our Community” feature. This was what he wrote when we asked him, “What’s your most favorite memory of CfY?”

I still go back to my first camp [Launch] experience. We had a one mile run each morning at 7am. Each person’s time was recorded and shared out at lunch with honors going to those who improved or excelled. The students really disliked this activity and it was a challenge to get them to make an effort. On the final morning, the mentors were told that they would not be running, but would be on the course figuring out how to motivate a very irate body of students to exceed their previous times.

We had spent three days being overwhelmed by the challenges, unsure if the students noticed us, let alone if we were making connections, so this would be our biggest hurdle.

One of the students in my cabin was an athlete. He was too cool for just about all the activities, hanging back, disengaged, with a 1,000-yard stare throughout the weekend. I didn’t think he’d continue with the program after camp. Nevertheless, I approached Brendon with a challenge. I said I would race him in a sprint and if I beat him, he had to run the full mile. It caused a stir since he was known as a star athlete, and all eyes were on us at the start. We sprinted, he narrowly beat me (though that is still in contention), and I congratulated him but said he still had to run the mile with me which he did.

On our way back to our cabin, Brendon sidled up to me and without looking at me said, “You know Olivier, you never said what I would get if I beat you.” I agreed that I hadn’t and asked what would be fair. Brendon responded, “You have to be my mentor.” He stopped me in my tracks with that request. I couldn’t believe he would be that vulnerable, or that I could have so completely misjudged his behavior all weekend. That moment sticks with me because it speaks volumes to what this program is about. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable, developing vulnerability as a strength, approaching people and situations with curiosity instead of judgement and many other core principles.

Brendon is now 25, we see each other about once a month, and that student who was too cool for this CfY stuff, now says goodbye with a hug and an “I love you.”


If you’re interested in becoming a mentor or know someone who might be interested, please email our Director of Programs Sarah Larson at sarahl@communityforyouth.org. You can also apply to be a mentor online. Click here!

To Be Needed

Monica performing at Hip Hop Artist Residency
By Hoang Ngo

It’s good to be wanted. But it’s better to be needed. This was essentially how alumna Monica (2012-14) felt about Community for Youth (CfY). She originally joined CfY because she “wanted” to be a part of a community that was for youth and would inspire youth. But after a year, she needed CfY. “I needed to be here because I needed to be around people who inspired and sparked change,” she said.

At the time, Monica was new to Cleveland High School, and she did not know what she wanted out of school or of herself. She felt directionless and without standards for her education. But after joining CfY, she quickly realized that the program could help her grow in ways she hadn’t previously known possible.

CfY helped Monica define her place in the world and provided her support through the process. In her two years with us, Monica learned about her boundaries and self-representation. She also became aware of her surroundings and the importance of having a community to support her. With such support, she felt more comfortable to assert herself and speak against what she believed was not right.

Monica’s mentor Rebecca played a large role in her transformation. She became the person whom Monica could talk to when she needed advice, always seeming to know just what to say.  She pushed Monica to sing more and speak more, and to pursue her passions. As a result, Monica embraced singing, which she loved from an early age, and performing. Last summer, she participated in the Hip Hop Artist Residency – a program collaboration of Arts Corps, MoPOP, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. This summer, she was invited to return as an intern for the program.

But it wasn’t just Rebecca who played a leading role in shaping Monica’s transformation. Other mentors in the community helped her see college as a possibility. She was surrounded by people who went to college, and it was important that “they looked like her.” “I felt represented…and that really pushed me to succeed and do well in life,” she said. After graduation, Monica received the 13th Year Scholarship to attend South Seattle College, and she plans to transfer to Gonzaga University to study political science and pre-law.

It has been a few years since Monica left CfY and while she often misses the community that helped change her, she has plenty of fond memories to look back on. She still remembers the surprise Mad Hatter themed birthday party that her family group threw for her when her parents couldn’t. “We ended the night with the breaking of glassware,” she recalled. The party was everything she had ever imagined. A wish come true thanks to her mentor and family group.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-Ua3IgKTwcSZ0RqM1lvZ0FJeW8

Eat First, and Try New Things

damian-and-thangDamian and Thang
By Hoang Ngo

 
Since the spring of 2016, senior Thang and his mentor Damian’s relationship has grown into a genuine friendship filled with trust and joy. Their mutual love for food and adventurous spirits prompted their motto: eat first, and try new things.

The pair starts every activity with food. “We love eating, so every time we hang out, we would always eat first,” Thang said. The reason, Damian joked, is that, “Thang has a bottomless pit for a stomach.” With full bellies fueling them, the duo has continuously pushed each other to try new things – from Spoken Word events to freezing boat trips.  The activities and their time spent together have inspired Thang to become more confident, providing him opportunities to interact with new people he wouldn’t have otherwise met. As for Damian, he too has changed. “I’ve grown by allowing myself to not control the situations, and to take them as they come,” he said.

In a few weeks, their relationship will change as Thang graduates from high school and Community for Youth. In the fall, he will join the Honors Program at University of Washington, Damian’s alma mater, and begin studying Civil Engineering. This, however, will not deter them from keeping in touch and trying new things together. When asked if he would give Thang one last piece of advice before leaving CfY Damian said, “I’d tell him to put himself out there. To get involved.” And of course, he added, “Oh, and I would tell him to go to as many Husky Games as possible!”

Completion

bag-contentcompletion-certificate

By Hoang Ngo

A water bottle, five Reese’s Pieces, a bag of Skittles, a pair of earbuds, a drawstring bag, and a certificate. These are the keepsakes students will take home when they complete Community for Youth’s (CfY) program this year. But the significance of completion is beyond what we can physically give our students.

Our students and mentors began the year with a promise of committing to one another and being a part of the CfY community. They attended workshops, they spent time together one-on-one, they hung out with their family groups. Together they forged a bond and allowed the possibility of knowing each other deeper. It is difficult to be vulnerable and to make room for someone new in our lives. It is difficult to show up week in and week out. But for a year, our mentors and students did just that! And we can’t be more proud to celebrate such commitment.

For our freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who will be returning to the CfY community next year, we’re looking forward to another year of growth together. And to the seniors graduating and moving on to a new chapter in their lives, please remember that you will always be a part of us. We’ve learned so much from your powerful participation and wouldn’t be where we are today without your voices guiding us. Community for Life!

What’s Next? – Preparing Students for the Future

From left to right: CfY Staff Members Iafay Latif, Hayley Nolan (What’s Next organizer), Sarah Larson, Wyatt Thomas, and Kendra Steiner
By Hayley Nolan

 
Our vision at Community for Youth is to help students graduate from high school with the skills needed to be successful in life. This also includes career readiness for post-graduation. To ensure this vision, we held our annual “What’s Next?” career, resource, and job-readiness fair at South Lake High School on May 16 and 18. At the fair, we exposed our students to a variety of professions and jobs, and gave them the opportunity to engage and learn the prerequisite for success from professionals.

While we would love to take credit for the event, it was really our amazing volunteers who made it a success. We had over 90 volunteers from all different professional backgrounds, including firefighters, nurses, scientists, photographers, preschool teachers, and many more. The volunteers were open and honest in sharing their work experience, skills, knowledge, and unique career paths. So, whether a high school sophomore just starting to think about the future, or a senior heading for graduation in a couple weeks, students had the opportunity to have all their career questions answered by leaders in our community.

In addition to exploring different career paths at tables, our students also had the chance to learn practical skills. Mock interview sessions allowed our students to practice their interview skills and gain knowledge around things like body language and appropriate dress. And finally, a financial literacy course with banking professionals taught students things such as the difference between checking and savings and how to create a budget. It’s never too late to open a saving account!

Thank you students, mentors, community members, Board members, and staff for making “What’s Next?” an amazing success!

A Lasting Bond

kirsten-and-danielle
Danielle (right) with her mentor Kirsten

When Kirsten and her student Danielle each joined Community for Youth (CfY) in 2011, they both found mingling with other people difficult. Standing next to each other during a community building activity, Danielle confided in Kirsten that she was struggling with the new setting. Her honesty in that moment sparked something in Kirsten, and that was the beginning of a lasting bond which continues to help both women grow.

Throughout their years together, they’ve supported each other through many chapters including Danielle’s decision to apply for college. An opportunity that had previously seemed impossible, Danielle was “willing to look within herself and push herself to grow,” according to Kirsten. Four years after being accepted into the University of Idaho, Kirsten sat in the crowd as Danielle walked across the stage to accept her B.A. in English, graduating summa cum laude.

While according to Kirsten she was “able to offer encouragement, a supportive presence, and consistency,” it was Danielle who taught Kirsten how to be a mentor. “Danielle taught me that just showing up and listening…is most critical about mentoring.”

With Danielle’s return to Seattle after graduation, the two have been able to “connect more as equals,” even job hunting together. “We get together to do things like go used book shopping and to museums on free Thursdays,” wrote Kirsten. “It is just a very comfortable relationship. Together and separately, Danielle and I will always be part of the Community for Life.”

Mid-Year Launch!

lavender-launch-2017

Two weeks ago, we had our mid-year Launch for Lavender, our fourth Learning Community. This Learning Community is our mid-year group, which is designed for those who are unable to join in the fall or learn about CfY partway through the year.

On Friday, February 17, 40 students and mentors piled onto a bus and made the journey to Camp Colman for the weekend. As usual, it rained, but that did not stop new bonds and friendships from forming.

The Lavender group was unique, in that most participants were brand new to the program. Going away to camp with 40 strangers could be an intimidating experience. And we were so thrilled that the members of this group jumped in head first, challenging themselves to make connections and go beyond their comfort zone to explore new things.

We cannot wait to see how these relationships evolve, deepen and grow over time. Lavender is shaping up to be quite an amazing Learning Community!

A Safe Place to Be You

deborah-and-breeBree (left) and her mentor Deborah

From the beginning, Deborah felt that the relationship between herself and Bree was unique.  With a resilient and open personality, Bree worked to establish an honest and open relationship, a lead Deborah was happy to follow. “Bree was quite open about her feelings and what she was experiencing [and] has helped me to be more forthcoming in talking about my own discomfort,” Deborah shared.

But Deborah soon found that this sincerity wasn’t reserved for her alone when Bree’s family experienced a traumatic event. While many people may have chosen to leave CfY, Bree didn’t quit. Instead, she continued participating and leaned on her CfY community for support. “Everybody shares and it’s a safe place to share and be you. That has made me feel more secure and more confident about myself and the spaces around me. I feel like I can be comfortable,” Bree wrote.

Now, a year and a half later, Deborah has learned how to be supportive in a way that is most effective and meaningful to Bree. The pair usually does something simple for their one-on-one time, such as window shopping downtown or taking a walk in the park. It’s during these times that they talk about Bree’s dreams and goals for her bright future. As Bree’s ambition and resilience continue to grow, she’s now focusing on graduating high school so she can attend Seattle Central College to study Early Childhood Education with a special interest in the emotional resilience of young children.