3, 2, 1 … Launch!

by Mark Takehara

It’s time for LAUNCH which means we’ve officially kicked off Community for Youth’s 2016-2017 school year!  And there’s no better place to anchor this year’s community than at Camp Colman where our students and mentors have the opportunity to reunite with old friends and welcome new community members.

October 21-23 marked our first camp excursion with more than 60 mentors and students from our Onyx learning community piling into buses to make the long trek from Seattle to Longbranch, Washington.   Onyx spent the weekend getting to know each other and bonding by participating in a number of different activities including a climbing wall, group games, discussion circles and archery.  With camp for our Jade and Amber learning communities just around the corner this November, we can’t wait to give the rest of our students and mentors the opportunity to challenge themselves and form lasting relationships.

A Match Again

janet-laura-photo_match-spotlightLaura mentee (left) and Janet mentor (right)

by Sarah Larson

It was no surprise when Laura and Janet were matched together last week. For the third year, this duo is choosing to build on the foundation they’ve worked so hard to lay. But the continuation of this relationship wasn’t always so certain, especially after Laura’s family lost their housing last year and she was forced to move two hours from Seattle.

With this move came significant challenges on Laura’s path to reaching her goals. Along with having to drop out of high school, Laura feared she would also have to leave CfY, a program that has become an essential part of who she is.  But with Janet’s commitment, including her willingness to drive two hours to Laura’s new home for their one-on-one meetings, as well as their family group’s support, Laura found ways to attend workshops and family group nights in Seattle despite the distance.

When asked about how Laura has moved through the challenges this past year, Janet shared that though there have been times where Laura’s hopes for her future have been bruised, she has always found her way back to positivity in an authentic way. Laura is always present, engaged and excited to participate in a meaningful way, making the most of her opportunities to connect with others.

Two Different People


Mentor Laurent (left) and mentee Alexis (right) are having some silly fun

by Sarah Larson

Lauren and Alexis were two completely different people. With Lauren an extrovert and Alexis an introvert, these two may never have crossed paths. But three years ago, in January of 2013, Community for Youth matched them together as mentor and mentee. From there, their relationship blossomed. In fact, Lauren and Alexis not only complimented each other, but also learned from one another. Lauren learned about perseverance and drive through her mentee and in her own words, saw Alexis become, “An entrepreneur at heart, an artist, a designer [and] a caretaker.”

Now at Eastern Washington University, Alexis dreams of becoming a midwife and opening her own practice. We know one person that will always be by her side, cheering her on and supporting her aspirations. We are so fortunate to have matches like Lauren and Alexis leading the way in our community!

Mentors needed; Nonprofit Community for Youth recruiting volunteers


Administrators of Community for Youth, from left, executive director Mark Takehara, director of development Kendra Steiner and program manager  Sarah Larson, brainstorm ways to recruit more mentors for their program this year.

West Seattle Herald


By Lindsay Peyton

It’s all in the name.

Community for Youth is a nonprofit connecting high school students to the greater community through a mentorship program.

Executive director Mark Takehara said the structure sets the organization apart.

“The curriculum is all about community,” he said. “That’s something other youth development programs don’t do.”

Takehara assumed his post two years ago. “We’ve experienced tremendous growth since then,” he said.

During the 2014-2015 school year, the group helped 88 students. The following year, the number went up to 125.

This year, Community for Youth hopes to reach 160 students.

“Right now is our busiest time of year, trying to recruit mentors,” Takehara said. “We can really only serve as many students as we have mentors.”

Volunteers work with students from Chief Sealth, Cleveland, Garfield, South Lake, Rainier Beach and Franklin High Schools.

“Each of our students is unique, so we value having each of our mentors being different,” Takehara said.

He said all backgrounds are welcome – as long as volunteers are willing to make a serious commitment.

Program manager Sarah Larson explained that mentors spend about four hours a week with Community for Youth. They enroll in monthly mentors-only workshops, spend regular one-on-one sessions with the students and participate in group mentoring gatherings.

The students separate into “learning communities” — with 30 to 40 pairs in each.

Before the mentors meet the students, they participate in a number of workshops.

“We’re such a unique model, we want people to understand how we work,” Larson said. “We do a lot of community building and getting to know each other.”

Mentors also learn how existing biases may affect their communication with students.

“We explore how the way we are raised impacts the way we see the world,” Larson said. “When we’re aware of our biases, we can have a better relationship with our students.”

Students are recommended by counselors and teachers – but are also able to join on their own.

“Students are excited to get a mentor,” Larson said.

The year kicks off with a retreat at Camp Colman, located on the Olympic Peninsula.

“It’s the first time the students and mentors connect,” Larson said. “During the camp session, they make a bond. We have sharing circles and talent shows. We try to get as much interaction as possible.”

She said that the philosophy is student-centered. “It’s rare when you’re a young person, to have someone listen to what you want — instead of someone telling you what’s best for you,” she said. “How powerful is that? The students set their goals and they truly define what they want – and we get to support that.”

Kendra Steiner, director of development, believes that having adults who listen to students and cheer them on makes a powerful impact.

“Everyone wants someone who will be there for them, someone who is on your side, to help you process things, and someone to celebrate your successes as well,” she said.

Takehara said that the process benefits students and mentors alike. He served as a mentor for the first time last year.

“I learned so much,” Takehara said. “It was great to be able to see him grow, and wonderful to see the connections he made with others. There’s a lot of personal growth. You learn about yourself too, through the curriculum.”

This year, the workshops are all focused on building a sense of identity.

“We’re allowing both students and mentors to develop a stronger sense of self,” Larson said. “We want our students to recognize their own personal power.”

Steiner added hat mentors help create a safe space for students to explore their identity – and evolve in a supportive environment.

“When you support a student, you build community,” she said. “When you support the most vulnerable among us, you build a stronger community. Isn’t that what we all want, a community that’s diverse, and evolving and growing?”

For more information about becoming a mentor, making a donation or volunteering for Community for Youth, visit http://communityforyouth.org.

A message from the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

It’s hard to believe that we are in April!  As summer quickly approaches, many of our students are reflecting back on their year with Community for Youth.  As a staff member, it’s amazing to see and hear the stories of the positive transformation many of these students have made over the past few months.  What’s more exciting is to hear about their plans for the future and how Community for Youth and their mentors influenced them.

None of this would be possible if not for our dedicated mentors, volunteers and donors.  Do you know someone who would make a great mentor? Maybe it’s a coach, a relative or a close friend. Mentoring can be as simple as hanging out with a student, or throwing a baseball around to sitting down and talking over a soda about their day. Whatever the case may be, we all know how it feels to have someone invest a little bit of time in us.

Thank you to all of our current and past mentors. Please continue to support Community for Youth by volunteering and donating.

Mark Takehara
Executive Director

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”—Steven Spielberg


For the first time, Community for Youth is keeping a list of students waiting to be matched with a mentor.  That means we need more mentors!

Each of our fantastic mentors got involved in Community for Youth to make a difference in a deserving student’s life. However, by  the end of the school year, our mentors realize that not only have they made a difference in their student’s life, but CfY has had a fundamental impact on who they are.

So what does it take to be a Community for Youth mentor? Dependability, patience, flexibility… and most of all, a relentless commitment to influencing and guiding a young person’s success. CfY mentors come from all walks of life –  single,  married, early in their careers,  retired, representative of all ethnic groups, beliefs and lifestyles. In short, they are like our students – diverse, inquisitive, open to new experiences, and willing to grow and change.

Ready to volunteer or know of anyone that would make a great mentor?  Please contact Mark Takehara at mark@communityforyouth.org for more information.

CfY Mentors: Who are they, and why are they here?

Dear Friends,

I had the opportunity this month to attend both Launch (a camp for new students and mentors) and Boost (a camp for our existing student/mentor matches).  As I got to know the mentors at both events, I admired their dedication and selflessness and started to wonder how they got to this point in their life?  Why did they decide to volunteer?

There are still a few people who believe they have control of their own destinies,  pull the levers of their lives without  help from others, that they alone are responsible for their successes. However, I believe nothing any of us has done has been done alone.  We get help, support, MENTORSHIP, inspiration, and energy from others!  Who helped you to where you are now?  Who gave you advice?  Who took a chance on you and hired you?  I think about this every day, not because I am such a grateful person, but because I wonder where I would be at in my life without these mentors.

All of us have been affected in one way or another by the help, support and mentorship a specific individual or COMMUNITY has provided to and for us.  Our mentors are behind, beside, and below us to push, catch and pull us as needed.  Yes, we all have goals, ideas and passion, but without the support of  mentors and community, it can be a difficult path to climb alone.

I am so very excited to watch this new group of mentors as they work with their students for the next one to four years.  Each student/mentor relationship is unique, with its own combination of inputs, experiences, and results.   Even so, there is one commonality which is the same for each pair:  the positive, life-changing impact Community for Youth has on both the student and the volunteer adult mentor.

As we careen through life, our orbits, trajectories, and perspectives are changed, for good or bad, by every encounter with people and their experiences.  But we know certain people have influenced and helped you more than others.  So let those people know what an impact they made on your life – their mentorship was successful! Then you try to help anyone that asks you for help, not because you expect something in return, but because that is what your mentors did for you.  Pay it forwards.  Pay it backwards.  Pay it sideways. Give thanks for the help we got and continue to get and for the ability to give help when we can.  This is what propels us.  This is the fuel for our lives.

Mark Takehara
Executive Director

Rainier Beach High School Black Student Union hosted by Community for Youth

Rainier Beach High School recently unveiled its first Black Student Union Club (BSU) with the help of Community for Youth. The school requested assistance from CfY in starting up this organization.  Why CfY?  Some of the reasons given include: CfY’s recognition and credibility among the students; the popularity and trust in our program between the students, teachers, and administration;  and aslo our continued dedication to Rainier Beach High School over the years.

When the unfortunate events of Michael Brown and Eric Gardner happened in Ferguson, MO, many students at Rainier Beach High School wanted to voice their opinion. The only problem was that they did not have a school-based organization to express their opinions. In response, CfY’s own Christian Capers (pictured announcing the new BSU club at an all-student assembly) took action and collaborated with CfY staff to create Rainier Beach’s BSU. Now, the students have an organized approach to dealing with problems of racial justice within their school and community.

Thank you for making our 12th Annual Auction Gala a success!

Community for Youth held its 12th Annual Auction Gala on Saturday, January 24th at the Hyatt at Olive 8.  The festive evening of live and silent auctions, a sumptuous dinner and an exciting dessert dash is the primary fundraiser for CfY’s programs, which last year served over 100 students and volunteers.  The evening’s guest of honor, Greg Hay, a longtime volunteer mentor and board member, was introduced by his former student Binni Berhe. Greg received the Sue Kresovich Relentless Commitment award.

Auctioneer John Curley led the live auction of more than 30 lots of rare and fine wines, unique vacations, exclusive dinners and once in a lifetime experiences.  In addition to the live auction, the silent auction had a variety of wine, travel, dining, sporting events and merchandise.  The evening’s festivities began with the Super Bowl Seahawks Blue Thunder drumline.

Thank you to the nearly 300 attendees that helped us raise over $220,000.  All money raised by the Auction Gala is dedicated to supporting CfY’s mission of transforming challenged high school students into confident, determined, and self-aware young adults.