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.