Meet our Community with Joyce Chase

Joyce, right, and her mentee, Paddee

My CfY experience has allowed me to meet Seattle’s youth and learn about their challenges and interests.  I love having fun with young people and building lasting relationships with them.

I have a lot of favorite memories of being involved with CfY. I love seeing the self-confidence of several students increase between their first CFY year and their last year and hearing them say that CFY was the best moment of their high school life. This year my favorite moments have been during Family Group outings. It’s hard to pick one:  the mentors beating the mentees at Family Fun Center’s Laser Tag, decrypting the clues in the Mission Escape’s escape room, being told “no you are too late” to ride the Holiday Merry-go-round and then being told with an overwhelming “Yes, go ahead and have fun” when I mentioned we were CFY mentors on an outing with students.

My mentee, Paddee and I both like photography and seeing new places.  We’re different in that she can text really fast and I can’t. I admire Paddee because she is involved in various clubs and organizations. She loves to be involved and give back to her community. She has a caring nature and met her required high school service hours way before her senior year.

If I could describe my CfY experience in one word, it would be “Community”! I’ve met several people – students, mentors, and staff and have kept in touch with many. It makes Seattle smaller and friendlier when you run into current and former Community members.

Meet the Family Group – Polina Carlson

Polina’s Family Group, Avengers Assemble!

The family group component demonstrates and builds the commitment to the CfY community. It is through the relationships that are often developed in the family group, that the community grows closer and bonds between students and mentors are fostered. Our family group really enjoys activities where we can all participate and engage. Our gatherings have ranged from playing games at a local Starbucks to making Gingerbread Houses during the holidays. We also try to vary our outings to keep it interesting and appeal to different personalities and interests within the group.

The family group is a very important component of CfY. During my time with the organization, I have seen the family group dynamic add a lot of value and strengthen the bond between students and mentors.

Fun Facts

Favorite activity/memory so far:

Successfully solving the puzzles of the Escape Room. It was fun working as a team and leveraging the strengths of each person to progress through the game.

Five things you all have in common:

  1. We’ve never been scuba diving
  2. We really enjoy playing games
  3. Red Flags is one of our favorite games
  4. We all appreciate a little healthy competition
  5. We all like to listen to music

What have you learned from one another so far this year?
We have learned how to be present and what motivates us to participate in CfY activities.

What makes your Family Group special?
We are understanding of one another, we’ve established a connection and a bond that has contributed to the positive experience of CfY, and we all have unique and diverse personalities that make the dynamic of our Family Group fun and never boring!

Meet Our Community with Kaga

I got involved with CfY because my sister had started it first and after her experience, she loved it and signed me up for it. My experiences with CfY have let me accept who I am and build a lot in my confidence. Being comfortable with complete strangers is a challenge for me, and that is one of the main experiences you’ll encounter doing this program. It’s a good thing because you get to meet a bunch of cool people. It’s a simple lesson of learning to let you be yourself. I feel better talking and interacting with people now. Simple things like talking in front of an audience have become more comfortable. If I could describe my CfY experience in one word it would be “Growth”.

Alumni Spotlight: Sara Murphy

One thing that stands out from my five years in CfY is a BBQ I had at my house with my Family Group. The students were so open with my kids. I especially remember one boy who immediately started playing catch with my son who was only about 3 at the time. The student ended up carrying my son on his shoulders during the gathering. So much love to give and he was happy to drop the blanket of toughness and give care to others. I think it’s in every student to let baggage go, especially in a safe place, and be vulnerable, simply play ball and just be a kid. They’re just babies themselves with too much stress at home and/or school and want to just be themselves!

In regards to my life currently, I think my CfY experience made me a better mother. My kids, now 16 and 18, have seen me volunteer and understand the importance of that and support me volunteering again. Having good discussions with my kids and their friends about school shootings, etc. motivates me. Young people have so much to say and I’ve always known that, but my CfY experience confirmed the need for a stable village. Also, I’m still friends with many mentors. Lifelong friendships often happen through CfY! I am also still in contact with one of my mentees. She now has two children, lives nearby, and I see her around town often.

I am not currently involved with CfY, but will start again as a mentor in the fall! I am aware of all the troubles in the world, but we can only handle so much! So I focus on my immediate community and I think what we do for the people closest to us will spread and have an effect on others outside our community. I continue to see the impact CfY has on young people through old friends who have volunteered in the past and friends whose kids are now CfY mentees. Let’s keep it going! CfY works.

If I could give any advice to current mentors in the program, it would be, all problems will not be solved with your student in one week, one month, or even one year! To me, the key is consistency, follow-through, and listening without judgment. Share when it’s appropriate, but don’t bring too much of your own stuff into the mix. We can learn as much from the students as they do from us.

Current Match Spotlight: Rachel and Pearl

Pearl, left, and Rachel

Even though Pearl and I have been matched for a relatively short amount of time, it’s been wonderful to hear and understand the perspective of someone who is just getting their footing in the adult world. She brings a fresh energy that has helped me put things in perspective.

 

Something both of us are working on this year is goal setting and follow-up. One of our first 1-on-1’s was a dinner/cookie decorating session where we were able to have fun and also discuss some of our personal and collective goals for the year. It set the precedent for the rest of the year, and it’s been fun to check in during our other 1-on-1’s to talk about the challenges and successes of the goals we set.

 

My favorite memory from CfY so far was a family group evening where we planned to do a taco night and vision board activity. In reality, we all got our food and had such great conversation that the activity didn’t end up happening. What was so significant and wonderful about that was how apparent it was that we were collectively interested and invested in each other’s lives, even within the short time we had been together as a family group.

 

I think that both Pearl and I are pretty laid back and go with the flow when it comes to the expectations of the mentor-mentee relationship. Neither of us requires a bunch of rules in order to make it work out. In many of our interests, we are vastly different, which has been the best. I love learning about the newest video games from Pearl and sharing my interests in cooking and yoga with her. I really admire her straightforward attitude and understanding of things. I tend to be a chronic overthinker, so when I go to her with things that have been on my mind, her perspective is direct and so often what I need to hear.

Meet the Family Group – Kaitlin Sytsma

Kaitlin’s (center) Family Group

Meet the Family Group! This new feature focuses on one of the most unique aspects of the CfY Program. In addition to the 1:1 student/mentor match, there are 5-7 pairs of matches in each Family Group. This week, Kaitlin, a Family Group Lead in our Emerald Learning Community, shares her views on this aspect of the program as well as fun facts about her Family Group.

“A Family Group signifies a group of mentors and students that can get to know one another on a deeper level than that of the learning community. It is a group that supports one another, is able to be in close community with one another, and able to have fun together. I feel as though without having a Family Group it could be easy for both students and mentors to get lost in the crowd. Family Group creates an automatic group of people who are committed to supporting you and encourage you. It allows both students and mentors to have a place to belong. Family Groups also allow you to get to know people that you may not have the opportunity to get to know in a larger group.”

Fun Facts

What traditions are upheld within your Family Group? What do those mean to you?

– Include Everyone
– Support one another
– Have fun
– Be Present
It is important to all be on the same page and to know what our responsibilities and expectations to one another are.

Favorite activity/memory so far:

Two favorites:
1. Snowball Fight at Zoolights at the Woodland Park Zoo- showed our groups playful and competitive side
2. Escape Room- our first family group outing-fun to see people’s personalities emerge

Five things you all have in common:

1. We all love tacos
2. We have all played or are playing a sport
3. We have all learned a foreign language
4. We have all held a job
5. We are all beautiful shiny brunettes (the best color of hair)

What have you learned from one another so far this year?

– We have to consider and include everyone
– The importance of college
– The importance of community

What makes your Family Group special?
We all have a great sense of humor and enjoy having fun and laughing together.

Meet Our Community with Svend

Svend, CfY Student

Through this program, I’ve learned that you can only begin to understand someone’s perspective when they actually share it with you and that it is foolish to extend judgment onto another person without adequate knowledge of that perspective. This reservation of judgment will absolutely have practical applications, as too often most people write off their fellows as unintelligent or mean-spirited when in fact they might possess all the kindness or genius of anyone else around them. Simply, I’ve learned to refrain from reading a book by its cover.

If I could describe my experience with CfY in one word, it would be “revealing”. Especially in the first year, CfY made me privy to a section of my personality I was not aware of.

CfY Snapshot: Rachel and Pearl

Rachel and Pearl on Match Night, 2017

This picture was taken during Match Night – I had just found out that Pearl and I were paired up for the year. This was the moment when the program felt real and tangible, and the fact that I would spend the year getting to know this student, learning from her and growing with her, became a reality. It’s quite a realization, a pretty exciting and nerve-wracking one at that. I think this photo captures my initial nerves about this responsibility. Thankfully, the nerves quickly subsided and were replaced by excitement and plans for the year, and that excitement and enthusiasm about CfY has maintained. This picture captures the moment that Pearl and I went from strangers to entering into an agreement of mutual trust and understanding, and I love comparing that to now, where we are much more familiar. See below for a more recent photo of us, after a few months of being matched!

 

 

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.