Inspired by the popular television show, Shark Tank, Urban Impact successfully held its 2nd Annual Sharks at the Beach Social Venture Pitch Competition in March. Urban Impact’s version of Shark Tank addresses poverty by promoting local business and supporting local entrepreneurs with coaching, as they present and work on their business plans.
This year’s winner, owner of Jacob Willard Home, an antique furniture store for over two years in the heart of Hillman City, Karl Hackett is launching a groundbreaking process of helping local small businesses remain sustainable and keep up with a neighborhood that continues to see change and development as a result of ongoing gentrification.
As a 20-something, Karl grew up during a time when it was still affordable for a young person to live alone and easily foster relationships with small business owners in the community. As a homeowner in the Central District, he began to see the effects of gentrification in his community over the years. He realized that the very thing that made a neighborhood “cool” to live in was being diluted by raised rents that pushed locals out, as new wealthy residents moved in. As a business owner in the Hillman City neighborhood, he and others saw their leases increase by 50% over a short period of time.
Karl took a leap of faith and allowed God to use his passion for collecting chairs to become something much grander. Impacted by the work of Urban Impact and Community Development Hub at Rainier Avenue Church, he has seen the impact of what an active church in the community looks like. He believes that Urban Impact shares his vision of breaking stereotypes and endless cycles that leave a community crushed. Karl would like to see more churches get involved in their communities and step outside the church walls to do outreach like he has seen with the Urban Impact Community Development Church Hubs.
In his business plan, Community First Development is the idea of promoting cooperative commercial ownership in the community that will allow small business owners to purchase their rental space. Karl’s team is hoping to partner with contractors to acquire buildings that are in need of updates so they can be purchased at an affordable rate, remodeled, and units can be sold in a coop structure that would be affordable for local businesses to buy and sell, essentially acting like an HOA (Home Owners Association) for a business with the idea to keep small locally run businesses at the heart of the community.
Although the hope was to launch this venture in a year, it will be a challenge due to the fast pace of the economy. However, he is confident that they will have the full support of the community to reach their starting goal soon, and will be launching a fundraising campaign to raise capital to acquire their first project. Stay tuned!
By Rosa Booker, Development Associate
CrossFit program participants often begin their fitness journey with a goal to simply get physically fit. However at RHF CrossFit, Head Coach David has designed class size and structure to create a unique environment where members of this fitness community have the space to share their stories of change and transformation beyond physical fitness. The space has allowed close relationships to form, accountability and the growth of both spiritual fitness and social engagement.
David’s friendship with South Seattle New Holly resident Monte is just one example. In November 2015, Monte began his CrossFit journey hoping to get fitter and lose some extra weight. Most people would be too tired to go to the gym after commuting 70 miles round-trip on a daily basis like Monte does. This 49-year-old member, however, felt extra motivated having just hit his two-year mark since getting diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer.
About a month into his fitness journey he finished last in a running workout feeling discouraged. Monte asked Coach David if they could meet up to talk about goal setting and nutrition. The meeting provided an opportunity to talk about much more than nutrition. During their conversation, David asked Monte if he could pray for his journey towards health and Monte agreed.
Now, six months after that meeting , Monte has lost 30 pounds, decreased his mile time from over 19:00 minutes to less than 11:00 minutes and reported his blood pressure is at a healthy range for the first time in 15 years. Additionally, Monte has gained a supportive community of faith and friends. Having not attended church for three years, through Coach David’s encouragement, he now frequently attends Rainier Avenue Church and is building tight community of friends and support.
1 As of May 2016
By David Calderon, RHF Crossfit’s head trainer
Many of you have heard that Urban Impact is launching our newest Urban Impact Community Development Church Hub at Seattle First Presbyterian Church on First Hill neighborhood. Amidst the unknown future of the church has made the decision to break away from the denomination, there is still work to be done. Bill Douthit, hired as the Community Development and Outreach Director at Seattle First Presbyterian Church along with lead pastors, Jeff & Ellen Schultz have a vision to reach out and minister to their neighbors, inviting them into community that they may come to know the love of Jesus Christ.
Please continue to pray for the church as they move forward into where God will lead and for wisdom for the leadership and staff as this new hub launches its vision, cultivates relationship with its neighbors and begins programming. You are also invited to join for this benefit brunch as we form community, vision cast, and get excited about what God is doing in and throughout the First Hill and Downtown neighborhoods!
This October, the 180 Program, a new strategic partner of Urban Impact received Seattle Met’s “Light A Fire Award”. The Seattle Met’s “Light A Fire Award” honors outstanding individuals and nonprofit organizations based in the Seattle metropolitan area that are working to make the city—and beyond—more prosperous, rewarding, and healthful for all our citizens. Winners are celebrated in the November 2015 issue of Seattle Met and honoured at a special awards event in the fall.
Founded in 2011, the 180 Program is run by Co-Program Directors Dominique Davis and Terrell Dorsey and gives an opportunity to youth who have been arrested for misdemeanors to get their charges dropped.
We are thrilled and proud that the 180 Program has received this prestigious acknowledgment!
DeSean was known as “Hot Boy” because of his quick temper and notorious street activity. When I initially met him in the detention center a few years ago when he was 15 years old, he wore an angry look on his face. His reputation and behavior from the block followed him into juvy as he got into fights and other trouble, letting his inner rage get the best of him.
DeSean shared much of his upbringing with me: his move from Chicago to Seattle, his unstable home life, and his undertakings as a gang member. He often expressed thanks to still have breath as he recalled times when death got very close. I remember asking him, “Why do you think God still wants you alive?”
“Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that.” Even at 15, DeSean was a deep thinker.
In subsequent conversations, he expressed a desire to change. “I don’t want to be Hot Boy anymore,” DeSean stated. Just before he was sent to a long-term prison, he achieved ‘honor level,’ the highest tier in juvy that allows for privileges, such as extra snacks and going to bed later. He left juvy a few days later.
I tried calling DeSean, but I later found out that he was sent to a different prison than he thought. I lost touch with him, but never forgot about him. I put a daily reminder in my phone to help me remember to pray for him.
A few months ago, I reconnected with DeSean at a group home as I was visiting another young man. I wasn’t sure if it was him at first. It had been over two years since I last saw him. But we recognized each other and got to catch up.
As I visited him over the following months, I saw no signs of Hot Boy. Conversely, I saw and still see one of the kindest and most generous people I know. One afternoon, when he brought some pizza back to the group home, he made sure all the other youth got a slice, even though it meant less for himself.
A few weeks ago, DeSean saw a distraught youth with a broken CD player. DeSean approached him, put his hand on his shoulder, and said with genuine compassion, “Don’t worry, I’ll buy you a new one.”
When I asked DeSean if he would want to perform a spoken word or rap for our fundraiser, he agreed to without hesitation:
It feels good knowing God loves all cuz all the stuff I done I shouldn’t have love at all.
...but one thing I know for certain,
is that I’m worth it.
Don’t be a follower… be a leader… guide yourself into the path of righteousness.
I was reminded of God’s power to transform. I praise God for transforming DeSean from Hot Boy into the man he is destined to be.
Jon Abe is the Director of King County Youth Chaplaincy and has been a chaplain since 2009. Learn more about King County Youth Chaplaincy and how to partner in this ministry at www.urbanimpactseattle.org/kcyc
Written by Emily Williamson, Rainier Health & Fitness Marketing Coordinator and community member
“I’m here because I need an ORCA card,” I overhead a young woman wearing a hijab say.
We struck up a conversation and she asked if I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. I learned her name is Bahsan and she is a Rainier Beach High School (RBHS) senior. Like many of her classmates, she was eager to make change through the evening’s student-lead Town Hall on transportation justice.
“We can make a difference like Martin Luther King Jr.!” Bahsan said.
This attitude of youth empowerment rang throughout the night as students presented a series of statistics backed by personal stories to nearly 200 students, parents, community members and officials gathered at RBHS’s Performing Arts Center. The stage was set with a cardboard replication of a King County Metro bus and signs from the scholar’s march to Seattle City Hall calling for ORCA cards for students [For more info, see urbanimpactseattle.org/blog]. From the back of the darkened auditorium, students made their way to the front singing “Which Side Are You On?” while carrying giant illuminated letters. They lined across the stage to form the message: “SEE ME MY LIFE MATTERS.”
Many RBHS students shared personal stories, including Emerald City Commons resident, Miriam. She has asthma so finds it difficult to walk quickly to and from school.
The current two mile walk zone for Seattle Public Schools creates a barrier for many students to get to and from school and access afterschool programming, community events, jobs. Plus it’s a financial burden on many lower income families who spend 62% of their income on housing and transportation (according to the City of Seattle).
The following day, Laura Wright, Education Coordinator with Urban Impact at RBHS recapped the history of the movement. The previous school year’s See Me My Life Matters BLOC party led up to this summer’s CDF Freedom Schools® scholars march on the Day of Social Action. Having inspired students to use their voice for change, 25 of those CDF Freedom Schools® scholars helped organize the Town Hall to raise awareness about the disparate impacts the school’s walk zone policy has on our community.
Although there was much elation elicited by the success of this student-led Town Hall, Laura emphasized that the need is urgent, and ongoing.
“Last night after the event some of the students didn’t have a way to get home,” she said.
COMMENTS FROM THE EVENT:
“We are consumed with closing the achievement gap but we can’t do that if our students can’t get to the classroom.” – Community Member
"I want to send a shout out to all the staff and community partners who supported students to step up, organize this event, share their stories, create the artwork for it, and do outreach to the community in different ways so that last night could be such a success. I knew the Town Hall event was going to be an important event. I didn’t know it was going to be this incredible!" - Rainier Beach HS Teacher
“As a social worker in the community, I wish to say ‘I see you’ to all the RB students. To the surrounding village, let’s not wait until tragedy to get hyped for justice. We must act now. What is more important than children and them accessing their education?” - Community Social Worker
“If this happens [free transportation for all students] it is because you all [Rainier Beach students] organized and raised your voices.” -Transit Riders Union
What made this night so powerful?
Student Leadership and Self Advocacy—This event was organized and executed by our CDF Freedom Schools scholars/Rainier Beach students. Students engaged community members, bravely spoke about their experiences with challenges getting to and from school, and had articulate, thoughtful ideas for solutions. Students who may not experience being heard/seen or may not experience leadership in traditional ways had the attention of 200 people as they shared their experiences and ideas. From interviewing attendees for the Viking Shield, running sounds/lighting, talking with media, presenting data, and sharing testimonies –our students have so many gifts and skills that had a platform to shine and be seen. Specifically, 25 of our Freedom Schools scholars took the lead on much of the organization and is a tangible example of how summer learning and engagement changes everything. They are equipped and becoming leaders of change. Go Freedom Schools!
Art Activism/Story-telling- We used ART to engage our community in narrative. We believe that hearing each other’s experiences allows us to SEE one another. When we SEE one another, we are compelled to ACTION. Simply put, STORY SPARKS ACTION.
Community collaboration- Our community is a powerful force of active community leaders and partners who mentored and supported students in their planning and execution of this event. Special shout out to Rainier Beach Action Coalition, Transit Riders Union, Puget Sound Sage.
Race and Justice Lens- Students framed current experiences in a historical and critical analysis of race and equity. They raised awareness about how current policies have a disparate impact on our neighborhood and called for collective action.
Shout out to Rainier Beach team/Freedom School staff, Renee Willette, and community organizations advisors who devoted many many hours, energy, passion, and creativity supporting and organizing this event . Thank you everyone who supported this amazing event through prayer, volunteering, and attending.
Educations Coordinator at Rainier Beach High School
UPDATE: November, 16, 2015
Seattle City Council unanimously voted to fund ORCA cards for Seattle Public Schools high school students on free/reduced lunch. For more information, contact Seattle City Council.
As summer wraps up, I am grateful for how God has been challenging us and I am looking forward to where God will take us. Recently, we began the work of creating a theological statement of resources and development.
In our commitment to break the cycle of poverty and our belief that poverty is more about broken relationships than financial resources, we began to see how our culture views resources and how we as a non-profit play a role of navigating the partnership of those who give resources and those who receive. Our desire is to develop a theological foundation with a consistent message we can share with our entire community. As we develop this work, we look forward to the opportunity to invite you along on this journey of discovering God’s Kingdom principles and putting the practice of generosity in all areas of our ministry. Please pray with us as we step into this new work of building a solid Biblical foundation of development.
In our last newsletter, I unveiled our new Church-based Community Development Hubs strategy in which we partner with key churches: Rainier Avenue Church, Emerald City Bible Fellowship and Seattle First Presbyterian Church. These are churches that see themselves called to specific communities and partner with their neighbors to break the cycle of poverty while building hope.
We launched Seattle First Presbyterian as a hub this spring and are in the process of hiring the first Community Development and Outreach Director there. We are encouraged by the efforts and progress surrounding this hub even though the process has been slower than we had initially hoped. Since our philosophy is based in building relationship and capacity within the church and neighborhood, we are committed to take the time to develop trust and understanding in quality working relationships. Please pray with us as we hire for this position and discern direction with the community.
We want to thank YOU for your partnership and support of CDF Freedom Schools® . In this newsletter, we highlight exciting the work and impact of our Church Hub at Rainier Avenue Church (UI@RAC.) These are exciting times and we appreciate your partnership in breaking cycles of poverty and building hope in our neighborhoods.
“Got hope! Got hope! Got Freedom, Got Love, Got Hope!” scholars chanted everyday, forging the first high school CDF Freedom Schools® in Washington State at Rainier Beach High School. Serving as a Servant Leader Intern, I both facilitated and experienced an encouraging, fun and impacting curriculum critical to my own growth as well as the growth of the scholars.
A typical morning began with 60 scholars gathering in the band room for Harambee, setting the culture for the day as well as the program. Freedom Schools’ culture fosters positivity and encourages the understanding of ethnic identity, a value for reading, an understanding of history, a keen hunger for justice and resilience for change in our society. I personally was revitalized and strengthened as an African American male through this curriculum and books we read that built confidence in understanding our identity, cultures and languages. The summer curriculum also engaged high schoolers in discussions about current issues and how they can make a difference in their world. During the Day of Social Action, scholars learned about advocacy and used their own voices to not only hope for change but to actually make change in their community. Led by Junior Servant Leader Interns, the scholars walked a mile and a half from Seattle Public Schools to Seattle City Hall calling for funding of equitable transportation for public school students.
A highlight for me this summer was working with a student, Daniel* who said to me, “Why do you always expect so much out of me? You are always pushing me. I’m just a dumb slow kid.” I said to him, “Daniel, you are valuable and truly intelligent.” Later he came and said he values the words I said to him and knows he is capable of great endeavors in the future. We started this summer proclaiming, “got hope!” and I can say the scholars are recognizing their potential and are striving to walk with freedom, love and, hope.
*Name changed to protect privacy
Tymon Haskins is the Homework Center Coordinator at Rainier Beach High School and served as a Freedom Schools Servant Leader Intern. Pictured with Freedom Schools books Slam and The Freedom Riders.
See pictures from the Day of Social Action
I wasn’t originally planning to volunteer this summer with the CDF Freedom Schools® at Rainier Avenue Church. But God had so much in store at this ministry and He ended up leading me to the front door of Rainier Avenue Church.
To be honest I was not prepared for the level of excitement I found at Harambee, every morning’s initial gathering that is jam-packed with songs, cheers, read-aloud guests and reflection. Harambee is Kiswahili for “let’s pull together” and though I typically have a hard time participating in camp cheers, I couldn’t help but get into it when 60 children were asking if you’re hype at the top of their lungs. YEAH I’M HYPED! Blood whizzing to my head and my voice rapidly approaching its expiration date, the first day was off to a good start.
For many young scholars who participate in Freedom Schools, life is difficult. I frequently heard the words, “no one cares about me,” implying, “why would you?” As a volunteer from Bethany Presbyterian church, I had the privilege of being able to spend intentional time with these scholars and really get to know them. Every day was filled with countless God-orchestrated interactions, both large and small, that broke my heart but also brought me hope.
One particular scholar, Alex*, whom I had the privilege to work with during the second week “tapped me out” one day. “Tap-out” is a term I used with a few scholars who had difficulties maintaining their temper. We made a deal to “tap-out” or go take a break in the hallway outside of the classroom, if any scholar needed space. Alex was having a particularly rough day. I responded quickly. “Alex. That’s not who you are. You are someone who loves life, who cares about others and treats them with kindness.” Later that week a child psychologist told me children can recognize that no adult has the power to see into their soul, so telling them, “this is who you are” without anecdotal evidence is pretty empty. I know that I have no power to change anyone - it’s all God - and if anyone could do the whole see-into-your-soul thing, it would be God. And although I don’t think my words were divinely inspired, I do believe they were divinely interpreted. Something happened here. After my knee-jerk reaction, Alex just stood there, a little dazed. He knew I wasn’t mad, I think he was just a little surprised I cared so much. Over the next few weeks at Freedom Schools I saw Alex improve his reading and social skills. I told Alex I was proud of him and it blessed me to see his improvements. His ears perked up particularly when I told him I wanted to recognize him publicly . For the rest of the day, Alex kept coming over to me brimming with puppy-like joy to check in to see if I remembered that I was going to recognize him. “Yes, Alex. I haven’t forgotten.” At the next Harambee I shouted “I got a recognition y’all!” and announced my praise about Alex.
The Freedom Schools model has a history of rising above the forces of oppression in our country to bring equity, freedom and Harambee - the people of God coming together to see His Kingdom come. In the presence of such inspiring scholars, staff, families and supporters, words spoken almost two thousand year ago by our Lord Jesus feel seemingly present. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. And as we say at Freedom Schools: Amen and Ashe.
*Name changed to protect privacy
Henrik Mansfield is a sophomore at Reed College. He has volunteered at Urban Impact fundraisers and has spent significant time with ECBF youth group. Before the Freedom Schools began this summer, he could be found volunteering with King County Youth Chaplaincy. To Henrik, community is “ a reflection of Communion with God and it is only through community that God’s Kingdom will be manifest on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
I discovered Rainier Avenue Church after a recent move from the other side of the country at a time when I was seeking familiarity, comfort and community. After spending some time there, I realized I had found a group of friendly, genuine and God-loving people; I had found a home. Since joining Rainier Avenue Church and volunteering as a tutor in the Learning Center during Urban Impact’s Community Night this past year, I imagine those who gather together as neighbors on Wednesday evenings experience a similar feeling.
Community Night is a time for relationships and fellowship. It is a time when we can slow our busy lives and share a meal, a lesson and a short time of life together. One amazing aspect of Community Night is it is a place for the entire family -- everyone is welcomed and included. For the scholars, that place specifically is in the Learning Center. It is a place of education, of respect and most importantly of love. The relationships I form with these scholars are incredibly special to me. I have no sufficient words to describe the feeling I get when Riley* begs me to stand by her during the singing of the motivational song, “Something Inside So Strong” or when Damian* dramatically improves in the math skills we work on each week. My investment in the children in our neighborhood comes from a belief that each scholar can succeed in their education and break a cycle of poverty through opportunity.
During my short time in the Learning Center, I have already seen a positive transformation in some of the scholars I have gotten to know over the weeks. Our space of stability, empowerment and safety provides an environment in which everyone can thrive. It is this feeling of true community that brings me back home.
*Name changed to protect privacy
Originally from Rocky Mount, NC, Nancy Thai is a resident of South Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. She enjoys reading, soaking up the sun outdoors, photography, eating lots and lots of watermelon in the summer and adventuring. Nancy says she loves her neighborhood because “ It’s a small and cozy community that feels like home.”
Urban Impact's CDF Freedom Schools® program sites at Rainier Avenue Church and Rainier Beach High School have explored civic engagement in this six week educational summer program. On July 31st, 2015, Rainier Beach High School scholars, ninth through eleventh graders, led a walk for funding of public transportation from Seattle Public Schools and walked over a mile to Seattle City Hall to raise awareness of the Freedom Schools education model. At CityHall, the Rainier Beach High School scholars met up with the Rainier Avenue Church scholars (ages 5-13) for a time of Harambee, joining together for cheers and chants. Scholars from both program sites and all ages shared their experiences, desires and dreams of how they could make a difference in their community.
Background about the Day of Social Action
Across the nation, CDF Freedom Schools sites hold a Day of Social action, teaching youth to engage in community service and social justice advocacy.
Elementary, Middle & High school students in Seattle Public School District are expected to walk to school unless they live two or more miles away. This means students walk up to five miles a day, requiring them to wake up earlier and get home later. Students without ORCA cards have higher rates of truancy and absences, making it difficult to pass classes and graduate.
Schools also receive less funding if they have high truancy and low graduation rates. Schools most affected by the "walk-zone rule" are in neighborhoods with lower income families, as many of these students do not have access to a vehicle or money to ride the bus daily.
Students who walk several miles to and from school travel on streets with higher rates of crime than schools in wealthier neighborhoods.
88% of students at RBHS qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch based on their families' income. School lunch is less expensive than round trip bus fare, which means families who cannot afford lunch should not be expected to pay daily for bus fare!
Washington State statistics that affect all young people:
WA state sends more youth to jail for non-criminal offenses (skipping school, running away) than any other state in the country.
High School dropouts make up nearly half of the prison population. Youth who drop out of high school are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested than youth who graduate from high school.
Click image to see pictures from the Day of Social Action here
Press Release: Rainier Valley hosts Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® at Local Community Sites
130 scholars in K-10th grades enroll in high quality literacy program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Marissa Ukosakul
SEATTLE, WA - Urban Impact, a local community-based organization, hosted Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® at two program sites from June 29 through August 7, 2015. Rainier Avenue Church and Rainier Beach High School (RBHS) sponsor sites will unite by hosting a finale event during the last week of the summer program. Read Lead, a California-based organization, also partnered with Urban Impact to establish this as the second CDF Freedom Schools model implemented in the state of Washington. Level I-III scholars, kindergarten through eighth grades, will proudly host a program finale at Rainier Avenue Church on Thursday, August 6th from 3:30 to 5:00pm. The Level IV scholars, or students in ninth and tenth grades, will showcase their summer of learning at the Paul Robeson Performing Arts Center at Rainier Beach High School on Thursday, August 6th at 6pm. The finale will celebrate the culmination of the CDF Freedom Schools model, a transformative reading-intensive curriculum for children, referred to as “scholars”, ages 5 through 15 in the Rainier Valley.
“Freedom Schools is bringing an emphasis on education that cultivates each scholar’s unique voice and quite literally allows them to interact with their own history. Freedom Schools also gives schools in Rainier Valley a chance to prove that they do have students who matter, who have important things to say and who should have access to a high-quality education, ” said Katelyn Durst, first year servant leader intern at Rainier Beach High School.
Through carefully chosen historical and multi-cultural books, scholars explore and discuss issues like racism, history, segregation, hope, and the power of education. Throughout the Freedom Schools program, scholars connect with “I can make a difference” themes that inspire children to think, to act, and ultimately to build confidence. Each week scholars are given a new lens to look at themselves, where they are seen as the experts. The program will engage in a Day of Social Action on Friday, July 31st, where children will learn about advocacy and using they own voice to make change at the policy level. This will include a high school student-led walk for funding of public transportation to and from Seattle Public Schools and an opportunity to raise awareness of the Freedom Schools education model at Seattle City Hall.
In 1995, CDF built upon the vision and philosophy of Mississippi Freedom Summer Project 1964 and led a rebirth of Freedom Schools through the Children’s Defense Fund Black Community Crusade for Children (BCCC). Urban Impact hopes to engage families in the CDF Freedom Schools program and the greater Rainier Valley community to work toward solutions to problems facing this community this summer and beyond.
“The civil rights movement is something that we are still fighting for and education is the avenue that Freedom Schools chose to advance this movement,” said Shelby Jones, first year Servant Leader Intern at Rainier Avenue Church.
About the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools
The CDF Freedom Schools program provides summer and after-school enrichment through a model curriculum that supports children and families around five essential components: high quality academic enrichment, parent and family involvement, social action and civic engagement, intergenerational servant leadership development, and nutrition, health and mental health. In partnership with faith institutions, schools, colleges and universities, and community based organizations, the CDF Freedom Schools program boosts student motivation to read, generates more positive attitudes toward learning, and connects the needs of children and families to the resources of their communities. Visit Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools online at http://www.childrensdefense.org/programs-campaigns/freedom-schools
About READ LEAD
Read Lead is an educational initiative that empowers youth and young adults in Los Angeles County, by providing literacy-based summer and after school programs and a leadership institute focusing on global, civic, and social entrepreneurial leadership. Founded in 2011, Read Lead is led by Cassandra Chase and Joy Masha, who are both young professionals and educators who have an innovative approach that leverages community resources and expertise to support the educational landscape and forge strategic partnerships to assist families, school districts, schools, and community agencies. Through valued partnerships, Read Lead is able to empower communities by providing opportunities in literacy and leadership programs.
About Urban Impact
Urban Impact’s mission is to partner with families and communities to break the cycle of social, material, and spiritual poverty. Serving nearly 2,000 youth and adults annually, Urban Impact has been a consistent presence in Seattle’s Rainier Valley since 1987. Focused on strengthening families and raising leaders, Urban Impact partnered with people in the neighborhood to address issues surrounding education, youth development, family, health, economic stability and racial reconciliation. Generational poverty has social, material and spiritual implications. Breaking it requires a holistic approach that addresses both the personal and systemic challenges of poverty. Visit Urban Impact online at www.urbanimpactseattle.org.
About Rainier Avenue Church
For 25 years, Urban Impact has partnered with Rainier Avenue Church, a Free Methodist church, whose members, Board, pastors and lay leaders organized to bring CDF Freedom Schools to the Rainier Valley. Rainier Avenue Church encourages everyone in the Rainier Valley and beyond to find wholeness in Jesus Christ by building authentic community and working together for compassion and justice.
About Rainier Beach High School
Rainier Beach High School empowers their students to become lifelong learners through the support of family, staff and community, and to excel academically and creatively in a multicultural world. Rainier Beach High School empowers their students. RBHS has strong mentioning programs and an International Baccalaureate program that offers students and families to participate in the IB diploma.
MAKER MOVEMENT \’mā-kƏr\ \’müv-mƏnt\
1. a cultural trend in which people place value on an individual’s ability to be a creator of things as well as a consumer of things
2. a subculture of creating, recreating or assembling any raw material or product
A hip-hop group that engages and employs youth in the community. A line of clothing that employs marginalized women in the Rainier Valley. A community-connecting creativity trailer that provides access to creative tools like drill presses and sewing machines.
These were some innovative social business plans entered in Seattle Pacific University’s(SPU) Social Venture Competition and then in Urban Impact’s tandem contest “Sharks at the Beach,” imitating the popular reality show “Shark Tank” with “Beach” referring to Rainier Beach and the surrounding neighborhoods.
In Rainier Valley, where there are many highly entrepreneurially minded individuals, there are few places where families can create together, playing with circuits, woodworking or making LED textile products. As makers themselves, Helen Shor-Wong and Andy Wong presented their vision of a community creating together to a panel of community judges. As they built circuit boards and toys with their own daughter, they saw their business, Rainier Makers, as a unique way to “cultivate the Rainier Valley’s imaginative creativity and amplify their unique stories through a venue that fosters community connectedness, provides maker-centered learning through hands-on making classes, workshops and events, and incubate the entrepreneurial spirit to innovate and grow small businesses”. As a mobile trailer brings community together no matter where the location, Rainier Makers allows for “a safe place to try and fail again” as well as a fun and productive way for community to engage and connect.
Helen and Andy saw this competition as a valuable way to join this economic development component of Urban Impact. “Through this opportunity we are able to create as a community, just how God intended for things to be.” They will continue to collaborate with schools, libraries and organizations to bring Rainier Makers into existence, building upon people’s potential to innovate.
Helen Shor-Wong & Andy Wong present their business plan to a panel of community judges >>
“Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you're doin’ me wrong, so wrong”*
The words resounded across Emerald City Bible Fellowship’s parking lot as elementary-aged children led a crowd of over 200 in songs and chants beneath rainy Seattle skies. The children had learned the chants the previous summer when they participated in Urban Impact’s CDF Freedom School®. Now on this weekend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday, they came out with their parents to pray for their neighborhood. It was clear that this prayer march was a manifestation of Dr. King’s vision for peaceful yet pointed responses to injustice.
What inspired this intergenerational, multi-ethnic prayer march representing members from over a dozen Seattle churches? The robbing and physical beating of well-loved owners of local business, King Donuts, along with other acts of violence that have broken the community in South Seattle in January. This drove a group of millennial leaders from Urban Impact’s staff and community to respond creatively by organizing a prayer march.
As Pastor Peter of Rainier Avenue Church expressed to the congregation the Sunday before the march, “We want to communicate to this community that as Christians we are peacemakers. Not just with signs but with prayer.”
Rain continued to fall as strollers and wheelchairs proceeded down Rainier Avenue. Young and old carried signs calling for peace, proclaimed prayers of lament and sang songs of hope with a vision that “each child of the Rainier Valley can walk down the street with confidence in their value, their safety and their full potential.”
When the group arrived at King Donuts they bought donuts… and joyfully left a $1,200 tip in the tip jar. The owner’s family was touched.
“We’ve been in the neighborhood for almost 30 years and have never seen support of this type, ever,” said the owner’s daughter Davie Hay. “It brought joy to see everyone show up at our shop in the pouring rain. Definitely something that I will never forget and be forever grateful for the generosity of the community.”
“My light will shine so brightly, it will blind you ‘cause there’s
Something inside so strong”
* Words by Labi Siffre from “Something Inside So Strong”
In the Urban Art Center behind the Urban Impact building are the creations of a locally sustained clothing line. Jessica Watson, who lives in the neighborhood and attends Emerald City Bible Fellowship had a vision of a world in which every at-risk individual reaches their full potential through meaningful vocation and an earned living wage. Runner-up and People’s Choice Award Winner of SPU’s Social Venture Competiton, TK Threads is a social business that will ‘manifacture apparel for retailers through home-based and small-scale manufacturing.” TK Threads will partner with social service agencies to housing resources, counseling services and job training to hire underemployed people, focusing specifically on immigrants and refugees and formally prostituted women in the Rainier Valley and beyond.
Learn more about TK Threads on their website tkthreads.org
Debby first connected to Rainier Health & Fitness (RHF) through the 2013 Healthiest Loser challenge. Back then, Debby remembers, “I could not even do 10 minutes on the elliptical and I cried when I did it.”
After the challenge, Debby continued to exercise on the elliptical and attend cycling classes at the gym, but she felt like she had plateaued.
“I thought I was doing everything right, coming and do the elliptical and treadmill and stuff like that, but it wasn’t engaging. And sometimes I need somebody to spit fire on me.”
The fire ignited was when RHF trainer, David, suggested that Debby try CrossFit.
“I want to but I can’t afford it,” Debby replied. David stripped away that excuse and offered her an RHF scholarship.
Debby’s first few days were pretty rough.
“When I first started CrossFit I thought, ‘I am going to die!’” However, she stuck with the program and nearly a year later reported:
“I can jump rope and I can skip again. I can run faster…And now deadlifting 75kg… I didn’t even know what a deadlift was nor did I know how to use a bar. I thought that was for professionals. It is close to 180 pounds.”
In addition to improving her physical abilities, Debby found support from her CrossFit community. “They are very encouraging, especially as I am middle-aged. I am overweight. I don’t have a lot of confidence but they seem to think that I can do it. That is what makes me know that I can do it.”
Debby’s trainer also motivates her. “If David says ‘I know you can do it,’ I know I can do it. He is not going to make me fail. So when I look at him cross-eyed I’m like ‘What?’ And he looks at me, ‘Yes, Debby, you can do it.’”
Debby invites her friends too, telling them, “It is like a family, a community. Whenever someone says they need to join a gym, I say, ‘Go to Rainier Health & Fitness.’…I explain to them that it is the best thing you’ll ever do.”
Follow Debbie on her Facebook Blog.