Y sets ambitious goal for Invest in Youth campaign
Tommy Khem hopes to become the first member of his family to graduate from college.
A ninth grader at Mariner High School, Khem is moving toward that goal with the help of the Mukilteo YMCA’s Minority Achievers Program (MAP), mentors at the Casino Road Youth Development Center (YDC), and other Y programs.
Speaking to a crowd of some 200 Y supporters last week at the Invest in Youth fundraiser kickoff, Khem showed maturity beyond his years when he confessed to a vandalism episode that cost him the right to join his fellow students at their eighth grade graduation ceremonies last spring.
“It was a poor choice,” Khem admitted. “My father told me I need to be a leader for my two younger sisters.”
It also was an aberration. Khem, 14, is proving he’s on the right track. He has logged in more than 100 community service hours since last summer, for example.
Self-described as “brave, humorous and curious,” the South Everett resident appears to be on his way to a bright future, in no small part because of the Y’s efforts.
But without the MAP, the YDC and other Y opportunities, Khem might be on a very different route.
Capt. David Fudge of the Everett Police Department said high-density, transitory neighborhoods like Casino Road are prime recruiting grounds for gangs.
“With places like the Youth Development Center and the Boys & Girls Club, we have an opportunity to impact the gangs and their recruitment,” Fudge said.
If opportunities like the YDC didn’t exist, “Kids end up finding their own paths, when they sometimes go in a direction we don’t want them to,” he said.
This year’s Invest in Youth campaign is the most ambitious ever, with a goal of $170,000. As of Monday, the Y had raised about $75,000.
The funds will go to a range of programs and services that benefit all age groups, with a special focus on young people. Besides the YDC and MAP, funds will go toward:
• learning healthy living habits in a youth obesity prevention program;
• early childhood development and parent engagement;
• homework assistance and after-school activities with mentors for teens;
• after-school care for elementary-age latchkey kids;
• swim lessons and water safety skills;
• first team-sport experiences.
Funds also assist the Y’s Livestrong program, a free, 12-week program to assist cancer survivors. Partnering with the Livestrong Foundation, the Y helps guide people back from the shock and damage cancer has caused them.
“Through healthy living, the program offers adults affected by cancer a safe, supportive environment to participate in physical and social activities focused on strengthening the whole person,” the Y says.
Speaking at the Invest in Youth kickoff, Livestrong alum Carol Kenning said her fight with cancer began after she retired from 30 years of teaching, expecting to settle into her golden years.
Instead, “I was called into battle,” she said. Following a long period of treatment, she came to the Y for help.
“It was so amazing and energizing to be around peers,” Kenning said. “It was a wonderful 12-week journey.”
And, she proudly announced at the kickoff, “Today is my one-year cancer-free anniversary.”
Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick, the kickoff’s keynote speaker, said the Y helped him, too, when he arrived in Seattle as a young Coast Guard recruit.
Born in a humble home without power or plumbing “in the middle of the biggest cotton field in Louisiana,” Lovick said he was encouraged as a fourth grader when a mentor told him, “Never give up.”
When his ship anchored in Seattle, Lovick said he “didn’t know a soul.”
The first place he went was the Y.
“The best thing that could have happened to me was when the Coast Guard sent me to the great state of Washington,” he said.
“They did so much for me,” Lovick said of the Y. “I’m tremendously privileged to be able to give back.”
Lovick and other Y supporters are encouraging people in the community to step up so that tomorrow’s leaders have the opportunities that can make a difference.
For more information or to contribute to the Invest in Youth campaign, go to ymca-snoco.org or call 425-493-9622.