Seattle CARES Mentoring Movement

In her own words: A parent shares her story

LeChelle, a single mom and Metro bus driver, and her son Evan, a student at Denny International Middle School, participate in two Seattle CARES programs. LeChelle has seen Evan grow and mature in the past few years through his involvement in The Rising, supported by King County’s Best Starts for Kids. LeChelle is an enthusiastic participant in the community wellness circles, part of Positive Family Connections. We asked LeChelle to share her thoughts on how these programs have impacted her family’s life.

Why did you select The Rising for your son Evan?

I wanted Evan to participate in The Rising because of the demographic it serves. As a single parent, I felt it was necessary for him to be exposed to positive members in our local community who not only looked like him but could empathize with him on issues surrounding our community. These are people who understand the dynamics of the Black family and could offer guidance and insight on how to navigate through systematically anchored stumbling blocks.

After looking through the program’s brochure and speaking with Mrs. Fields, the assistant principal at Denny, I knew this team did this work from the heart and had my son’s best interests in mind. The commitment they made to us, and the journey we have been through together thus far, have been worthwhile.

What were your initial expectations?

I wanted Evan to improve his organizational skills: To recognize when he’s beginning to procrastinate and to develop strategies to stay ahead of the game. At the end of the 7th grade, Evan had to play serious catch-up. He had so many missing assignments, it was unbelievable. I reached out and made the Seattle CARES team aware. Together we developed a plan and provided Evan with an opportunity to learn and understand a major life lesson. Their innovative incentive programs also helped inspire my son.

The deal was he had to read a book entitled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.” After reading it, he had to pick three habits, rank them and explain why he made those selections. We worked on the readings together. I helped edit Evan’s rough draft and took him to the public library to type his paper. At the very top of his list was procrastination. Evan remembered how procrastinating affected him earlier that year. He understood the fall-out and then the catch-up process, which was very stressful. We both had takeaways from that book project. Since then, Evan has not had a single issue regarding procrastination. This was a win-win combination of mentorship, parent involvement, and student achievement.

What other impact has The Rising had on Evan?

Evan looks forward to the weekly meetings with the other students and facilitators. He is usually reserved but has told me he feels comfortable in the group. The most impactful outcome has been Evan’s sense of accountability and learning to become more responsible. He is a more confident student because he understands that it is up to him to prioritize. Nobody can do that for him. Evan is very proud of the grades he earns and the effort that he puts into projects. The Rising does an outstanding job of recognizing his strengths. That is very motivating to my son.

Were there issues during the move to virtual learning last spring?

The school closure sent a panic over my household. I didn’t even have a computer for Evan to use, but The Rising had a laptop hand-delivered to Evan weeks before the school district began to distribute theirs. The computer was already set up and ready to go with programs and software installed. Tech support was available, as well. Seattle CARES sent a text and email before class to ensure Evan was on time. Participation was still required and he looked forward to class with the same excitement he did as if it were face-to-face.

Does Seattle CARES impact your well-being, too?

I am a regular participant in the community wellness circle for moms, part of King County’s Positive Family Connections program. This group is essential for my self-care regimen to maintain balance within myself and set boundaries for those I encounter in my daily activities. I love being able to share and not be judged, just supported. I love the fact that we listen to one another and we refuse to offer advice. It is a safe place. I look forward to seeing all those beautiful faces each week; it’s like a breath of fresh air for me. The amount of support and donations I receive for my family through the programs from Seattle CARES has been tremendous.

How are the wellness community circles different?

The facilitators are African American women and that’s important to me. They can sympathize with me and understand my experiences because they may have gone through it, too. We have a cultural connection and it’s nice to be able to vibe on things in a way that wouldn’t be genuine or natural in any other setting. The same applies to Evan and The Rising. It’s a safe place for him to discuss issues that affect him as a young person and as a young Black person. Those are two separate identities he carries. I think it’s such a blessing that my son and I benefit from these programs that are customized for our needs.