Seattle CARES Mentoring Movement


Positive Family Connections offers online digital literacy class

Life is full of changes for children, youth and families. It’s been made even more challenging with the arrival of the pandemic in early 2020. COVID-19 has greatly impacted the health and economic well being of our community.

Through Positive Family Connections, funded by King County Best Starts for Kids, Seattle CARES offers support services to women, most of whom are single mothers or guardians of children participating in The Rising. Through Wellness Circles, we offer a space where moms can de-stress, share problems and work on healing themselves. CARES-trained facilitators emphasize positive parenting skills, conflict-resolution and empowerment skills.

A new pilot program that began this fall increases services to our families. We are now offering an online digital literacy class where parents can learn how to navigate the web, download software, and find, use and create information online. The class is part of University for Parents and is being offered in partnership with Atlanta CARES. More classes will be offered next year, based on parent requests.

By strengthening the family through education and professional literacy, Positive Family Connections can improve relationships between youth and their parents or guardians.

We’ll be sharing more stories about Positive Family Connections in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!

Liberated Village creates positive school environments for students

Seattle CARES is one of 30 community organizations participating in The Liberated Village, working together to implement innovative, anti-racist, trauma-informed and restorative practices across 55 schools in 10 school districts.

The Liberated Village brings together students, families, teachers, school districts, community-based organizations and local government. To keep everyone engaged and informed, a new website created by and for Black, Indigenous and people of color, was launched this fall.

“It’s the idea that it takes a village, working as one, to help children and youth succeed,” said Don Cameron, executive director of Seattle CARES Mentoring Movement.

The partnerships are driving transformative change and helping dismantle inequity in the schools. By implementing practices that promote community-centered solutions,  Seattle CARES and the other partners can address the impact of racial trauma and systemic racism on our community. The Liberated Village is sponsored by King County’s Best Starts for Kids.

Rising scholars brief city and county council members

It’s not often that middle school students have the chance to brief a group of politicians. But it happened in June when Rising scholars from Denny International and Meany middle schools met with Seattle and King County council members. Each school prepared a colorful and thoughtful PowerPoint presentation.

A total of 17 Meany scholars participated while the 19 scholars from Denny International were led by Principal Jeff Clark and Mawiayah Fields, Vice Principal.  Representatives from Seattle CARES also attended.

Seattle City Councilmembers who attended the briefings or whose offices sent a representative were: Lorena Gonzalez, Andrew Lewis, Tammy Morales and Teresa Mosqueda. King County Council member Girmay Zahilay, who represents District 2, was also in attendance.

In their presentations, the students focused on four key issues important to their future: public safety, homelessness, health communities and innovative schools. As one young scholar told the city and county council members: “Public safety is something we need to correct and something that needs to build trust among the community and the people that protect the people in it.”

At the end of both presentations, the scholars asked the representatives to provide better resources for homeless neighbors and direct more funding to community resources so police altercations could be avoided. They requested improved training for police and more programs to support youth rather than turning to incarceration. All the students wanted to see more innovative schools.

The Rising program, now in its fourth year, is sponsored by King County Best Starts for Kids. It prepares youth from high-poverty families to succeed in school and life. Educators and trained volunteers focus on cultivating cultural pride and high self-esteem, critical-thinking skills and a love of learning.

The program brings results. In a study carried out in 2020, 83 percent of Rising scholars saw increased racial identify and pride, and 92 percent reported increased self-confidence.

Susan L. Taylor welcomes new group of The Rising mentors

At an October 2 training session for new mentors, Susan L. Taylor, founder and CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement, warmly welcomed our new volunteers during an online video session. About a dozen new mentors, both men and women, attended the training. They will be supporting The Rising programs at Denny International and Meany middle schools, which launch later this month.

Sponsored by King County Best Starts for Kids, The Rising has enrolled 80 scholars in the program this year – up from the earlier cohort of 40 students. Its three-year cohort model focuses on enhancing self-esteem, critical-thinking skills and cultural pride among middle-school student scholars.

Susan L. Taylor founded the National CARES Mentoring Movement in 2006 in response to the devastation that occurred after Hurricane Katrina. Since that time, the organization has become a recognized leader in recruiting, training and engaging Black mentors to support youth. Through its nationwide affiliate program, National CARES is now active in 58 U.S. cities; Seattle CARES is one of the largest and most active affiliate programs.

O’Dea scholarship expands horizons for Rising scholars

In 2019, middle school student August joined The Rising program. That action may have changed the course of his life.

Earlier this year, as August was wrapping up eighth grade, a school counselor recommended he look into attending O’Dea High School. His mother Mercedes thought it was out of reach financially. A few days later, she received a call from The Rising, offering August a full-tuition academic scholarship to the school – one of two Rising students selected.Two other Rising scholars are attending O’Dea, as well.

The scholarships came about through the intercession of Seattle CARES mentor Jeff Forge who is friends with Lucas Dobbs, O’Dea’s vice principal. “Lucas mentioned the school had a private donor interested in funding tuition for two students,” Jeff recalled. “It was great that Seattle CARES leadership could identify the kids and work with the students, parents and O’Dea to make it happen.”

Since 2019, The Rising has offered a variety of support to August and his family. Along with the other Rising families, they received regular phone calls to make sure they had groceries and could pay the rent. August accessed tutors for academic support and went to Wellness Circles where he could share his experiences and hear words of encouragement.

But the greatest bonus was having a mentor.  “August sees his mentor as a life line when he needs help or when his confidence is shaken,” said Mercedes. “They have established a trust that is unshakable. Suddenly a young man who looks poor in support systems feels as rich as a king.”

Mercedes also attends a Wellness Circle for women. “I enjoy this community of scholars’ moms,” she said. “I look forward to that hour of unplugging from the busyness of my life and hearing the wisdom and inspiration of other women.”

Although Mercedes sees some challenges ahead for August – he’ll be attending a school with fewer African American students than he is used to, for example — his mentoring relationships and tutoring support from The Rising have helped him get ready. Her advice for her son? Take advantage of everything O’Dea has to offer!

“I hope this opportunity gives him confidence later on when he applies to colleges,” she said. “I want him to think big about what he will do with his life.”