Rachel Kittle

Rachel Kittle: Launching her own passion project

Rachel Kittle could be using her law degree, practicing family law.

Instead, the Mukilteo woman founded a mentoring program called Leadership Launch to help at-risk youth get into and succeed at college.

“I left the legal profession and felt this is where I want to leave my mark,” Kittle said.

In choosing this path, Kittle paraphrases civil rights leader Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what Snohomish County needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do it because what Snohomish County needs is more people who have come alive.”

Leadership Launch makes her come alive, because it’s her own story.

“I come from hardship, I come from a low-income family,” Kittle said. “I was one of those at-risk youth.”

The idea behind Leadership Launch is to work with youth who want to make a lasting impact in their communities, but who face personal or financial hardship and need extra support.

She started Leadership Launch in 2014 to mentor five students each year. The mentoring begins in ninth grade and continues through the first year in college. Helping an at-risk student at this point can help change the trajectory of their entire lives.

Kittle points to her own background growing up in Bear Gulch, a rural area outside of Aberdeen.

One of her parents struggled with drugs and alcohol.

Her household was filled with anger and stress. Her family was poor and relied on reduced school lunches, government cheese and powdered milk.

The power to their home was shut off multiple times. No one in her family had gone to college — not grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins.

She could have continued down that path.

“I was very fortunate that I had people in my life who stepped in and showed me another way,” Kittle wrote in her nomination form. “Faith was a key to my transformation, but so were friends, and the families of my friends, and coaches, and teachers and employers.”

She went to Michigan State University and then went to law school at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. She joined a law firm in Salem. She found she had to overcome her background.

“I have had to embrace what I call Bear Gulch Brazen — a little bit of class with a little bit of sass,” Kittle said. “I know I make grammatical mistakes, I sometimes say the sassy thing. I’ve learned that to be professional and to impact community, you don’t have to be perfect.”

After moving to Mukilteo, Kittle, who has two young children, started Leadership Launch. She’s helped create a board of directors, handles all of the day-to-day operations and finds donations.

The mentoring includes coordinating college tours, sporting events and visiting professionals. Students also commit to “Community Passion Projects,” identifying needs in their community and doing something about it.

One student is organizing a mobile dental unit for Casino Road residents in Everett.

Another student is raising money to help young people participate in the Mariner Junior Football program.

Another is organizing a “beautifying” day for middle school girls to help them gain confidence.

“I think sometimes we forget that youth are simple — we are all simple — we all want someone to see us and value us and help us move forward in what we want to do,” Kittle said.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

‘Voice of Everett’ receives Herald’s top Emerging Leader award

Julio Cortes, 34, brings ‘passion and fearlessness to uplift our community.’

FAA probing Boeing’s alleged pressure on designated inspectors

A federal criminal probe has also been opened against the company in the wake of 2 fatal crashes.

She teaches the traditional language of Coast Salish tribes

Natosha Gobin is spreading her passion for Lushootseed to tribal and non-tribal students.

‘I want to live and raise a family where everyone has a home’

Alexander Lark once built nest boxes for ducks. Now he raises money for Housing Hope and its families.

She knows the transformative power of education

Ambar Martinez also knows first hand the challenge of acclimation for people of diverse backgrounds.

He helps veterans achieve their educational and career goals

Chester Curtis helped raise money to open a center that serves veterans and their families.

He wants to ‘leave my community better than I found it’

WSU Everett spokesman Randy Bolerjack has a message for all students: Help your community thrive.

She’s making sure young people don’t feel lost or left out

Through her tireless efforts, Nicole Amor connects people with needed programs and services.

A ‘mother interested in helping kids’ hopes to end stereotypes

Edmonds activist and consultant Courtney Wooten advocates for children throughout Snohomish County.

New grants aim to retrain aerospace workers

County program offers up to $250,000 per business to help workers acquire new skills.

Frontier hid fees and over-promised internet speeds, AG says

The company, which recently sold its holdings, has agreed to pay $900,000 to the state and customers.

Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.