“Mobile Dental Day — A Community Celebration” will bring dentists, flag football and soccer, free hot dogs, music and more to a park on Everett’s Casino Road on Saturday. What’s fun and helpful for neighbors will be an impressive achievement for its young organizers. They’re local teens.
The day of free dental care and activities, scheduled for 12:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday at Walter E. Hall Park, is the first big project of Leadership Launch. The nonprofit, serving students in ninth grade through the first year of college, aims to inspire future leaders by empowering kids who have known hardships. There’s a big emphasis on education and character.
“It’s really helped us see there’s a lot more to life,” said Kayleen Yonn, 15, a Kamiak High School sophomore. “It set me on the right path.” With other teens in the program, she’s been working for months to organize the dental day.
Leadership Launch is the brainchild and passion of a Mukilteo woman, 38-year-old Rachel Kittle.
“Students are all in charge of doing a launch project,” Kittle said Tuesday. And Mobile Dental Day is the first one.
Leadership Launch started small, with five kids in 2014, but it’s growing. There will be 18 students this coming school year. Initially, they are chosen as eighth-graders at Mukilteo’s Olympic View Middle School. Teachers and counselors nominate kids, who are later interviewed and chosen by Kittle.
The plan is to follow them through high school and beyond. Some students have entered the program later, either while at Kamiak or Mariner high schools.
Leadership Launch is all about personal relationships and mentoring. Kittle and her husband host teens for Sunday-night dinners in their home. Dan Kittle is also a lawyer. They serve homemade meals — spaghetti, meatloaf and soups — and drive the teens home. It’s all with parental permission, and parents join in quarterly potluck meals.
Teens have met community leaders, among them Allison Warren-Barbour, United Way of Snohomish County’s president and CEO. The idea is to show kids examples of futures that are possible for them.
The teens took on challenging assignments for Mobile Dental Day. At 14, Brittany Mendez-Hernandez, a Mariner sophomore, contacted the city to arrange for use of the park. “It was kind of hard at first, I had to call a lot of people,” she said.
Careana Willis, a 15-year-old Mariner sophomore, was in touch with Medical Teams International about supplying a dental van. Participating will be Dr. Sara Lundgaard, from Penny Creek Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, and Dr. Sarah Fraker, from Green Lake Dental Care.
Other partners in the event are the YMCA Casino Road Community Center, Mariner’s Key Club, the Kiwanis Club of Mukilteo, Youth for Christ and Bible Baptist Church.
Yonn and Sheila Luong, a recent Mariner graduate, met with Everett police Capt. Rod Sniffen to ask for police department participation. Luong, 18, will soon start at UW Bothell in a nursing program.
Liz Cordova, 19, was an early member of Leadership Launch. A 2016 Mariner graduate, Cordova is now a student representative on the organization’s board. She started the effort to bring a mobile dental van to Casino Road, her neighborhood.
“I was a little different. I started the program when I was a senior,” Cordova said. She said she was nominated by Todd McNeal, executive director of Hand in Hand. That local nonprofit serves foster children.
“I’ve been raised to give back, to always help people in need,” Cordova said.
At the park on Tuesday, Yonn, Willis and Mendez-Hernandez said they intend to be the first ones in their families to attend college.
With memories of growing up in the Grays Harbor area, Rachel Kittle identifies with their goals. “I had an amazing family, but we struggled financially,” she said. A school friend’s father was a judge. Knowing that family “opened up this world,” said Kittle, a graduate of Michigan State University and Willamette University College of Law.
Kittle and her husband have two children, son Judah, 6, and 7-year-old daughter Sophie. With Leadership Launch, they’re reaching out to kids.
And those kids get it.
“If you don’t try to give back in your own community, who else is going to do it?” Cordova said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.
Dental Day and more
“Mobile Dental Day — A Community Celebration,” a free event organized by teens in the Leadership Launch program, is scheduled for 12:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday at Walter E. Hall Park, 1226 W. Casino Road, Everett. Event includes a Medical Teams International dental van, with two dentists; free hot dogs and other food; flag football, soccer and volleyball; raffle prizes and a scavenger hunt.