Kristina Jorgensen graduated Sunday from Shoreline Community College. She now plans to attend Seattle University and perhaps law school.
“I want to be a social justice attorney,” the Everett woman told hundreds of people — business, political and community leaders — Monday morning at United Way of Snohomish County’s Spirit Summit.
For an accomplished 29-year-old, it’s not unusual to earn an associate degree in political science, or to have more ambitious goals. But Jorgensen’s past wasn’t bright.
About five years ago, she was struggling to free herself from methamphetamine addiction. Originally from Sultan, she was pregnant at 16. In her early 20s, she spent time on the streets and in a drug house. Before successfully completing Family Drug Treatment Court, a Snohomish County Superior Court Program, she had temporarily lost custody of her children.
“My mom had custody of the kids,” she told the crowd Monday in the Tulalip Resort Casino’s Orca Ballroom. Her family is now reunited. The oldest of her three boys, now almost 13, walked on stage with her when she got her degree.
Herald readers learned Jorgensen’s story a year ago. She was featured in this column after joining Housing Hope’s board of directors. In 2014, the local housing agency helped Jorgensen out of homelessness when she moved into a Housing Hope apartment in Monroe.
At the Spirit Summit, Jorgensen and keynote speaker Marjorie Sims chatted on stage during a one-on-one conversation before the breakfast crowd. Sims is managing director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute. The Colorado-based institute and its Ascend policy program are leaders in a two-generation approach to alleviating poverty.
With new President and CEO Allison Warren-Barbour, United Way is embracing such efforts to serve whole families. Rather than making single-program grants aimed at just kids or just adults, United Way has revamped its process to award money to partnerships.
In a video shown at the summit, one scenario showed the result of simply addressing a child’s hunger. Another scenario showed the positive effects of meeting needs for a whole family — helping with food, child care and a mother’s education.
Jorgensen, who works with Children’s Home Society of Washington as a research assistant, said she hopes to be “a voice of parents.”
“It’s so important that we know what’s working and what’s not working,” said Jorgensen, an advocate for continuing TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) as low-income parents seek higher education. “When I started school, they wanted me to get just a certificate. I wanted a better degree,” Jorgensen said.
She took Housing Hope’s life skills classes for parents. “I didn’t just do it by myself. I have a whole community wrapped around me,” she said.
Also at the summit, Warren-Barbour thanked Premera Blue Cross for being the first corporate investor in United Way’s new CORE (Creating Open Roads to Equity) effort. She announced that Premera donated $250,000 to a fund that will help low-income families and children birth to age 8.
The following people and organizations were recognized at Monday’s event and last month with United Way of Snohomish County Spirit Awards for the 2016 campaign season:
Roger Bouck Award: UW Bothell’s Beta Alpha Psi, Mu Psi chapter and its volunteers for work helping to file 3,712 tax returns at United Way tax preparation sites. The effort brought $5 million back to Snohomish County, $1.7 million from the earned income tax credit.
Reeves/Sievers Founders’ Award: Bob Throckmorton for his many years as a United Way and community volunteer.
Premier Partner Awards: Comcast; Fluke Corp. and Fortive Corp.; the Boeing Co.; Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound; and Premera Blue Cross.
President’s Award: Jeff Roe, Premera Blue Cross.
Labor Partnership Award: Community Transit.
Live United Award: Royell Manufacturing, Inc.
Employee Campaign Manager of the Year (small nonprofit): Angela Rinaldo, Workforce Snohomish.
Employee Campaign Manager of the Year (medium nonprofit): Pamela Aguilar, Snohomish Health District.
Employee Campaign Manager of the Year (large nonprofit): Jennifer Willows, YMCA of Snohomish County.
Employee Campaign Managers of the Year (large for-profit): Nicole Allard and Christina McLane, Aviation Technical Services.
Employee Campaign Managers of the Year (medium for-profit): Erika Kostal, Costco Wholesale, Everett.
Employee Campaign Managers of the Year (small for-profit): Erik Gerking and Elise Gronewald, Port of Everett.
Executive of the Year: Matt Yerbic, Aviation Technical Services
Best New Campaign: Snohomish County.
Best in Class: Everett Public Schools.
Positive Change Award: The Bank of Washington.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.