Faith-Cheri Friendly has a 5-year-old son and a job as a caregiver. Robert Parkhurst is an apprentice machinist. Terrence Barton has worked for Home Depot and Jack in the Box.
All three are 20, with big goals and dreams. Now, with a GED or certificate qualifying them for more education or work, they’ll have a better chance.
To the cheers of families, friends and mentors, they were among 24 teens and young adults who walked in caps and gowns Monday night at Everett Community College’s Henry M. Jackson Conference Center. Each with a story of academic stumbles and successes, they were celebrated at the WorkSource Youth Center graduation.
Housed on the second floor of Everett Station, the center is a program of Workforce Snohomish, one of 12 Workforce Development councils statewide. Erin Monroe, CEO of Workforce Snohomish, said the WorkSource Youth Center serves up to 1,000 young people each year, ages 16 to 24. For all kinds of reasons — dropping out or being expelled, parenthood, court involvement, homelessness, addiction or health issues — they missed out on finishing at a traditional school.
“Thanks to anyone who supported me and believed in me since day one,” Barton told the crowd. Cheered on by his mom, Lanesha Barton, and longtime mentor Laura Wilson, he stood out in a pink cap and gown amid the others in blue.
One young man should have been there. The late Matthew Colson was honored during the evening’s most touching moments. “We lost one of our own,” said Ton Nguyen, Youth Initiatives manager with Workforce Snohomish.
Colson, 24, died after being struck by a hit-and-run driver Feb. 16 in Marysville. The young man, who at age 11 survived a debilitating skateboard accident, was walking across 64th Street NE near the Marysville YMCA when an SUV hit him. The case is still under investigation and unsolved, said Sgt. Jeff Franzen, a Marysville police spokesman.
Early this year, Colson had just one GED test left to complete, Nguyen said. “He was just pure positivity,” said Dan Le, who mentored Colson and spent many hours as his math tutor.
Kim and Marion Colson, Matthew’s parents, accepted their son’s certificate and greeted four graduates recognized with the youth center’s first Matthew Colson Perseverance Award. The honorees, whose names were engraved on a plaque, are Faith-Cheri Friendly, Aleka Hanlon, Brittany Miller and Tony Kail Jr.
Kim Colson expressed gratitude for her family’s 24 years with Matthew, and stunned those gathered with a poignant surprise: “Today is Matthew’s 25th birthday,” she said. “This is kind of a nice birthday gift for him — you didn’t give up. You did it.”
Monday’s event honored 84 young people in all, 39 who completed programs last year and 45 2019 graduates. There was no ceremony last year, said Jennifer Pennycook, lead case manager at the WorkSource Youth Center.
There were hugs and tears for Pennycook and Amber Alvarez, another case manager at the center, as certificates were presented.
Few students were brave enough to address the crowd, but Parkhurst broke the ice. “A big thanks to all the WorkSource Youth supervisors,” he said. Later, he shared that it was his first day on the job at Mukilteo’s Electroimpact, an aerospace supplier.
Friendly, who said she was pregnant with her son Devyn at 14, credited boyfriend Andrew Carlson with encouraging her to further her education. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him,” she said.
In the event’s keynote talk, former UW Husky and Denver Broncos football player Greg Lewis shared his history of overcoming challenges. He’s now branch executive director at the Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA in Seattle.
Born in a segregated hospital on Florida’s Gulf Coast, he moved with his divorced mom to Seattle, where a relative worked at Boeing. He recalled that at 7, he was suspended from school for fighting. A teacher introduced him to a sports program. One season, he couldn’t play football because his mom couldn’t afford a helmet. With a beat-up donated helmet, he played the next year.
As a UW freshman, he said “alcohol and bad decisions” led to him getting shot. A “good guy” roommate helped turn him around. He played in the 1991 Rose Bowl and was on the dean’s list at graduation. “There are people who are going to have your back,” Lewis said.
The milestone evening was a start, not an ending. Katie Jensen, EvCC’s dean of transitional studies, welcomed the young grads to campus and planted a seed about their next steps.
“This could be your new home,” Jensen said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The WorkSource Youth Center is on the second floor of Everett Station, 3201 Smith Ave., Suite 200. It offers drop-in job search help for those ages 16-24. A Work Readiness program helps those who haven’t finished high school, ages 16-24, to improve skills and earn a GED.
Information: http://snocoatriskyouth.weebly.com/youth-worksource.html or call 425-374-8351.