Youth Development Program graduates get skill sets for success

EVERETT — The sky was overcast, another gray Northwest December day.

The classroom at Everett Community College’s Jackson Conference Center was brightly lit and full of applause, smiling faces and teens ready to conquer the world.

They were clapping for their accomplishments and their ambitions. The 25 students had just finished an eight-week course in the soft skills needed for success in the American workplace. They had spent most of the past eight Saturdays learning about financial literacy, how to make an elevator pitch, public speaking and other skills often left out of standard school curriculums.

The course’s leaders — mentors more than instructors — made a personal statement to each graduate before handing over the certificate.

Everett Community College staffer Jerod Grant gave Frankie Tilmon III his certificate.

“This man right here, he’s a powerhouse,” Grant said.

Tilmon smiled self-consciously.

“The program is what you put into it, and you put your all into it,” Grant said to the junior from Sequoia High School in Everett. “Continue to be the amazing man you’re meant to be, all right?”

They hugged.

“Much love,” Tilmon said.

Like every student in the room, the 16-year-old is African-American. And that means he faces a world where biases still exist. They might be quieter than they were 20 or 50 years ago, but they are there.

Even in Snohomish County, blacks have lower economic standing than whites.

In 2013, they made up about 2.4 percent of the county’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That year, the median income for blacks was $24,561 compared to $31,349 for everyone in the county and $33,041 for whites. And 6 percent of white families had lived below the poverty line in the previous 12 months, compared to nearly 15 percent of black families.

The course Tilmon just completed is meant to change those numbers. It is called the Youth Development Program and is run by the county branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Everett Community College.

It’s aimed at students with African heritage, but it’s open to any student in Snohomish County.

“We are not lecturing to them but building on their strengths,” said Janice Greene, a Boeing executive and president of the NAACP’s Snohomish County branch. She helps run the course.

When 17-year-old Rayzne McCartha heard about the program, she signed up and tried to get other students to do so, as well.

“This is a thing most people should go to,” the 17-year-old Mariner High School student said.

“It showed me what I can do with my abilities as an African-American woman,” she said.

It also taught her to reach out for help when she needs it, McCartha said.

No one succeeds totally on their own, said Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas, one of several speakers at Saturday’s ceremony.

“Every single person needs help in this life,” he said.

Lucas had been a star football player in high school, but then he injured his shoulder, he told the students.

His doctors said he shouldn’t play, warning that further injury could do long-term, irreversible damage. His coaches, though, told him to play, Lucas said.

“One coach, my favorite coach, he told me, ‘If you don’t play, you’ll never go to college,’” he said. The coach’s message was clear: As a black man, he could only get into college with brawn, not brains.

But a teacher reached out to him, telling him that was not true, that “you are not a product of your programming,” he said.

Before everyone went their separate ways, Greene encouraged the students to come by Everett Public Library this next Saturday, when the NAACP would screen a film about what to do when you’re stopped by police — a grim reminder of what it can mean to be black in America.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Nuno Taborda
Former Rolls Royce executive to lead Everett aerospace firm

magniX, which builds electric aircraft motors, has hired Nuno Taborda as its next CEO.

Destiny Conner, 13, takes tags off of clothing at the new Volunteers for America storefront on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At Sultan’s only thrift store, teens learn teamwork, job skills

Teens with the Sky Valley Youth Coalition “stepped up and created the store” on Main Street.

Marysville
Smokey Point Boulevard stretch closed for crash investigation

The road was closed between 136th Street NE and 152nd Street NE after a possibly fatal collision.

Lynnwood
Lynnwood’s car tab fee and utility tax on chopping block again

City Council members will talk about repealing them. If they do, the mayor is prepared to veto their actions.

Most of Compass Health’s clinical employees at the Marysville, Monroe and Snohomish sites will transfer to its Everett locations. (Sue Misao / The Herald)
Lawsuit blames counselor’s ‘unethical’ relationship for Marysville man’s death

Joshua Klick was referred to a counselor at Compass Health. Two years later he was shot and killed.

Doug Ewing looks out over a small section of the Snohomish River that he has been keeping clean for the last ten years on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Oscar Hoover Water Access Site in Snohomish, Washington. Ewing scours the shorelines and dives into the depths of the river in search of trash left by visitors, and has removed 59 truckloads of litter from the quarter-mile stretch over the past decade. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Diving for trash in Snohomish River, biologist fills 59 pickup beds

At Thomas’ Eddy, Doug Ewing estimates he has collected 3,000 pounds of lead fishing weights. And that’s just one spot.

Melissa Batson unfurls a Groundhog Day flag designed by her niece Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at her home in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Flags tell Monroe woman’s transgender journey — and more

The flagpole in her front yard is a visual for Facebook posts about who Melissa Batson is and how she got there.

Alyssa and Hart Bleifuss own and operate the newly opened Pie Dive Bar in Snohomish, Washington on May 17, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Pie Dive Bar opens in Snohomish. Yep, it’s exactly how it sounds.

Open a dive bar, but make it a late night pie bakery.

News logo for Food Forum. 20220418
A classic and simple recipe for sorrel soup

Visit your favorite farmers market to buy sorrel for this springtime recipe.

Most Read