My name is Ellen, and many years ago I was a resident at the YWCA's Redmond Family Village. Our stay came on the heels of my choice to take on the challenge of starting life over with only my two children, my car and the hope of so much more for them.
Our stay has had a profound effect on the life of a young black and Hispanic man who was born to a single teenage mother and frequently labeled “at risk”—my son, Micah.
The most daunting challenge of my life was being a woman who was given the responsibility of raising a man. I would tell anyone who'd listen that I didn't feel equipped for the job—afraid to go it alone, without a father figure for my son, not ever wanting to fail him!
But I wasn't alone. I found an amazing community of role models that served as examples of leadership and service for my son. They inspired him to dedicate his future to making a positive impact on our community and the world.
When we left YWCA, Micah would babysit the toddler of a single mother who lived in our building so that she could go to work. He helped build transitional housing units in King County. In high school, he became a junior guidance counselor for younger children in the community and has worked at the Boys and Girls Club for 6 years.
I think the best gifts I could ever give my son were watching me do what YWCA taught me to do. He has learned what it means to work hard, follow your dreams, and persevere in the face of incredible odds.
And the odds are against him—black and Latino youth today face unemployment rates of 20 and 30 percent, significantly higher than white youth. At just 19, Micah was just offered his dream job at Immediate Clinic, his first step on the road to studying medicine and becoming a physician's assistant.
When he walks across the stage this spring to accept his certificate, he will be the embodiment of the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." As far as portfolios go, I think that's a pretty impressive return on investment.
photo courtesy: YWCA