JOYful Gathering Update

Thank you to everyone who supported our families over the holidays! We surpassed
our goal of $20,000 and raised more than $25,000 to make our families’ holidays even
brighter. Thank you to our lead sponsor Capital One Café and the employees from
Parker, Smith & Feek, Indeed.com, and F5 Networks for donating towards our JOYful
Giving Season. 2020 looks very joyful for our program and the families we support.
Thank you for all you do to make our program and our families successful!

Denise Nicole

At the beginning of the school year, Denise Nicole spoke to our guests at our annual luncheon. Here is her story…

Good afternoon. It is an honor to be here. My name is Denise Nicole, and my four-year-old son, Kingston, and I just joined the Family Connections Program.

I am here on behalf of all the new and returning student parents and their families to thank you for believing in us and our children.

My journey has been filled with hardships that could have impacted my life in a negative way. There have been hurdles and obstacles that could have stopped me in my tracks. But I have persevered and stayed true to my path because I am worth fighting for!

During my senior year in high school, my mother passed away unexpectedly from diabetes. Two months later, I found out I was pregnant. I instantly went from the baby of the family to the head of my own household. My two older brothers were already out of the house and my father went into a deep depression and went his own way.

I was scared. Scared to be another statistic. So, I educated myself on parenting resources and took all of the available parenting classes. I continue to strive to be the best mother and role model for my children and my community.

I was an active, and engaged high school student, who happened to be pregnant. Teachers and community leaders told me that I wouldn’t attend college. I could have listened to the naysayers. But I didn’t.

I choose to hold on to one teacher’s voice, Pamela Dykstra my homeroom teacher, she planted seeds of hope within me.

She told me she believed in me and one day I would make it into Harvard if I choose too.

Her seeds of hope sprinkled with my mother’s unconditional love have inspired me to do many great things. Becoming a mother to a beautiful daughter and son, go to college, and go after the career that I desire and deserve. This past year, I completed the Race, Equity and Leadership in school’s professional development training at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  This achievement reinforced my commitment to my goal of creating a nonprofit leadership academy for young adults to become inspirational influencers in their own communities.  I am going to name my nonprofit after my daughter, Charizma.

Currently, I work full-time and will be going to school full-time. The budget-breaking cost of childcare almost crushed my dreams of finishing college, but your support today will help me graduate with a bachelor’s degree, create more job security, and it will give my son a boost by getting him ready to attend kindergarten in a year.

My son just started his Pre-K program a few days ago at the local Y and the preschool tuition assistance that Goodwin Connections provides will be a game-changer for our family.

I am looking forward to us all being in school at the same time. I picture us at the kitchen table, my son printing his name over and over again, my daughter doing her biology homework, and me editing a paper I have to turn in the next day. It’s going to be a great year.

For some of you, your school days probably seem long ago and far away.  But there are several people here today, just like me, who are starting a fresh school year right now!  To the donors who have made this program strong for so many years, I would just like to say: we are so thankful for your support.

 

JOYful Giving Season

The JOYful Giving season is right around the corner! It begins November 18! This is our holiday and year-end giving campaign to support families participating in our program. In addition to making childcare and preschool more affordable for student parents, we also provide their entire family with additional basic needs support throughout the year–including over the holidays.

NEW this year, if you make a gift in honor of someone special during the JOYful Giving season, the recipient will receive a holiday card letting them know of your thoughtful gift to support our families.

Learn more about all the different ways you can get involved, give back, and make a difference for local families this holiday season…

Thank you to Capital One, Parker, Smith & Feek, and Little Rae’s Bakery for sponsoring our JOYful Giving season.

Thank you for fueling our families’ futures!

Thanks again to our guests and supporters for making our largest fundraising event of the year a success for our families. From our supporters to our students to our sponsors, everyone had a hand in making this our most successful luncheon to date! All in all, $108,475 was raised to support our families.

Thanks to our sponsors: GM Nameplate, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Safeco Insurance, Umpqua Bank, Four Seasons Hotel, Alaska Airlines, Spilt Milk Nannies, Byen Bakeri, Dabbawalla Bags, Third Place Books, Choice Organic Teas, and LegUP.

Check out the event photos here!

Community Outreach: Workplace Giving

Throughout October, we are visiting several workplaces and groups to talk about our Family Connections Program and various volunteer opportunities, like joining Team Goodwin or becoming a volunteer with Storytime.

While we were at Microsoft last week, employees took part in a micro-volunteer event where they wrote letters of encouragement to all of our student parents. Thank you to Board Member Sherry White and past program participant, Jessica Laughlin for inviting us!

Did you know that your employer may have a matching program? Check with your HR department to see if your gift to Goodwin Connections is eligible for matching funds.

Thank you to Microsoft, the King County Employee Giving Program, the Washington State Combined Fund Drive, and the Kirkland Kiwanis Club for hosting us this month!

Alexandra

This week, we announced Goodwin Connections’ inaugural Sandra Tonseth Scholar. An honor that will be bestowed upon a University of Washington student from the day they enter our Family Connections program through their graduation day. Named in memory of Sandy Tonseth, a past Seattle Milk Fund President and founding member of the Everett W. Nordstrom Circle. Sandy and her friends were Nordstrom employees who wanted to give back in a meaningful way and they found purpose in helping Seattle Milk Fund families. Sandy herself attended the University of Washington and studied art.

This year’s Sandra Tonseth Scholar is Alexandra. Alexandra is in her final year at the University of Washington majoring in Comparative History of Ideas with a minor in Environmental Studies.

She is an artist at heart who has a passion for music and documentary filmmaking. In addition to school, Alexandra also volunteers for 350 Seattle, a grassroots nonprofit working on the climate change crisis.

Her inspiration and motivation for all of this is her 10-year-old daughter, who is also a musician and engaged in her own volunteer work for the environment. As a full-time single mother, Alexandra is hardworking, resilient and an incredible example of how higher education can act as a channel in the pursuit of your dreams.

Congratulations to Alexandra!  And, our sincere gratitude to the Tonseth Family for creating this special honor for a very deserving student parent.

Araceli

How Balancing Self-Care and Sacrifice Enabled One Mom to Achieve Her Dreams

By: Tamara Braunstein

If you’d asked Araceli in high school about what she wanted to do with her life, she might have shrugged. She definitely wouldn’t have named any job requiring a four-year degree — she never thought she’d make it to college. For a while, she wasn’t sure she’d graduate from high school.

Today, she’s a proud graduate of the University of Washington (UW) Tacoma School of Social Work. And she’s an even prouder mother to her five-year-old son, Christian.

It’s Christian whom she credits with igniting her desire to push herself and achieve academic success. And it’s her 10th grade mentor who inspired her path forward.

“I feel like I wouldn’t have been able to graduate high school without that person to listen to me, help me with my academics, especially math and writing,” she says. “It was just a struggle.”

So from her perspective, Araceli’s degree is not only for herself and her son — it’s also for students who don’t speak English as their first language. For kids whose parents work long, hard days that leave them less available to support their children academically. For anyone who might be struggling with a learning disability and just need a little extra encouragement to thrive. For people like her.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do in social work at the beginning; I just knew I wanted to help people,” Araceli says.

But if high school was a challenge, even the logistics of going to college presented an entirely new test. Balancing class schedules with childcare while working to pay for both was daunting. At least she was eligible for public funding.

Until she wasn’t.

After completing prerequisite courses at South Seattle College in 2017, Araceli transferred to UW’s social work program. But soon after starting classes there, she was notified that her financial aid from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) would not be renewed. DSHS had changed their terms and she was no longer eligible based on her academic program.

Even though she was living at home with her parents, she couldn’t rely on them to watch Christian. Her father worked all day and her mother was recovering from a kidney transplant while undergoing cancer treatment.

“I went looking for help and someone at the university told me about their emergency aid options, but it turned out I didn’t qualify,” she says. “Then they mentioned the Seattle Milk Fund.”

A self-described skeptic, Araceli was hesitant about what the Seattle Milk Fund was offering. She had never heard of the organization. She was sure there’d be some sort of small print that would disqualify her. It seemed too good to be true.

But Araceli was also a bit of an optimist — or as she says, maybe just desperate enough to take a chance.

“They just said, ‘If you’re a mom, if you’re in school…’ and I remember thinking, ‘OK, I’m fit for this,’” she says. “So I hurried to get my application together and I hoped for the best.”

Getting the call that she’d been accepted as a Seattle Milk Fund recipient was life-changing. Not only did it mean Araceli could continue her studies and work, it meant she could keep sending her son to the daycare she already knew and trusted.

“In the beginning, everything was hard emotionally,” Araceli says, recalling the impact of her mother’s chemo treatment and care needs. “Being in school and having to do everything I was doing, knowing Seattle Milk Fund was there to help relieved so much stress.”

Stressful is an understatement of Araceli’s first year at UW. Many days involved waking up early to drop off Christian at daycare, then driving 45 minutes to school to attend class for one hour, then driving another 25 minutes to an internship before finally completing the trek back to her neck of the woods to work. Once at home, her hours were spent studying, completing tasks for her internship, and caring for her son and her mother.

But through all of that, Araceli learned two lessons: 1) The importance of setting boundaries for her time and 2) The importance of self-care, including asking for assistance when she needed it.

“The shy part in me still comes up. I was always terrified to ask for help because I don’t like to make people mad,” Araceli says. “But when you open up about reality, people can be understanding.”

She learned that at home especially, where each lesson was pressure tested.

Trying to balance everything on her plate was almost impossible. So she finally asked her sister, her only sibling, to tag-team caring for their mother. And she learned to tune out any criticisms that she should be prioritizing work and Christian.

“My dad is the macho man, always working. So sometimes I feel like I have to defend myself,” Araceli says. “I’m not a bad mom. I’m doing this for my son.”

The Seattle Milk Fund also became part of her self-care plan.

“I think they understand the life of a college student. We’re single moms, we’re busy,” she says. “This organization is like another hand.”

Not only that, but it’s a community Araceli didn’t realize she needed until she had it. It’s camaraderie, emotional support and professional networking rolled into one — all with people who empathize with her story. Plus, thanks to their tickets to venues like zoos, aquariums and museums, Araceli and Christian get to make the most of their limited free time together in ways they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

“It’s so expensive to do those things, and a lot of us don’t have the money,” Araceli says. “Those have been my getaways with my son.”

Now, as Christian prepares to enter Kindergarten, Araceli is looking to the next chapter of their life: A pay increase (as soon as she earned her degree, her employer of eight years bumped up her pay) and graduate school. The toughest decision she’s facing now is whether to pursue a specialty in education or medicine.

After completing her internship at a local high school, she’s convinced she has what it takes to work with students to turn their academic careers around.

“I’m glad I was put at a high school, because I felt like that was the hardest part of my education,” she says. “I feel like I have a story they can relate to — I helped students who spoke Spanish, I helped the ones at risk of dropping out, I helped the seniors apply for college.”

But going through her mother’s medical crisis exposed Araceli to the world of medical social work. She was so inspired by and thankful for how her mother’s case workers supported the family, especially when it felt like the doctors were only focused on the medical treatment and not a holistic experience.

“I feel like I could close the gaps between the doctor and the patient,” she says. “People need more attention paid to the emotional part of care.”

Whatever she decides, Araceli knows her success will come down to having a plan, then remembering her two lessons along the way.

As she tells her high school students, “It’s hard and you have to sacrifice, but if you make goals — and ask for help — you can meet them.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Diana

Last year, Diana, a student at North Seattle College who is studying pediatric trauma nursing, reached out to us because she wanted to volunteer for our brand-new Storytime volunteer opportunity. We paired her up with a class of 3 and 4-year-olds at the UCUCC Child Care Program for a twice-a-

month volunteer placement.
 

“The most rewarding part of being a Storytime volunteer is seeing the kids learn to love reading. At every session, their faces light up when I come in with new books,” said Diana. “They’ll run up to me, look at the title and I’ll talk with them about the parts of the book (the spine, the pages, the front/back cover,) and they’re intrigued! The kids have also begun to relate the books to their own lives–recalling times they have felt happy or sad as a main character may feel, or identifying that they’ve eaten the same food or done the same activities as a character.”
 

Thank you, Diana for inspiring these young soon-to-be readers. We are setting up new Storytime volunteer partnerships this summer to start in the fall. Interested in learning more? Send us an email at volunteer@goodwinconnections.org or call 206-526-7944. Thank you to Third Place Books for curating our Storytime book list with inspired read-aloud books with diverse characters. 

2019 Fueling Futures Luncheon Registration

Please register for yourself and your guests using the form below. Feel free to connect with us at 260-526-7944 or RSVP@goodwinconnections.org with any questions. Additional event information can be found here. Everyone who registers will receive an email with event details a week prior to the event.

There’s no cost to attend. All gifts are meaningful and bring us closer to helping even more families break the cycle of poverty through educational opportunities. We are amazed by the generosity of last year’s luncheon donors, who averaged $207 per gift.

Unable to attend? Please consider a gift in lieu of attendance. Your gift will be pooled with others to create a matching fund for luncheon attendees when they donate. Thanks to our sponsors your luncheon donation will go directly toward supporting Seattle Milk Fund families.

Thank you to Spilt Milk Nannies for providing complementary childcare for our guests again this year. Child care is available from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. during the luncheon. Sign up through this link.

Guests will be able to choose from a Grilled Flat Iron Steak Salad or a Warm Quinoa Lentil Salad. If you or any of your guests have a food allergy, dairy?, nut? gluten? other?, please let us know below.

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday, September 18! For specifics about the luncheon, return to the event page.

Congrats to our new graduates!

This spring and summer, we will celebrate 27 students graduating with their degrees from colleges in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. This is the largest cohort of graduates that our Family Connections Program has experienced since its inception. We are so proud of our hardworking and dedicated scholars and all they have accomplished. We wish them the best as they begin their careers. Thank you to our supporters for making graduation day a reality for our students.

Edmonds Community College
Svitlana
, Science

Lake Washington Institute of Technology
Vita
, Accounting

North Seattle College
Jennifer, Pre-nursing

Pierce College
Briana, Pre-nursing

Seattle Central College
Fadumo, Respiratory Therapy
Rebecca, Social Human Services

Seattle Pacific University
Monica
, Nursing

Seattle University
Devin
, Electrical Engineering
Angelica, Law
Martha, Nursing
Hodan, Nursing
TyKera, Social Work

Shoreline Community College
Sarah
, Chemistry

University of Washington Bothell
Naira
, Accounting
Weikang, Math

University of Washington Seattle
Corinna,
English

Danya, Education Policy
Hirut, Nursing
Robyn, Business
Joshua, Mechanical Engineering
Myles, Community, Environment, and Planning
Katie, Psychology
Kristen, Business
Sydney, Nursing
Ruby, Social Work

University of Washington Tacoma
Araceli
, Social Welfare

Washington State University (Everett)
Karina, Hospitality
Masooma, Pharmacy