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Friends – Seattle on Bonneville Radio as December 2018 charity of the month

Executive Director Steve Lewis spoke with KIRO 97.3 FM’s Carolyn Ossorio to dive deeper into our unique and powerful model.

Rather than focusing on school success as the sole predictor of long-term success, Friends of the Children – Seattle (Friends) approaches school success as an important part of a much larger picture. Researchers are widening the scope of investigation beyond just academic indicators to assess what factors truly make an impact on a child’s long-term success.

“Interestingly enough,” Friends executive director Steve Lewis says, “The things that are predictive of long term success…are things like grit, resilience, goal setting…things that are hard to measure.” Friends uses academics as a context to build things like growth mindset, hope and a sense of belonging. Friends embraces the challenge inherent in the data and evaluates goal setting alongside academic improvement. Critical to this mission is the approach of intentionality, in which professional mentors plan every activity with an intention that reflects their youth’s current goals.

For example, a professional mentor and their youth might cook a nutritious snack. In this activity, Lewis says, “they’re not only learning about what cooking is; they’re learning about how to measure,” and why certain ingredients are used. The activity is goal-oriented, but also “awesome and fun.” Moreover, the skills youth learn will have a positive impact on those around them. In the cooking example, Lewis says, “We help them plan financially so…they can buy things that are [going to] both be healthy…and cheap for the family.”

Friends’ full-time, salaried mentors spend intentional time with their youth for four hours every week from kindergarten or first grade all the way through high school graduation. This long-term commitment ensures that youth have a consistent relationship that supports their academic success as well as the development of life skills. After 12.5 years, youth graduate from the Friends program with the resilience and goal-setting capabilities that will lead them to be successful members of their community.

Friends’ mission, Lewis says, is “stopping intergenerational poverty in its tracks.” If Friends can change one child’s life, that success will ripple out to the child’s community. The grit and goal-setting youth learn at Friends will lead them to “be a successful parent, a successful community member, a successful job-holder and a successful leader.” In this manner, Lewis asserts, “our work is not just about changing the lives of individuals but changing the lives of communities.”