Good Shepherd Youth Outreach Launches Community Empowerment Center

It’s been a long road, but this Federal Way nonprofit serving youth of color just got a serious upgrade.

Good Shepherd Youth Outreach has been helping young people and their families in South King County since 2008. Through its Empowered Youth Project, the organization primarily helps young men of color build confidence and critical thinking, and reach milestones important such as graduation, work experience and position. -secondary education.

Louis Guiden, Founder and Executive Director of Good Shepherd, and his team have expanded their efforts in recent years to address food insecurity. Good Shepherd was this year’s Western Region winner for Chick-fil-A’s True Inspiration Award and received a check for $150,000 in January to help fuel these efforts.

But their weekly Thursday food distribution ends Oct. 27, and Guiden wants to get back to his original mission: developing the workforce, education and empowering local youth. From the start, Guiden said, he wanted a physical space to do it.

After 14 years of working at Federal Way, Good Shepherd finally has that space.

With a $500,000 grant from United Way of King County, Good Shepherd launched its community empowerment center from its office at 720 South 333rd St. suite 100 in Federal Way this month. The grant allows them to build the space, set up a computer lab, hire more staff and independent contractors, and build a virtual learning center for the Empowered Youth project, Guiden said.

Good Shepherd invited members of the community to the space for an open house on Friday, September 23, offering a tour of the new facilities and featuring speeches from some of the people who helped make the project a reality.

Their Empowered Youth project focuses on young men between the ages of 15 and 21. At the new Community Empowerment Center, Good Shepherd will be able to serve them directly.

“[Good Shepherd has] been in Federal Way since 2008, and this is the first time we’ve had our own space,” Guiden said.

But it took just as long to work through the hurdles of securing funding, and Guiden said it took a lot of honest conversations.

“It took many years for United Way and us to have these difficult conversations, to trust an organization run by black people,” Guiden said.

Former Kent School District Councilor Kendrick Glover is the Executive Director of Kent-based Glover Empower Mentoring (GEM), which works with young adults up to 24 years old. GEM is also a partner of Good Shepherd.

“Our work is parallel, but I consider it [Guiden] one of the OGs. He’s been in this field for a long time,” Glover said. “Seeing his vision come to fruition, building a space where young people and families can come in…that’s exactly what he’s been talking about for decades. So, I’m just happy to be here and support him.

What excites Glover the most is watching a youngster discover their “Why?”

“When we can get them to understand ‘why,’ we can prepare them for the next level,” Glover said. “We don’t try to set goals for young people. We try to get young people to set goals.

EMPOWERING YOUTH

Good Shepherd conducts outreach for the program and is looking for a few dozen young men interested in enrolling. Good Shepherd is run by those who identify as African American and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), Guiden said, so they share an ethnic identity with the young people they serve.

They will offer weekly classes focused on six areas: culture and identity, life skills, character, leadership, academic support and entrepreneurship, Guiden said. Young people also receive tools to enter the job market, and Good Shepherd also takes them on field trips.

“A part of [them] I haven’t been to Boeing to see an airplane built,” he said of the pending opportunities. “Some of them didn’t go to Mount Rainier. Some of them didn’t even have Chick-fil-A.

Good Shepherd will let young men create their own schedule to use the space, Guiden said. The goal is to let these relationships grow organically rather than being dictated by a strict system.

Too many well-meaning efforts help young people but then falter, Guiden said, so he wants the Good Shepherd to be a constant force in the lives of these young people.

“We are here to [the youth] in this community,” Guiden said. “We hear their cries… we understand the cries, because we too are in pain, just like them. We will not leave.

What Guiden has learned along the way is that it’s all about trust – proving to a youngster that you won’t “jump out of the boat when the water comes in”.

“[He’s saying,] “I need to see if you’re really serious about me,” Guiden said. “‘Can you take my pain?'”

HOPE NETWORK

The work is personal to both Louis Guiden and his wife, Dr. Eboni Guiden, who is the scholar behind much of their work, Louis told the crowd at the Good Shepherd event Sept. 23. She witnessed his pain, frustration and trauma when they met. in 1999 and encouraged him to put his passion and his story into a book, a documentary or to work with young people. This is the seed that God used to ignite the fire within him, Louis says.

He would come home some evenings frustrated and tired of the systems of oppression he encountered.

And Eboni “would pull out her book, a little pen, and she would write,” Guiden said.

Through these interviews and notes, Eboni Guiden formed the model and the narrative of their work.

Dr. Judith Berry, an education professional who wrote the Empowered Youth Project strategic plan for their United Way grant, was also instrumental in the program. As chief academic consultant for Good Shepherd, Dr. Berry enhanced the project with her first academic model, Guiden said.

Angel Mulivai-Tobin, program manager and coordinator of their food insecurity program, works with Good Shepherd programs in schools and serves as a liaison with parents and teachers.

The organization is based on the faith of its members, but they are not here to preach to young people, Mulivai-Tobin said: “Our goal is to see our members of the BIPOC community prosper, period.

But she also wants any young people in the area who need a safe space to also feel welcome at the Community Empowerment Center.

“They don’t have to be BIPOC. It’s just what we know,” Mulivai-Tobin said. “But here they can come, do their job and just be kids.”

Mulivai-Tobin has three daughters in the Federal Way School District – each just starting their first year in elementary, middle and high school, respectively.

“We are ordinary people helping ordinary people,” she said. “I’m just a parent, a mom [who] wants to help make the change.

Now that they’ve secured the half-million dollar grant, the clock is ticking to use it.

“United Way gave us the seed to do that,” Guiden said at the open house. “Let’s get to work. We have two years left.

For more information, visit www.gsyowa.org.

Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Dani Pfeiffer listens as Louis Guiden speaks to a crowd at Good Shepherd.

Lisa Brooks, project manager at King County Community and Human Services, poses for a photo with Louis Guiden.

Lisa Brooks, project manager at King County Community and Human Services, poses for a photo with Louis Guiden.

Pastor George Merriweather places his hand on the shoulder of Pastor Charles Allen, who is an Empowered Youth Project mentor, during a conversation.  Curtis Retic, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Good Shepherd Youth Outreach, stands in the doorway and Louis Guiden walks past the group.

Pastor George Merriweather places his hand on the shoulder of Pastor Charles Allen, who is an Empowered Youth Project mentor, during a conversation. Curtis Retic, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Good Shepherd Youth Outreach, stands in the doorway and Louis Guiden walks past the group.

Cynthia Ricks-Maccotan and Louis Guiden pose for a photo.

Cynthia Ricks-Maccotan and Louis Guiden pose for a photo.

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