The Seattle Times Fund for the Needy Features YES Staff Member Judith
‘When someone believes in you, it’s the best feeling.’ This once-shy girl is giving back to the Eastside group that helped transform her.
By: Page Cronwell, The Seattle Times
When she was a Sammamish High School freshman, Judith Mercado’s daily routine was unremarkable: go to classes, get her stuff done, go home. She felt lost in an educational system she didn’t understand while trying to navigate life as a first-generation immigrant and the oldest of four siblings.
She joined Latino H.E.A.T. (Hispanos En Acción Together), a weekly group for Latinx students held at the Eastside high school and coordinated by Youth Eastside Services. The group focuses on community involvement, cultural importance and leadership. The group changed her life.
“I started to see the importance of involvement in the community and in the school, and it opened my eyes to injustice and inequality with education,” Mercado said. “That is why I am passionate today and why I love doing what I do today.”
Mercado, 24, is now a Latinx youth and family specialist at Youth Eastside Services, where she coordinates the same H.E.A.T. program that helped transform her from a shy girl lacking leadership opportunities to a young professional with a passion for education and community.
Youth Eastside Services (YES) works with youth and families in Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish, and provides services through more than 50 schools and community centers in the Bellevue and Lake Washington school districts. The agency is one of a dozen nonprofits benefiting from reader donations to The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy.
Last year, YES reached more than 50,000 people on the Eastside, including 7,500 children, teens and their family members who received direct behavioral health services, which account for the greatest portion of YES’s expenses.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders, however, brought new challenges from multiple angles: Schools closed and relied on technology that not all students had, and social isolation exacerbated the pandemic’s toll on youth mental health.
Across the U.S., nearly a third of young people from ages 13 to 19 have reported feeling sadder or more depressed since the start of the pandemic, according to America’s Promise Alliance, a coalition of nonprofits, businesses and government organizations. A fourth say they don’t feel connected to school adults, and the same amount say they aren’t connected to their classmates or school community.
Meanwhile, YES clients’ families were relying on the clients for financial help or other tasks such as child care and information about the pandemic and shutdown.
To learn more about how the pandemic’s impact on students affects their access to support services, continue on to The Seattle Times website to read the entire article.
Every year, The Seattle Times Fund for the Needy Campaign raises money for a group of 12 local nonprofit organizations that help children, families, and senior citizens and we at YES are very grateful for the opportunity to participate in their 42nd year. Last year the campaign raised over $2 million through more than $3,500 contributions. Visit The Seattle Times website for more information about the campaign.