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The Seattle Times Fund for the Needy Features YES SUCCESS Mentor and Mentee

Lidia Harding
Agency news Blog Programs Success Stories
Harvey Youth Eastside Services SUCCESS Mentor and family

Photo: Harvey Trager was matched with Sem Iiyambo through a Youth Eastside Service program but has become close with the whole family. From left, Trager, Vincent Iiyambo, Sem Iiyambo, Esther Iiyambo and Julie Iiyambo. (Kylie Cooper / The Seattle Times)

Every year, The Seattle Times Fund for those in Need Campaign raises money for a group of 12 local nonprofit organizations, and we at Youth Eastside Services (YES) are very grateful for the opportunity to participate in their 44th year. Thanks to generous donors, last year, the campaign exceeded its goal of $1.7 million and raised $3,203,009 with $115,300 donated to YES, which helped support children, youth, and families struggling with mental health and substance use challenges.

Read below how these donations helped a mother of four find the extra support her children needed through YES’ SUCCESS Mentorship program.

‘A big blessing’ brings joy, help to Redmond mom and 4 kids

By: Isabella Breda, The Seattle Times

REDMOND — Julie and Vincent Iiyambo frantically pushed their plastic spatulas forward, trying to keep their runny egg mixture from falling off the griddle as it started to cook.

“Start scrambling!”

In a dance to share space in the kids’ Redmond apartment, Harvey Trager, 63, helped Julie, Vincent and their brother Sem make breakfast. The three alternated cracking eggs on the side of the sink, flipping bacon spread thick across the griddle, and unloading doughy canned biscuits onto a baking sheet.

Amid the shuffle, Trager asked the kids about their classes.

Vincent was writing a report about the Blackfeet Nation for his fifth-grade class. Julie, a third-grader, didn’t yet know how she did on her math test. Sem admitted he’s still trying to figure out proportions.

“If I make a cake with two cups of flour and a quarter-cup of sugar,” Trager asked the seventh-grader, “Is that proportional?”

Sem shook his head no.

The Iiyambo family and Trager were connected through the Youth Eastside Services Success Mentoring Program, which pairs adults with students in the Bellevue and Lake Washington school districts. The program is ideal for kids from single-parent households, or those who need academic support.

Esther Iiyambo, a single mother of four, enrolled her son Sem in the program because she was worried she alone couldn’t give him the support he needed.

Sem was shy. He often looked to his younger brother Vincent to help answer questions directed to him.

Esther Iiyambo felt he needed a male role model and someone who could dedicate time to work with him on his homework.

At first that’s exactly what Trager and Sem did. They’d set up a tutoring station at the kitchen table and work through math equations and science projects. Trager would use a whiteboard to demonstrate the tougher exercises.

It was no different than the help Trager gave his own kids, Carly and Josh, now adults.

Trager gradually started getting the Iiyambo kids out of the house. They’d go on local hikes, play mini golf and go for pizza.

Before meeting him, their weekends typically consisted of video games and church, Iiyambo said. They hadn’t seen a waterfall or gone to the zoo.

“After a few months, I went from one to three,” Trager said. Now he mentors all of Iiyambo’s youngest kids. KJ, Iiyambo’s eldest son, is in 11th grade. He sometimes likes to tag along on adventures with Trager, too.

He’s really a father figure, Iiyambo said of Trager.

Youth Eastside Services (YES) provides mental health and substance use counseling, treatment services and other social support for parents and children in the region. It’s one of the 13 beneficiaries of The Seattle Times Fund for Those in Need.

The mentorship program currently has 14 mentor-mentee matches, according to YES staff. The kids range in age from 6 to 18 and many live in Bellevue, Kirkland and Issaquah. They meet with their mentors for two to four hours a week and receive academic support, like homework help, and opportunities to explore the area.

The program has a one-year minimum, but many pairs have been together for much longer. Some met while the child was in elementary school, and continued their relationship until the teen graduated.

Trager has been with the Iiyambo family since June 2019.

To learn more about how Harvey is a “big blessing for the Iiyambo family, continue on to The Seattle Times website to read the entire article.

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