2018 – Superman

Youth AND Mentors 

DJ is one of my heroes. In many ways we had opposite childhoods. We both had families that cared for us but DJ’s family did not have the financial resources nor the academic history to help him. He grew up around gang activity and drugs. Going to college was like going to another planet.

Rick and Superman (DJ) at SPU Graduation

DJ was not a great student in high school. He failed a lot of classes his first two years. Everything changed during his junior year. Most of DJ’s friends were a year or two older than him. His friends began talking about college, acceptance letters and scholarships. Such things were foreign to DJ because he had never thought about college. During his junior year his academics began to change and he started to apply for scholarships. He was awarded the Achievers scholarship for $40,000. It is given to low income first generation students.

DJ graduated high school and attended community college but he was still not fully prepared. Over the next few years he flunked out of three different community colleges. He failed not because of lack of smarts, but lack of focus and drive. DJ says he, “forgot the importance and reason of succeeding in college.”

DJ says he, “forgot the importance and reason of succeeding in college.”

Nobody from his neighborhood or friends attended college and he wanted to inspire them to show that anything is possible. He wanted to be the best role model for his siblings. He wanted to continue to make his parents proud. Above all else, he wanted to prove to himself that he belonged in college and that he was going to make himself proud.

DJ attended one more community college and he thrived. He obtained his AA and transferred to Seattle Pacific University, a dream school for him, and he graduated in 2018. He plans on getting his Masters in Teaching and becoming a secondary teacher. DJ represents extreme courage and perseverance to me. What he has overcome to get here is incredible. He is one of my heroes.

Todd and his Coach Edumundo

Todd Williams, another MUST mentor, just finished his AA at Highline College and is transferring to a four year university. When Todd looks at DJ he sees someone he can relate to and someone blazing a trail that he can follow. “If he can do it… so can I!”

MUST offers DJ and Todd a high wage so they do not have to work a lot of hours, a car to make college easier and a Coach to help them navigate life, school and being a mentor to kids who need a lot of help. MUST helps them but they help MUST by encouraging kids who are going through the same tough times they did. MUST is a ‘near peer’ mentoring model and DJ represents that on several levels.

FAST FACTS: Only 11% of first generation students will graduate college if they start.

MUST QUOTES: “He has become more confident in school and eager to take on the next challenge.” – Guardian of MUST Youth

10 People in 10 Living Rooms

The fundraising strategy this year for MUST is meeting 10 people in 10 different living rooms (100 people total) in the months of September, October or early November. We have 8 living rooms scheduled and are in need of two more. Would you be interested in hosting an evening for us? You need only invite those that you think would be interested in the mission of MUST and provide some food or dessert. Rick will present for 45 minutes plus answer questions about MUST. It will be fun for all! Please call or email Rick if you are interested.

Bite of Seattle

The MUST Misson: MUST is dedicated to finding promising African American men in college and paying them to mentor African American youth who are in genuine danger of dropping out of high school. The younger watches the older for 4 years and begins to think, “If he can do it… so can I!”

How do you find youth? 

Rick is often asked how MUST finds its youth. Each year our network grows so it gets easier and easier. Some of our most important relationships are those with the middle school counselors. Each winter and spring Rick puts the word out to the middle schools we have built relationships with. The counselors connect us with the youth and guardians. They get an application and have an interview with Rick. On the application there are some revealing questions that help MUST determine if they are truly in danger of dropping out. Those go a long way to help determining which youth to choose. The interviews with the youth and guardian are helpful too. Rick listens in the interview for telltale signs of being in danger of dropping out. Here are some excerpts from this year:
Rick: Do you have brothers and sisters?
Youth #1: I have an older brother and sister… but they are both in prison.
Rick: Why do you want to be in the mentoring program?
Youth #2: So I know how to make money that’s legal.
Rick: Have you moved recently?
Guardian: I just moved of out of living in my car to an apartment.

Summer Movie Night

MUST also has nine criteria that helps us choose: 1. African American 2. no positive male figure at home 3. low GPA 4. parents who did not go to college 5. low income 6. behavior problems 7. absences 8. parents who are/were incarcerated 9. behind in reading and/or math. We hold to the first five as tightly as we can and look for one more.

MUST is unique in the way we pursue youth and we genuinely desire to serve the kids that need the most help. Our amazing mentors help keep them on track over the four years they are in the program. We can do this!

Go Karts!


Housing – Would you consider buying MUST a house or letting us take care of yours while our college students stay there? Housing is a constant and urgent need.

Cars – MUST is always on the lookout for used cars for our mentors. We need about three new (used) cars each year. You can make it a tax deductible gift!

Food – Some of our youth and college age guys struggle with hunger. Would you mail us some gift cards from Subway, Safeway or QFC?

Funding – Would you consider helping us meet our $110K fundraising goal this year for new funds?

You can make donations directly to MUST!

Checks are payable to Mentoring Urban Students and Teens
EIN Tax ID: 47-3006113
4093 Letitia Ave S
Seattle, WA 98118