2019 – Large Absorbent Sponge

Recruiting Season

How do you find your youth? I get asked this question a lot. MUST has the strategic goal of staying in and around the Rainier Valley through the year 2020. We serve four main high schools (HS) in that area (Garfield HS, Franklin HS, Cleveland HS and Rainier Beach HS) and the alternative high schools as well.

We have built relationships with staff in most of the middle schools that feed the four main high schools. MUST works with the middle school counselors to identify youth who are genuinely in danger of dropping out of high school. MUST screens prospective youth via 9 factors common youth most vulnerable to dropping out and/or going to prison.
Primary Criteria
1. African American Male
2. No positive male role model living at home.
3. GPA near 2.0 or below.
4. Parents/Guardians who did not go to college.
5. Qualify for free or reduced price lunch (low income).
Secondary Criteria (one or more of these)
6. Previous problem behaviors (school, home, law…ect.)
7. 7+ absences from school.
8. Parents who are/were incarcerated.
9. Below grade level in math and reading.


We understand that these are a lot of labels to put on youth but MUST has found that if we are not clear about who we are looking for we are referred many youth who would be just fine without us.

MUST is unique in several key ways. One of the most important ways is we go and find our youth. Our honest desire is to help youth and guardians who need the most assistance. Many of our families experience various barriers to access so we pursue them. Best of all… it is working! You and your donations help make this happen. You are a part of changing the futures of multiple generations.

FAST FACTS: 2.5% of all black males in the U.S. are imprisoned.

Student Update

Nate has missed 179 classes this year. Yes, you read that right. Rick often tells guys that intelligence is the size of your sponge, smarts are how much you have absorbed with the sponge and wisdom is what you do with the sponge. Nate has a big sponge but he has not been around school to absorb and learn. He is capable of absorbing a great deal. He could be a world changer… if he wants to.


He could be a world changer… if he wants to.


Enter you and MUST! Nate has been around other guys in MUST who have ‘flunked’ out of high school but have transferred to one of the many alternative high schools that MUST has built relationships with. These MUST students have righted the ship academically and are ready to go back to their original high school. Nate knows this is possible because others in the program have done it before him. He is also surrounded by older African American guys who are in college. Guys who came from the same type of hard situations he has been in. The culture of education and hope that you, as MUST supporters, have helped cultivated allows sponges to grow (not a fixed thing) and lets guys believe they can start absorbing again.

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!”

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!


For the last five and a half years my mom, Lois Newell (far left), has been doing an incredible job as the bookkeeper for MUST. The amount of time and energy it has taken to reconcile the books, enter donations, process payroll and think through how to manage it all is astounding. She has helped us organize the books and think to scale. Ethically, she has held us to the highest standard. Her hard work and attention to detail has been priceless. Most amazing of all she has done it for free.


Thank you!!


MUST is now transitioning to a bookkeeping service that will allow us to handle the growing workload. We cannot thank Lois enough for the years of service she has provided. MUST would not have been able to afford a bookkeeper and she has helped us bridge the gap. Next time you see her give her a hug and a BIG thank you!

The Results:

After nearly 7 years of working with the most vulnerable youth MUST has produced outstanding results.

Estimated Social ROI: 7.84
Estimated Net Lifetime Benefit to Society: $3.6M
New Juvenile Convictions: 13%
Estimated High School Graduation Rate: 87%
College Attendance: 60%
Prison Sentences of Graduates: 0

Kelvin’s Korner


Introducing ‘Kelvin’s Korner’

Greetings, MUST fans! I (Rick) want to introduce Kelvin’s Korner to you. We feel beyond blessed to have found Kelvin (above far left) for our new Area Director. His work and attitude have been beyond what we had hoped for. Aside from all that, he is just a good guy that I like to be around. It makes work a lot more fun. From now on we will be including this section, Kelvin’s Korner, as a way for you to get to know Kelvin and his brilliant mind and theories. We already see his theories working and think this will help you get to know him better. And now, without further ado, I give you Kelvin Washington!…

My name is Kelvin Washington Jr., and I am a native of Houston Texas. My motto is simple; “serve to save.” I believe the foundation of hope begins with positive relationships. My sole purpose in life is to provide hope through building meaningful connections, all while being hyper-aware for the African American male. I hold a M.Ed from the University of Washington in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on African American males in European classrooms. I earned an Environmental Education Certificate from IslandWood located on Bainbridge Island and have also received a B.A. degree from Howard University. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you in Kelvin’s Korner. – Kelvin

MUST QUOTES: “There are few role models for him who are in our circle. This program has been a God send.” – Guardian of MUST

Just the Facts, Please

The 1980’s renewed the ‘War on Drugs.’ What followed was an incarceration rate that dwarfs not just any modern nation, but any nation in history. The War on Drugs veiled an underlying bias that African American males were the cause of the war so they should be locked up. Generally, whites use drugs at a little higher rate than blacks.* However, blacks are about 6.5 more likely to be incarcerated for drug related crimes.* African Americans represent 14% of the overall population of the U.S. but African American males make up 34% of the prison population.* 2.5% of all black males in the U.S. are imprisoned.* In her excellent book, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander points out that the U.S. incarceration rate of black males is a higher incarceration rate than South Africa had at the height of apartheid.*

You are helping to change this terrible injustice in three powerful ways. First, MUST provides near-peer positive male role models for the youth to watch over a four year period. Second, MUST plans fun outings on the weekends that give youth new perspectives and provide healthy alternatives to some of their other options. Finally, MUST works with the juvenile justice system (public defenders, prosecuting attorneys, parole officers, home monitoring services… etc.) to advocate and work together to satisfy legal requirements. MUST serves the most vulnerable youth yet only 7% of its youth have new convictions. No MUST graduates have had prison sentences.



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 $150K fundraising goal this year for new funds?

Will you help us reach our $150K New Funds goal?

MUST is a great investment. We have been in operation for 6 years now. The longevity allows us to measure how we are doing. Are our youth graduating high school? Are they avoiding convictions of new crimes? Are they going to college or becoming established in stable careers after high school? Are our mentors graduating college? Are they being established in stable careers? The answers to all these are a resounding yes!

There are three good studies that show how much society progressively benefits if a youth goes from dropping out of high school to graduating, or being established in a career after high school, or doing some college, or graduating college or getting a masters degree.1 Since there are three different studies measuring the same thing we can have a fairly accurate picture. A conservative projection of MUST youth who have been in the program at least one year shows that MUST has a social ROI (return on investment) of 7.84. For every $1 you donate to MUST it benefits the community $7.84 in social costs (justice system, healthcare, welfare… etc.).


For every 1$ you donate to MUST it benefits the community $7.84.


Will you consider helping MUST meets its $150K new funds goal and/or meet one of the ongoing needs listed to the right? Your generous gifts are helping change lives in radical ways. You are helping not only this generation of students but their children and their children’s children. That is about exciting as it gets if you ask us.

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