A lack of support at home led him to hang out with the wrong crowd. A series of poor choices landed him in a correctional facility for teenagers in Washington state. From where Marcus sat – behind bars with a criminal record that would follow him for life – his dreams of going to college and becoming a counselor seemed laughable, so he kept them to himself.
Marcus voiced his goals for the first time when he met Seattle Seahawks player Bruce Irvin, a 2012 first-round draft pick, who was visiting the Chehalis facility. Irvin and an outreach worker from the YMCA’s Alive & Free program were there to encourage incarcerated young men to change their lives.
The effort was part of Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll’s A Better Seattle initiative to reduce youth and gang violence by providing education, resources and opportunities through outreach workers in several Western Washington communities - Seattle and South King County, including Renton, Kent, Tukwila, Auburn and SeaTac.
Something clicked with Marcus as he listened to Irvin speak. For the first time, instead of seeing problems in front of him, he saw possibilities. In the weeks after that visit, Marcus began communicating with an outreach worker from Alive & Free. After he was released from the juvenile facility, Marcus received daily support from an outreach worker who helped him through many challenges.
“We weren’t going to let Marcus slip back into his old habits. We kept reminding him ‘setbacks are an excuse to fall off or an opportunity to step up.’ He’s a young man who stepped up and changed his life,” said Jovi Catena, Alive & Free Program Manager at YMCA of Greater Seattle.
Marcus is among the hundreds of young people each year who are assisted through Coach Carroll’s A Better Seattle and the community organizations it works with.
Starbucks customers have an opportunity to support those who benefit from A Better Seattle through a new Seahawks gift card, now available in Washington state Starbucks® Stores.
From September 2 and September 21, Starbucks will donate 25-cents to A Better Seattle each time customers pay with the new or last year’s Seahawks-Starbucks card. In turn, A Better Seattle - in partnership with the YMCA’s Alive & Free program - will provide support systems, life skill coaching and resources to give Seattle-area youth positive alternatives so they can become engaged, contributing members of their communities.
“We’re excited to partner with Starbucks once again this season,” said Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll. “Starbucks has been a great partner and we’re thankful for the opportunity to team up to support the work that our guys do for our kids in Seattle and surrounding areas."
"As long-time supporters of our Seattle community, and through a shared commitment to help our local youth succeed, we are proud to partner with the Seahawks to help build safer, stronger and healthier communities," said Carol Wise, Starbucks vp regional operations pacific northwest. "These kinds of investments are part of Starbucks commitment to help the next generation of leaders.”
Marcus intends to be one of those leaders.
He is now enrolled in school, working at the YMCA, living independently, and looking forward to one day becoming a counselor for youth transitioning out of incarceration.
“Having community support makes all the difference for these young people, just as the 12’s make a difference for the Seahawks on the field,” said Kelly Creeden, Managing Director of Head Coach Initiatives for the Seattle Seahawks. “Starbucks patrons will probably never meet the young people they’re helping by using a Seahawks-Starbucks card, but collectively they are letting young people in the community know what’s possible.”