With the adoption of TOGETHER!’s core values of equity, community mobilization, and systems change, we launched an exciting new branch of our work that concerns addressing the systems of oppression that impact our agency, our program participants, and our world. Through a partnership with the YWCA of Olympia’s Intercultural Foundations program, we have begun assessing and working to improve our intercultural competency through trainings and other educational opportunities for our staff. To guide this work, we formed the IDEA Group, to nurture and lead TOGETHER! to examine and address systems of oppression both inside and outside of TOGETHER! This work is essential to equitably advance the health, wellbeing, and success of all young people.
In the last year, IDEA Group has coordinated several film screenings, lunchtime discussions, and special projects within our staff. Moving into the future, we hope to deepen and expand this work by making necessary changes to policy and program where we find that we have not been adequately addressing the systems of oppression that impact our organization and the families we serve. To learn more about the history and mission of IDEA Group, what we mean by “systems of oppression,” and why this work is crucial to our mission, please visit the IDEA page here.
TOGETHER! is thrilled to welcome Right from the Start, and early learning center that serves families with children ages 0-5 in Rochester, WA, to our family of programs. Right from the Start, previously overseen by The United Way of Thurston County, engages whole families and communities with educational opportunities for parents as well as children, family engagement and community building events, Parents as Teachers group connections, and referrals to community resources.
Services like weekly story times, play groups, and parenting classes welcome families to the center and allow Nancy Villanueva, program coordinator, the opportunity to assess need and coordinate services for families. Every family that attends a Right from the Start program gets connected to a supportive community where they can access support and resources they might not have known were available.
Family engagement and community partnerships are the cornerstone of TOGETHER!’s work for youth, so Right from the Start is a perfect fit with our organization. Access to high-quality early learning is crucial for ensuring that students are ready for kindergarten, setting them up for success through the rest of their K-12 years. Right from the Start not only makes early learning accessible, but provides comprehensive services that support the whole child and whole family. It’s the kind of work that TOGETHER! is proud to partner on, and we are very excited to have the opportunity to do this work in Rochester.
This holiday season, let’s Celebrate TOGETHER! All year round, we offer programs and services that enrich our community by caring for some of our most vulnerable members: our children. TOGETHER! works across sectors to advance the health and well-being of all young people through impactful youth development, health promotion, community engagement, and family support programs. But you already know that – if you’re reading this, that means you’ve made it to our website, probably through our newsletter or social media accounts, meaning you’re already a supporter of our organization, either as a donor, a volunteer, or just a friendly community member. Thank you for coming this far with us.
No one is quite sure what the future holds. 2018 bears the promise of new projects and partnerships that will serve our community in ways sorely needed, but also new challenges, some of which we can’t foresee. All we know is that we want to be there to support those youth and families who need us, the ones we already know and the ones who are yet beyond our reach. We want to be there for our community and help that community grow, no matter what happens.
With every backpack we give to a child before their first day of school, with every connection made between a student and a staff member they can trust, with every day that kids have somewhere safe, fun, and supportive to go after school, our community becomes a little bit stronger, a little richer, and a little more equitable. Every student should have an equal chance to succeed in school and in life. Our work is to make sure they do.
During this season of giving, you have the chance to be a part of that work. It all starts on #GivingTuesday, the day when we take a break from the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and give something back. We hope that you will consider TOGETHER! on this day, and help us reach our goal of raising $5,000 to kick off our year-end campaign!
CS Lewis wrote, “You’re never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Click here to help us dream the dream of a world where all young people are supported, healthy, safe and valued.
TOGETHER! is thrilled to announce our participation in the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound's Give Local campaign!
Give Local is an opportunity for the community to support the rural expansion of TOGETHER!'s Community Schools initiative, and with Give Local, your support goes even further thanks to a generous matching grant by the Dawkins Charitable Trust.
To view and support TOGETHER!'s campaign, visit our campaign page. You can support us by donating, liking, sharing the campaign, commenting on our social media posts, and telling your friends! If you wish to share the campaign with your networks, you can sign up as a Champion under the "Champions" tab. Learn more about what you can do as a Champion by reading this Champion Guide.
All proceeds from the campaign will support the expansion of Community Schools programming in Yelm and Rochester through Yelm Community Schools and Right From the Start. You can help make sure that all kids in Thurston County have the same opportunity to succeed in school and in life! Thank you for your support.
Since the fall of 2014, TOGETHER! has been building networks of support for students in the Tumwater community thanks to a strong partnership with Tumwater School District. This summer, another district has stepped up to join us in the work of supporting the whole children, teens, and families who make up our school communities. Congratulations, Yelm Community Schools, for partnering with us to providing comprehensive services to your students and their families.
Yelm Community Schools is one of the fastest growing districts in the state, and they recognize the value of community partnerships in ensuring their students get the supports they need all the way from pre-kindergarten through high school graduation. To start, TOGETHER! will place a full-time staff member in Yelm’s two middle schools: Yelm Middle School and Ridgeline Middle School. With the support of an AmeriCorps VISTA, they will begin to build the bridges between school and community resources that eventually turn into a comprehensive system of support, a safety net that can catch our most vulnerable students when they need us the most.
Thank you, Yelm Community Schools, for making this commitment to your students, and welcome to TOGETHER!’s powerful network of partners!
Thurston County, WA – Thurston County became the first jurisdiction in the state to adopt a marijuana- and- alcohol-focused “social host ordinance”, a model policy to help prevent underage substance abuse and improve public health and safety. According to the most recent (2014) Healthy Youth Survey (HYS), more than half (56%) of Thurston County 12th graders who drank alcohol got it from a friend or at a party. Limiting access to alcohol and drugs helps prevent youth use and related harms, but parents also play a huge role. The new ordinance sends a message that while the majority of Thurston County parents already actively prevent underage drinking and marijuana gatherings on their property, all parents and caregivers are expected to do so. “Parents matter,” says Meghan Sullivan, Executive Director of a youth-focused agency, TOGETHER!. “This policy is another reminder of the import role parents play in their kids’ lives. Ask them where they are going, who they will be with, and whether or not an adult will be present. Tell them regularly that you don’t approve of them using alcohol, marijuana or other drugs.”
The ordinance also aims to address other factors affecting a youth’s decision to stay substance free. About one third (32% of 10th grade and 36% of 12th grade) of Thurston County high school students say laws and norms are favorable to substance use (HYS, 2014), a risk factor for youth use and related problems. Further, public and traffic safety were also considered. Aside from alcohol, marijuana is the most frequently-occurring drug used by drivers involved in deadly crashes in our state (Washington Traffic Safety Commission, 2015). Twenty-nine percent of Thurston County 12th graders report they’ve ridden in a vehicle driven by someone who had been using marijuana (HYS, 2014), and among those who current use marijuana, that number sharply increases.
In 2016, TOGETHER!’s partnered with County Commissioner Bud Blake to create a plan for introducing the model policy concept in Thurston County, building upon a foundation laid by Rainier, Mercer Island and other communities. On Tuesday February 28, the Thurston County Commissioners took a smart step to adopt the policy, which takes effect 30 days later. “I’m excited that Thurston County is taking a leadership role in encouraging responsible behavior with our youth. We hope parents and adults will use this as an opportunity to talk with kids about their expectations.”
Other key partners include Commissioners Hutchings and Edwards, Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, and Thurston County Drug Action Team. Social host ordinances are an effective environmental policy for communities interested in reducing underage drinking and marijuana use supported by the Washington State Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, the Washington Healthy Youth Coalition, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
TOGETHER! is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 to serve youth and families in the South Sound and beyond with a mission to advance the health and well-being of all young people. TOGETHER! offers direct service youth programs, mobilizes communities through coalitions, advocates for healthier laws, norms and systems and promotes health through community and individual education.
For further information, contact, Johnna Knoerr, Program Director at 360.493.2230 ext. 110 or jknoerr@ThurstonTOGETHER.org.
For the KOMO News story on this, click here.
Nominees are middle and high school students; scholarships available
Left to right: SPSCC Foundation Development Manager Anne Larson, scholarship recipient Aylin Gonzalez-Ramirez holding her daughter, and Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake at the 2016 Awards of Excellence Ceremony. Credit Shanna Paxton Photography.
Local youth will be recognized for their resilience in the face of adversity at youth development nonprofit TOGETHER!’s annual Awards of Excellence ceremony on May 13th, 2017 at South Puget Sound Community College. Five or more nominees, selected by a committee of event organizers and key partners, will receive scholarships, sponsored by Gateway
Rotary and other organizations. All nominees will see their pictures and stories printed in The Olympian, and be honored at the ceremony, where they and their families will be invited to enjoy dessert with representatives from their nominating schools and programs.
Nominations are currently being solicited from middle and high schools as well as some youth- serving community organizations in Thurston and Mason Counties. Nominators are encouraged to consider the diversity of their communities in selecting their nominees.
Last year, TOGETHER! honored 32 exceptional children and youth for their strength and leadership as part of their first Awards of Excellence ceremony since 2012. Gateway Rotary, TwinStar Credit Union, and South Puget Sound Community College Foundation sponsored four $1,000 scholarships and one full-year SPSCC tuition waiver, which were awarded to five deserving students.
TOGETHER! is a local nonprofit organization that engages and mobilizes families, schools and the community to advance the health, safety and success of our youth. They educate about issues affecting the community; work for laws, policies and community practices that support positive youth development; and provide direct services to children, youth and families. They work with coalitions and partnerships to improve effectiveness.
View PDF here.