Growing up in Southern California, Bobby Wagner, his siblings and his friends knew that if they needed a safe place to get away from whatever life was throwing at them, or just a place to hang out and relax, they could head to the Westwind Community Center in his hometown of Ontario.
Wagner has since gone on to an NFL career that has seen him become one of the best players of his generation and a near lock to end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after he retires, but even after a decade of accolades and wins and big contracts, Wagner never lost sight of how important it can be for kids to have a safe and welcoming place to call home, which is why he, along with the Seahawks, is doing all he can to support Seattle's Youth Achievement Center, which will be built in Seattle's Columbia City neighborhood to provide housing and support services for Seattle-area BIPOC youth.
The Seahawks have committed $500,000 to the development of the Youth Achievement Center, pledging to donate $100,000 per year over the next five years. And Wagner has made a donation of his own on top of that $500,000, while also helping the capital fundraising phase by recording a PSA about the Youth Achievement Center.
"The Youth Achievement Center is so important because it's crucial that kids have a place that they can feel safe and that they can call home," Wagner said. "People don't realize how much having a place like that impacts people's lives. The people who are going to change the world are the youth, so you want to make sure that they have the love and support they need to thrive in the world."
When it is completed, the Youth Achievement Center, located adjacent to the Columbia City Light Rail Station, will be a 45,000 square foot building that provides resources such as health care, childcare, counseling and technology and financial education. There will also be on-site job training and skill building opportunities provided. The project is being developed by Africatown Community Land Trust and will ultimately be owned by Seattle's Community Passageways with Creative Justice as the operational and service provider.
"The Seahawks believe in the mission of the Youth Achievement Center to offer a community-driven approach to providing vital housing and resources to Seattle-area BIPOC youth who need a safe and supportive place to call home," Seahawks president Chuck Arnold said. "We are proud to showcase our commitment to this project through not only this donation, but by raising awareness through long-term fundraising and support."
Explaining the need for the Youth Achievement Center, Creative Justice executive director Nikkita Oliver said, "The Youth Achievement Center is a solution to some of our city's gravest issues. It is birthed out of the brilliance and creativity of youth most impacted by gentrification, homelessness, gun violence, and the school-to-prison pipeline. It is their lived experience, their hope and their vision for their neighborhood and families that has brought us to co-developing the YAC housing co-located with services that are culturally rooted and community-based. Together we are building pipelines to thriving communities and the Youth Achievement Center is only the beginning."
The focus on BIPOC youth is a big reason why Wagner is so supportive of the Youth Achievement Center, because too often those are the children who are overlooked in society.
"It's very important because those are the groups that tend to oftentimes get forgotten," Wagner said. "So it's important for those families and those groups to know that they're seen and they're heard and they're loved just like everybody else. It's our jobs as older individuals to make sure that they don't feel any different, because they shouldn't."
For the Seahawks, supporting social justice causes, including initiatives that support youth, homelessness, and racial equity, is a year-round priority. The team has long-term relationships with both Community Passageways and Creative Justice, and has partnered with both organizations to launch documentaries In Community, By Community in 2020 and Out Of The Fire in 2019. This December, the Seahawks and Community Passageways will launch a new social justice documentary which will raise awareness for Community Passageways' "30 Days of Peace Program." The documentary follows the journey of local youth participating in the 30-day program, which takes those who are at high-risk of perpetuating or becoming victimized by gun violence to a 30-day offsite program. The goal of the documentary is to raise awareness around the issue of gun violence for youth and the work that organizations like Community Passageways are doing to prevent it. The documentary will launch on the Seahawks YouTube Channel on December 17.
As part of the NFL's "Inspire Change" social justice initiative this month, the Seahawks will be encouraging fans to donate to the Youth Achievement Center through in-game messaging and the team's digital platforms. The team will also donate 12 percent of blanket sales at the Seahawks Pro Shop, as well as $.25 from every water bottle purchased at the Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 home games to the Youth Achievement Center.
"The YAC will be a representation of healing for marginalized communities," said Community Passageways CEO Dominque Davis. "It will give us the ability to have a safe space to provide necessary resources for youth and families of color. A space to feel supported, loved, appreciated while opening doors and pathways to success. Communities of color have dealt with systems of oppression for decades and now it's time for us to set a new standard and expectations for people in our community to feel hope. We want to inspire them to go to the next level through education, economic success, and ownership. I want to thank the Seahawks for believing and investing in this vision."
Said King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, "The YAC will be a model for how to provide housing and opportunity for youth around our region. By creating safe and supportive places for young people to call home, we can ensure everyone in Seattle and King County can grow up to be healthy, thriving adults."
For more information, or to donate, visit www.seahawks.com/yac.