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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Dreams to reality: SERA’s promotes youth and readies for August celebration

The Spokane Eastside Reunion Association’s mission to help today’s youth was on full display last week inside restaurant Fresh Soul, where teens were having fun and cleaning up after working in the kitchen.

With the creation of a communitywide celebration from the organization on Aug. 10, disadvantaged families can come together not just to learn, but to dream, to play and to realize that their environments do not define who they can become, said Michael Brown, the founder of SERA and Fresh Soul.

He sums up what he produces and shares with the community in events such as the Aug. 10 “big picnic.”

Through the program, kids might begin to learn new life skills and more about themselves, from dribbling a bright orange basketball to serving up restaurant staples such as ribs or gumbo while having a chat with customers about SERA.

Basketball camp is offered in the summer for six weeks for 5- to 14-year-olds. The graduates of the basketball camp can be given a certificate and be invited back to be a mentor, and even earn a $500 stipend. The job training program for 14- to 18-year-olds lasts 12 weeks. Teens get paid for their restaurant work and have something to put on their resume.

“When you first start out, nobody wants to give you any money because you’re not proving,” Brown said.

Brown emphasized the importance of showcasing integrity and kindness to all people as a foundation of the SERA program.

Having seen people’s troubles firsthand and the struggle to afford simple things, Karen Sutula, director of operations and programs of SERA, spoke of the happiness of getting an opportunity to be able to produce free events for anyone to enjoy. Field games, face painters and balloon twisters will be among the activities at the event.

Virla Spencer, CEO of The Way to Justice, arranges the donation of bikes, shoes and backpacks with school supplies to help parents with ongoing struggles. Spencer was able to get 10 cash prizes of $500 each that will be offered in a raffle. A donated night at the Davenport Hotel is also in the mix.

The Way to Justice supports SERA’s work to normalize opportunities for families.

“The Way to Justice, when we come in, we like to be able to amplify it,” Spencer said.

This upcoming celebration is not just a fundraiser, she said; it’s a showcase of the achievements of SERA’s youth and a way of supporting local communities.

“The need is even greater than it was last year,” Spencer said.

Z'Hanie Weaver's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.