Seattle Foundation Blog

N2N Spotlight Spring 2022: New Connections of South King County

A fresh start for justice-involved youth, adults, and families.


June 29, 2022

By: Aileen Balahadia, N2N Program Consultant

New Connections has a 20-year history of serving the Kent and the South King County communities. Their mission is to connect justice-involved youth, adults, and families for a fresh start with education and resources. Justice-involved youth are those who have been incarcerated or impacted by the criminal justice system. In 2021, Neighbor 2 Neighbor (N2N) provided funding to New Connections to support their peer circles called “Connect to Coffee.” During these meetings, mentors guided people exiting the incarceration system and assisted them as they reentered their community. This year, the group hopes to use N2N funds to reach Latinx youth at risk of entering the criminal justice system through an even more creative and culture-based venture.

The New Connections VPR (Violence, Peace and Restoration) Project is part of their signature “Fresh Start” program for youth. This project uses photography as a medium for youth in South King County to document their dual experiences of peace and violence, restore connections to their community, and channel their collective voice to reflect upon and communicate issues of critical concern to their own communities. Focusing specifically on Latinx youth, program participants will learn the basics of photography, such as composition, and receive mentoring from those with similar lived experiences.

New Executive Director David Lujano is leading this program, alongside board members Sandra and Dario Blanco who will serve in an advisory capacity. For all of them, this program is about addressing the disparities that exist for Latinx youth in Kent and beyond.

“Unengaged youth are more likely to become involved in gangs and gun violence,” David shared. “This program is about helping youth connect to community and supporting their journeys to become better versions of themselves.”

New Connections feels prepared to lead this effort thanks, in part, to their long-standing partnerships with community groups such as the Freedom Project, the IF Project, and the Kent School District. Board member Michael Cravens also points to the expertise that David is bringing to the organization.

“Hiring David in this new role was an important step for us,” said Board member Michael Cravens. “His previous work with community impacted by violence and gang life are crucial experiences to build from.” Michael also noted that David is from the Latino community – giving him credibility and insight into the world of Latinx youth.

The insight that Latinx youth can provide will also play a role in the development of the program. Participants will co-design the New Connections VPR Project, helping to shape the curriculum and providing input as to where adjustments should be made.

During a site visit, N2N advisory committee member and City of Kent employee, Uriel Varela, underscored the importance of New Connections ability to connect youth with community and their culture.

“This group reminds me of an important concept I believe in: Cultura Cura. In English it means Culture Cures,” Uriel said. “The work they are doing in Kent through a cultural competency lens creates more confident youth because New Connections is grounded in their identity and larger community.”

N2N is excited to see the final product of this work and looks forward to a community unveiling of the photovoice project in the future.

Learn more about New Connection of South King County here.

The full list of N2N Spring 2022 grantees is:

  1. ADEFUA Cultural Education Workshop*: To support "Rites of Passage" for young girls of color in South Seattle, a program that emphasizes the study of West African culture, music, song, and dance; teaches key socio-emotional skills; and develops deeps relationships as young women are mentored by elders from the community.
  2. Braided Seeds*: To support Kent BIPOC children and families experience nature through culturally competent activities that foster justice, environmental stewardship, self-empowerment, community building, and hopefully, long term connection with our local lands.
  3. Casa Surya Healings: To continue support of South Seattle/White Center and area Latinx, indigenous and often undocumented communities through cultural and ancestral healing. Community healing is holistic (mental, emotional, ancestral) and deeply connected to our roots, to the land, to mother earth through the use of teachers and practices from Mexico and Latin America.
  4. Filthy Rags Outreach*: To support weekly peer-to-peer mentoring groups of South Seattle area BIPOC, formerly incarcerated youth and young adults with the goal of exposing the false narratives of the street and gang lifestyles and equipping them with skills, knowledge and connections to break the cycle of violence and recidivism. Formerly incarcerated mentors coach and support participants through this process.
  5. Gifts of Hope*: To support Black, South Seattle area young adults experiencing homelessness to gather with mentors, receive support and build community through African traditions and markers of rites of passages from youth to adulthood that have been historically lost. Participants commit to returning as mentors for the next group.
  6. Immigrant Seniors and Youth United*: To support African immigrant communities in Kent and South King County through multi-generational gatherings, where seniors and youth have an opportunity to engage in culturally specific activities and discussions focused especially on physical activity and mental health.
  7. Inspire Family Institute**: To support formalization of a White Center area BIPOC parents advocacy group, a peer-driven space to connect, share experiences, and build skills to advocate for racial equity systems changes in early learning education.
  8. It Takes a Village*: To increase civic engagement of the Black community in South Seattle through several topical, educational gatherings focused on mental health, affordable housing, climate change, youth violence, and small business support. This work builds off several successful years of community activation via the annual Juneteenth Celebration at Othello Park.
  9. New Connections of South King County: To support the "Fresh Start" program focused on Kent and South King County Latino youth to address social, economic and educational disparities specifically with a photo V.P.R. (Violence, Peace, and Restoration) project using photography to document their experiences and channel their collective voice to serve the community.
  10. Queens Project: To support "The Giving Tree," which is a wisdom circle for adults of color, primarily in South Seattle, built to inspire, foster health/wellness, and create deep community connections through critical conversations and tools for healing and growth.
  11. Resilient in Sustaining Empowerment RISE*: To support family healing community circles that gather BIPOC mothers (and their children) who have lost a loved one to gun violence in South Seattle and the greater area for community, provide trauma informed grief counseling, as well as financial assistance, leadership development, and life skills training.
  12. Salsa de la Vida: To continue support of a Latinx-led cooperative to address food security and food access in the South Park community through leadership development, growing/producing organic foods for distribution, and community education and partnerships.
  13. Seattle Rideshare Drivers Association: To provide support to a majority BIPOC and immigrant/refugee rideshare drivers association through drivers support services such as technical permitting and compliance help, access to family support resources, and driver advocacy on issues such as wages, deactivations, and the Fair Share initiative.
  14. Seattle Urban Book Expo**: To support a BIPOC book author podcast series and in-person dialogue sessions, in partnership with BUILD 206 media, to connect with South Seattle area creatives to widely share their talents, encourage collaboration, foster economic arts stability, and deepen community bonds.

*First time grantee of N2N
**Also, the first grant ever received by Seattle Foundation


For more information about Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N), please contact Program Consultant Aileen Balahadia at 206-250-4299 or a.balahadia@seattlefoundation.org. The quarterly deadlines for N2N applications are January 30, April 30, July 30 and October 3.

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