By Bonni Sundberg
Kiwanis Club of Kirkland Marketing Chair
Periodically, the Kiwanis Club of Kirkland honors a person in our community for service they have given in various capacities that affects the lives of others in a positive way. This is done by presenting them with an “Everyday Hero” award. Earlier this fall, the Kiwanis Club of Kirkland presented this prestigious award to Kiwanis member Kalika Curry.
Kalika was recognized for her ongoing work with the Youth Institute program at the YMCA KTUB in Kirkland. This life changing program started in our area in 2013 and Kalika has been involved from its inception and continues to contribute to its success. .
Kalika joined the ranks at KTUB (Kirkland Teen Union Building) in 2013 as the Artistic Director. Very soon after that, she knew she wanted to be doing work that connected her with the kids of Kirkland because she was one of them. She went to local schools and grew up in Kirkland and she could relate to the kids and their issues. She was able to do that by helping plan, organize and initiate the first Youth Institute Program.
The Youth Institute Program is for youth 7 – 11th grades and is geared toward students on a pathway of not graduating for various reasons. This 6 week summer program helps students get on a tract that works for them; leading in a direction that will fulfill their lives by giving them skills they can take out into the world and make a difference. The program is comprised of intense workshops focusing on Digital Media arts, creative writing, scripting, storyboarding and oral presentations. At conclusion, the students have created their own digital films and music, a magazine and website. They will also receive a stipend upon successful completion of all the job requirements.
This past summer was the 4th year of this program has been up and running. The number of students joining the program has steadily increased. The first year there were 8 kids enrolled and this past summer, 24 teens completed the program. Each year Kalika has taken on more responsibility and has been able to impact more lives.
To start the program off, the kids are taken on a 4 day/3 night Wilderness Retreat. These kids didn’t know each other and many tended to keep to themselves. Some have never been to the woods or swam in a lake! They are assigned to groups, given materials to build a lean-to tent and told they will be sleeping on the ground on tarps. Kalika teaches the teens to prepare each meal from scratch. Some of the kids have never cracked an egg and have no idea about cooking of any sort. The groups are chosen by Kalika and other staffers and they purposely put kids together that normally would not hang out or even talk to each other. It turns out to be a great learning, bonding experience for all the participants who say they feel part of something (maybe the first time for some of them), are able to work through their differences and make wonderful friends. Kalika is all about giving them the skills they need to thrive and but mostly about teaching them accountability – to work as a team, to trust each other and their councilors.
Each evening, campers and counselors join in a campfire gathering and everyone agrees this is the best part of the retreat. It is where everyone really gets to know each other and share their life stories. Kalika and other staffers make themselves vulnerable to the kids, sharing stories about their youth and experiences they have had in their lives and obstacles they have overcome. Kalika’s hope is these kids can use her as a gage point for where they are and where they would like to end up. She said, “I would like to create a place for them to tether, where there is no bias.”
Curry also shared something that all the participants took to heart and used during the whole program – “step up, step back”. She encouraged them to take a different approach to their challenges by doing the opposite of what they would normally do. If they were used to staying in the background and being quiet, they were encouraged to come forward and speak up. This was also true for those who were used to taking charge – they were reminded to step back and let their new friends be heard. Kalika said, “This created an equal playing field for everyone”. Through this experience, they learned patience, tolerance and leadership but more importantly to trust themselves and others.
After the retreat, their media work begins. The kids are again broken up into groups of three and given a topic to create a short video. They have to write the script, film the video, edit it and put music to it. Each participant also writes an article for the magazine that is published at the end of the 6 weeks. It is really remarkable to see where these kids start and how far they come in such a short period of time. They again learn to work as a team, overcome differences and work toward a common goal.
Kalika has recently accepted a new position with the Y as head of Marketing Program Coordinator which focuses on social and community programs for 13 YMCAs in the greater Seattle area. She works with al 13 branches and does marketing and planning of social and community events for each branch, depending on the need. She will, however, continue to work with the Youth Institute program in Kirkland and be involved in various capacities.
Kalika’s passion for her work with the Youth Institute Program and the YMCA is contagious. She has so much to offer our local youth and truly desires to help as many teens succeed as she can. Her personal banner for these kids is “If it wasn’t for the YMCA, I wouldn’t have (each teen fills in the blank)” Her hope is to affect each teen’s life she connects with a positive response to this statement and help them on their path to success – whatever that means to them.
Ms. Curry is currently enrolled in a two-year Adaptive Leadership program with Leadership Eastside and she will graduate in the spring of 2018. Leadership Eastside convenes for the greater good on the Eastside. With this program, she has stepped into a facilitator role for Eastside Pathways collaborative Community Engagement for Cultural Integration, supporting youth from cradle to career in the Lake Washington and Belleview School Districts. Kalika said, “All of this couldn’t be possible without my time at KTUB and my commitment to serving youth in my community.”
With everything Kalika does, her favorite job of all is being mom to her 3 children 7, 10 and 13. If you could bottle energy and use it later, you would want to get it from Kalika Curry!! She is s true inspiration and the Kiwanis Club of Kirkland is proud to honor her as their Every Day Hero for 2017.
If you would like to make a donation to or learn more about the Youth Institute Program, visit their website at www.ymcaktub.org/youthinstitute.org.
The Kirkland Kiwanis Foundation is proud to be a major contributor to this exciting and future building program. If you would like more information about the Kirkland Kiwanis Foundation, please visit http://kirkland.kiwanis.org.