This is a continuation of our Black History Month series about inspiring local figures. Read Part 1 here.
Part 2: Chris Spivey, Executive Director, YMCA Center for Community Impact and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
It was 2007, and Ronn McMahon, who was one of the Y’s senior leaders at the time, invited me to meet someone (Ronn and I were always on the hunt for potential employees—or partners—to advance the work of the Y). It did not take me long to be swept up in the vision Chris Spivey had for youth. He developed a program called ACCESS (Academics, Character, and Confidence Equals Success and Stability) and, as Ronn so astutely surmised, it turned out to be a perfect fit with our Y. Chris’s program vision, combined with his background in social work and coaching high school basketball, made it quickly apparent he had a special place in his heart for youth needing a little extra help finding their footing in life. Ronn and I recruited Chris that day, and over the nearly 15 years since, Chris has been dedicating his life to leaving a lasting impact in the lives of youth and families in our communities. You walk into any school in Tacoma, Franklin Pierce, or Clover Park, and the students flock to him; he has celebrity status. He knows each student by name, who their parents are, and what is going on in their lives. It is truly astounding to witness and a testament to the deep commitment he has for their development.
In 2010, the YMCA Center for Community Impact (CCI) was formed as an arm of our Y to serve youth and families in under-resourced communities. As part of our strategic planning process, we heard emphatically from our communities that the Y needed to extend its reach and “meet youth where they are.” It was a bold endeavor for our Y. Up to that point, we had focused most of our services from within our community centers. Having Chris on our team allowed us to confidently take that step. Working alongside staff from Tacoma schools, the CCI team has built a network of trust with the students and families; that trust has been the foundation from which extraordinary outcomes have been realized— – academic performance has raised significantly, attendance has improved, and behavior incidences have reduced.
The guiding message for CCI is to ensure there is a caring adult in every young person’s life. Chris and his team are present for hundreds of young people participating in outreach programs offered through CCI. The Brotherhood and Sisterhood programs were created to provide a caring adult, with their sole purpose being to pour into these young people’s lives. Listening to participants recite what has become the Brotherhood and Sisterhood pledge is inspiring: “…adversity does not define me, how I choose to handle it does.” This has become a mantra for the work of CCI, helping young people overcome the many obstacles in their lives. Chris’s deep commitment to lead this effort is what has elevated the work of the entire CCI team. He has a burning passion to see every young person succeed in life, and he will not stop knowing there are still lives to transform. It is magical to see Chris in action with young people; they know how much he cares, and they trust him. Chris Spivey is changing lives every day, leaving a lasting impact on the youth of our communities.