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Interview with Erica and Her Nonprofit Work!

Erica Leung grew up in Hollister, CA. She went to school at the University of Oregon and moved into the Lisieux House in December 2019. Erica works as the fund development and communications coordinator for the Youth Tutoring Program, a program of Catholic Community Services in the Archdiocese of Seattle. She enjoys listening to true crime podcasts and watching romantic comedy movies (and knitting while she does either activity).

How did you end up in Seattle?

I was going through a difficult time after graduating college and not getting many calls back for interviews. I had just graduated from the University of Oregon, moved back home with my parents, and was applying for jobs left and right. I remember feeling discouraged and thinking, “Lord, whatever your plan is for me, I’d really like at least a nudge!”

On a whim, I applied to a youth tutoring program in Seattle as the communications coordinator. I thought they might not call me back, but I did have good experience with volunteer work in high school and at the Newman Center at Oregon. In mid-October 2019, I received an offer from my (now) boss, took a leap of faith, and accepted the job.

How did you come to Lisieux House?

A week or so before Thanksgiving, I was stressed because I still didn’t have a place to live in Seattle. One of my soon-to-be coworkers asked if I had ever heard of the Lisieux House. I checked out the website and thought, “Is this a convent? I’m not gonna be a nun! But this was the door the Lord was opening for me! Now I feel really grateful and blessed to live in a community in which I feel comfortable, safe, and respected. It has been really great to build good friendships with the girls here.

What is Catholic Community Services (CCS)?

Catholic Community Services of Western Washington (CCS) is an organization through the Archdiocese of Seattle that helps people in need - feeding the homeless, running clothing and food drives, and serving those with disabilities. CCS also contracts with Seattle Housing Authority to work together to provide housing specifically for people experiencing homelessness, single mothers, veterans, and whoever else needs immediate shelter. One example is the Lazarus Center, which is a shelter for older men.

What is the Youth Tutoring Program (YTP)?

The Youth Tutoring Program (YTP) is a part of CCS that serves families of six different low-income areas of Seattle by providing free tutoring for students that mainly attend Seattle public schools. We have an amazing set of volunteer tutors who contribute their time Monday through Thursday teaching our students and helping with school work. On staff at YTP, we have employees that manage each of the tutoring centers. We work together to come up with curriculum plans and ways to support our students socially and emotionally as well. Many of our students are immigrant refugees or first-generation Americans.

Can you share some stories from YTP?

Just recently, we had our annual fundraiser Dream Big and interviewed some student and tutor pairs that have been working together for a long time. One of the high school students mentioned that when she started tutoring she was very shy, not confident in school, and self-conscious because she looked different from the other students. Her tutor helped her gain more confidence and told her she can do anything she set her mind to. They have been working together for three years.

One of our little boys, a fourth grader with a super energetic personality, really appreciates how his tutors have helped him get better at math. They make learning fun! His mom said she was just very grateful for everything the program has done.

What have been some of the struggles the tutoring program has faced, especially with COVID?

Most definitely technology. A very large number of our families and students didn’t have an electronic device to do their school work or even attend school. Last summer, we had a laptop drive and had many generous people donate used laptops and headphones. Since then, we’ve seen a big improvement, at least with students being able to connect with their tutors. We didn’t want them to miss tutoring just because they didn’t have a device to attend on!

Also, it’s still a challenge to get kids engaged online, because by the time they get to tutoring, they’ve spent the whole day online with their teachers. We do our best to check in with them and make sure they’re doing alright. Students are very open and honest with how they feel and many have felt a lot of stress with the pandemic and heightened racial awareness.

What is your job specifically?

My job is the fund development and communications coordinator. I help communicate with all of our awesome YTP supporters and donors, working on each of our seasonal fundraisers that we host. I look at my job in seasons: summer - school supply drive, fall - online fundraiser, spring - annual Dream Big fundraiser! For the fundraisers, we go all out because we want our donors to see exactly how their support directly affects our students. We have YTP students, families, and alumni come and speak. People are left somewhat emotional because they get to see how the students are thriving either during the program or after the program. My first year working with YTP, we had 19 students graduate high school and all of them are pursuing higher education. Their tutors have been working with them from when they were little, and it’s cool to see them go off into the world!

What can people do to learn more?

If you want to volunteer as a tutor, YTP is a great way to get involved with the Seattle community. You dedicate a part of your time to share your knowledge with a student who has dreams and goals they are striving for. It’s a very rewarding opportunity for many of our tutors.


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