Identity and Strength in community: Ultimate in the Southend

Photo: Tiffany Phan

Photo: Tiffany Phan

“Where are we from?” “SOUTHEND!”

The players in the Southend ultimate community know where they are from, and where they are going. This sense of identity and pride in community and self is the result of work by individuals and organizations in South Seattle, that are using ultimate as a medium to empower and educate youth.

 

Programs like All Girl Everything Ultimate Program (AGE UP) and its mother organization Southend Ultimate Program (SUP), have cultivated a community that transcends neighborhood and school district lines, which at one point were the source of violent divisions in South Seattle.

 

Southend’s mission is to “invest in the transformative capacity of youth living in South Seattle, especially young women of color.  We empower future leaders, expand opportunities for personal growth, and bridge cultural, socioeconomic, and geographic divides.  Our community is built around a love for Ultimate Frisbee, and our ties are strengthened through a commitment to social justice.” One of the organization’s central goals is to create an environment where young people from all backgrounds feel comfortable contributing and learning about issues that are a tangible part of their lives.

 

 

“These programs give Southend players a safe space to be themselves and to have fun while learning things about social justice.”   -Michelle Yee, co-president of the SUP Board

 

Southend ultimate was started by coaches Sam Terry and Rex Gaoaen at Mercer Middle School. Photo: Edgar Masmela

Southend ultimate was started by coaches Sam Terry and Rex Gaoaen at Mercer Middle School. Photo: Edgar Masmela

In this environment of open dialogue, leaders are born. Through mentorship with incredible coaches and elite ultimate players from teams like Seattle Riot, Washington Element,  and Seattle Underground, young players are nurtured into leaders and advocates for their community and sport.  

 

One of these players is Michelle Yee, the youth co-president of the SUP Board. Michelle started playing ultimate for Asa Mercer Middle School in 6th grade, looking for an opportunity to make new friends and have fun. She happily gained about twenty times that.

 

 

“I don't know where my life would be without ultimate or the southend community. I'm not the most confident person when it comes to being a leader but AGE UP has taught me that a leader is not defined by their own personal strength but the strength that they give others. AGE UP has been a support system to me and a place I go to because I know that once I step into the room, a smile will emerge onto my face.” 

 

Michelle is just one shining example on a long list of young leaders that are being empowered by Southend’s programming. The non-profit operates on funds from grants and donations and is currently holding their annual #GiveBig fundraiser in coordination with the Seattle Foundation. You can support them by giving here. Donations given before or on May 3rd are stretched by matching funds through the Foundation, so now is the perfect time to give!

Click the picture to watch a short video by Seattle Channel's Community Voices. AGE UP holds workshops that address themes like race, class and gender issues.

Click the picture to watch a short video by Seattle Channel's Community Voices. AGE UP holds workshops that address themes like race, class and gender issues.

At the core of this community, is a sport that is being used as a tool for social change in neighborhoods all over the world. A self-refereed sport centered around the idea of sportsmanship before competition, ultimate lends itself well to this kind of practical education and open dialogue. At every game, players practice communicating issues and resolving conflicts with their opponents.

 

These are skills that transfer to life off the field as well. Yee shares how ultimate has changed the way she handles conflicts outside of the sport, “I've learned to take a deep breath before jumping to any conclusions and to speak calmly when I'm faced with a disagreement.”

 

What do Southend ultimate players gain from this clearly awesome community nurtured by incredible organizations? Confidence, agency and a community identity that they carry with them for the rest of their lives.

 

Watch out world, Southend is quite literally growing our future leaders through ultimate. Which will in turn help make our global community a more inclusive and equitable place.

 

Help them, help you and consider donating to their great programs!

 

-TUPO Staff