At the Feb. 12 Board of Park Commissioners meeting, the 2014 John C. Little, Sr. Spirit Award was presented to Seattle Parks and Recreation employee Jean Lee for her steadfast commitment to improving the lives of young people in the community.
John C. Little, Sr. served the community as a member of the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners from 1990-1997 and was known for his careful consideration of how proposed policies would affect youth. His motto was, “In order to improve the life of all people, you must improve the life of young people.” Jean demonstrates that motto every day in her interaction with teens both in her role as a Teen Recreation Leader at Jefferson Park and outside of work.
Jean’s nomination applications sung her praises and described the many ways and reasons she is so deserving of the award.
Jean Lee cares about young people. Jean is the person that teens look for at Jefferson Community Center, wrote one nominator. She is a mentor to these kids and they, in turn, look up to her for guidance, volunteer work and job experience. She always takes time to listen to their concerns and makes them feel welcome and appreciated.
Examples abound of how Jean takes the extra step to help these young people. Jean will take her own time to help troubled youth, meeting them at a coffee shop or a restaurant in the International District to listen and try to help them with community resources she knows about. Jean wants to see young people succeed in life and has involved them in volunteering, working around the center and in the programs that she has developed. Many of these kids have gone on to college and some work in jobs that give back to the community, including several that work for the department or the Associated Recreation Council.
Jean started out as a high school intern more than 25 years ago at Jefferson Community Center. She has worked as a
Recreation Attendant, Summer Playground Leader and Teen Recreation Leader with the department.
Through her prolific grant writing and creative programming, Jean has provided opportunities for teens to be engaged in environmental stewardship, arts and culture, leadership, civic engagement and sports. Among the programs Jean initiated are Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) and the Mock Trial Program. Both of these programs get teens out of their comfort zones and teach them to communicate their ideas to others. Jean had partnered with Seattle University Law students and local judges to produce the Mock Trial Program. The students and judges mentor the teens all the way through a simulated trial in a downtown courtroom. Her program was recognized in The Seattle Times and other local papers.
Jean has also recruited many teen volunteers through the Key Clubs at Franklin and Cleveland high schools. The volunteers have helped at the special events at Jefferson such as the Beacon Hill Festival, Summer Movies in the Park, the Haunted House and Halloween Carnival, Spring Egg Hunts and Pancake Breakfast, Spring Clean on Beacon Hill, Metro Bus shelter art work, the Urban Forest on Beacon Hill and many more.
Outside the department, Jean has taken vacation time to volunteer with teens at a summer program at the University of Washington called the Accounting Career Awareness Program.
This is the 14th year that Seattle Parks and Recreation has awarded the John C. Little, Sr. Spirit Award. Past recipients have included Pat Warberg, Elaine Dunn, Don Ganchorre, Dennis Cook, Tom Ostrom, Isiah Anderson, Patti Petesch, Folasa Titialii, Jr., Royal Alley-Barnes, Ron Mirabueno and Willie Rogers.