Marcus Young doesn’t shy away from the spotlight and he isn’t afraid of hard work.
The Tacoma native has dedicated much of his adult life to helping local children, and now he’s taking on a whole new challenge as the newest member of the Bethel School Board.
You can trace Young’s enthusiasm for education back to his home life. He and his wife have a blended family with seven children — including two foster kids — and each child has had different experiences with school.
Three of Young’s children attend Naches Trail Elementary, and when he recently learned of an opening on the School Board, he jumped at the opportunity to serve his community.
The thought of making decisions that will affect thousands of families would be daunting for many people, but Young says he’s ready for the challenge. He wants everything he does to impact someone’s life.
“Does that mean I’m perfect? No. Does that mean I’m going to make every right call? No. But it does mean that at the end of the day my kids can say, ‘My dad didn’t talk about doing it. My dad actually went out there and did it, and he did the best he could do,’” Young said.
The literal distance between Hilltop, Tacoma and the Bethel School District isn’t far, but the figurative journey has been long and challenging for Young.
As a child, he witnessed violence and chaos throughout his neighborhood. A close friend was stabbed more than 50 times just blocks from Young’s home. He sought solace in sports and music.
“Music can speak to every area of our life, whether you’re down and depressed or you’re happy, it speaks to every area of your life,” he said.
Young sang in his school’s concert and jazz choirs, and he developed a love for gospel music that continues today. As an adult, Young has worked for the City of Tacoma and done security work for Tacoma Public Schools, but religion has always been his passion and his bedrock.
Because of that, last November he decided to leave his job with the City of Tacoma and dedicate himself to his church. He now splits his time between being the pastor at Spanaway’s New Life Church and working as a real estate agent.
Both of those jobs have given Young the freedom and flexibility to volunteer at his childrens’ school, which he believes more fathers need to do.
“(We as fathers) will take a day off from work to go boating or to go fishing, but will we take a day off from work to volunteer at school?” he said.
Working in his son’s classroom further sparked Young’s interest in public education, and it convinced him that he should be doing more to help other students in his community.
Young is especially interested in making sure every student in the district is given the best chance to succeed. He’s impressed with what the district has done in the realm of student equity, but he says there’s always more to be done.
He relates it back to being in his son’s classroom and seeing kids learning at different speeds.
“A room without equity says that because they’re all here, hearing the same thing, getting the same information, they should all be able to do that test,” Young said. “But that’s not equitable. Equity says they’re all here getting the same information, but I also understand that this group of kids over here lack in reading proficiency, and without reading proficiency you’re not going to understand the question. Equity says I’m going to do what I can to get you at the level of understanding with everyone else so you have the same opportunity to be successful.”
Among many other things, the School Board’s job is to create a safe, supportive, and equitable learning environment for every child in the district. But more than anything else, Young believes the most important thing adults can do to help children is to simply be present.
“Youth intervention starts with just being there,” he said. “Kids recognize the people who show up. Now your words carry weight and it’s not just some adult trying to tell me what to do. You’ve connected before you’ve corrected. If I had a motto, that would be it: Connect before you correct.”
Young has spent much of his adult life trying to help children succeed in a variety of ways. Earlier this year he helped start a program called the Trailblazers Award to honor students who are “blazing a new trail of expectations.”
The inaugural award went to the Spanaway Lake High School boys basketball team, but Young says the award translates to academics as well. He hopes to take programs like the Trailblazers Award and potentially expand them throughout the district.
Developing youth programs has been one of Young’s passions, but student safety has always been his number one concern. He spent a decade working in the Tacoma School District on various security-related issues, and he believes he can help Bethel become an even safer place for students.
Overall, Young believes Bethel is doing a great job with student security, but he said a single mistake can have catastrophic results. With so many school shootings in the news in recent months, Young says school districts need to remain vigilant and prepared at all times.
“When something like that happens, first we feel sorrow for the people it happened to, but then it becomes our responsibility to reevaluate things here to make sure we have security components in place. Then we can start addressing the other things, like mental health and bullying,” Young said.
For now, Young said he looks forward to getting out into Bethel’s schools to get a first-hand look at what needs to be done.
“Let me see how this engine’s been running, because it’s obviously been successful in many ways. I just want to see what I can do to add to that,” he said.