Championing Heroes and Change Makers

Superheroes have taken center stage in American culture for decades, creating an endless genre of comic books, tv shows, movies, toys, festivals, and fanbases. Most of us have a favorite superhero – and even a favorite villain. But in the absence of superpowers and alien invasions, what does it mean to be a hero in real life? 

This month, we want to take a moment to recognize the heroic individuals and organizations who advocate for positive change in our communities, specifically for children, youth, and families.

What does it mean to be a hero?

A hero sees an opportunity to help others, takes action, and improves quality of life for their entire community. In Pierce County, there exists a network of heroes who are dedicated to our children and youth. From the teachers and Expanded Learning Opportunities providers who show up every day to give the best possible education and care to our students, to nonprofits like the Multicultural Child and Family Hope Center and Amara who support children, youth, and families experiencing distinguished needs. 

There are countless ways a person can show up as a hero for children and youth, and to be a hero and an advocate for positive change, you don’t have to be a parent or caregiver.

Open Ended Play

Make a DIY No Sew Superhero Cape with this tutorial from Pretty Providence! All you’ll need for this activity is an oversized t-shirt, scissors, hot glue, self-adhesive Velcro (substitute: simply tie the shirt), and paint (substitute: permanent markers).

When deciding how to design your cape, ask yourself, “How am I brave? What are my superpowers, and how could they help others?” Think about the heroes in your life. Your hero can be a teacher who helped you learn something tough, a coach who helped boost your confidence, a friend you can always count on to play with you, a business owner who made you feel welcome in their space, or any other person who has shown care for you as a young person.

5 Books about Heroes and Change Makers

In The Community

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is dedicated to mental health awareness in the United States, and May 3 – 9 is designated Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week as an opportunity to bring awareness and show support for the millions of Americans who face mental health issues every year. That number has increased over the last few years as the pandemic has brought on additional stresses and changes to daily life, and the theme for 2022, “Together for Mental Health,” reflects that. Follow this link to read hundreds of personal stories surrounding mental health. 

Having a strong mental health is essential to our physical health and our ability to live a full life. For children, it also affects development. 

According to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, these six things contribute most to the quality of our mental health: social connections, trauma (ACEs), stress, environment, physical health, health equity, and substance abuse. 

Thankfully, there are many resources available to help children, youth, families, and adults navigate mental health challenges and access the support they need.

  • Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital offers children and family services such as therapy, assessment, medication services, and LGBTQIA+ specific support.
  • Kids Mental Health Pierce County offers webinars, classes, and crisis services, including a free 4 week virtual therapy group for Tacoma Public Schools middle and high school teen girls this summer.
  • HopeSparks offers support to relatives raising children, provides early intervention services, and more.

National Foster Care Month

Each May we recognize the important, and often heroic, role that people working within child welfare play in supporting children, youth, and families. Children and youth who experience family separation often present serious physical, mental, developmental, and psychosocial problems rooted in trauma. This year’s theme, “Relative and Kin Connections: Keeping Families Strong,” focuses on how kinship care helps maintain family connections and cultural traditions that can minimize the trauma of family separation.

Two of the organizations leading supportive services for those within child welfare in Pierce County are Amara and Treehouse.

  • Amara provides an abundance of resources, support groups, and programming designed to create the best network of support possible for children and youth in the foster care system. 
  • Treehouse provides foster children and youth with clothing, driver’s assistance, and funding for educational, recreational, and wellness needs.

Jewish American Heritage Month

Each May we recognize and celebrate the influence Jewish people have had on American history, art, and culture. 

To celebrate this observance, you can read a children’s book about Jewish history, or learn more about and get involved with a local organization that serves Jewish communities in Tacoma.

Asian American and Pacific Islander History Month

This annual month-long celebration recognizes the contributions of individuals and groups of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, including cultures from the entire Asian continent, to the United States. Two important historic milestones in AAPI history took place during May: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States and the contributions of Chinese workers to the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

There are several organizations in Pierce County championing the AAPI community, one of which is the Asia Pacific Cultural Center. Throughout the pandemic, APCC has shown up for its community through vaccination and testing sites, food distribution, educational programming at Blix Elementary, and other youth programs. Throughout the month of May, APCC has a variety of cultural programming and activities, including food trucks, musical performances, art displays and more, to celebrate AAPI heritage. 

The state agency in Washington charged with improving the lives of Asian Pacific Americans by ensuring their access to participation in government, business, education and other areas is the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. The advisory committee is made up of 12 commissioners, three of whom in the history of the agency have been elected as Commissioner Emeriti. You can read more about one of these heroes, Lua Pritchard, here.

If you’re looking for another opportunity to learn more about the culture, art, and history of Asian Pacific Americans, visit the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle! It is the only pan-Asian Pacific American community-based museum in the country and includes exhibits and tours.

National Teacher’s Appreciation Week

The first week of May is a time to show our gratitude for educators, and we want to recognize those who care for our youngest learners. This happens in classrooms, childcare facilities, preschools, and homes across Pierce County, and we are grateful for all you do. 

If you would like to join a network for early learning educators, Friends and Family Network (FFN), and caregivers, please take a moment to complete this form. Your information will not be shared and will be used for future gratitude campaigns and events. 

Caregiver Corner

Take this month as an opportunity to show your appreciation for a hero or change maker in your community! Show your appreciation for others by calling someone out on social media that you see creating positive change for the children and youth in our community or creating a card for your favorite teacher.

While gratitude for others is important, it is also important to step into our own power as heroes and change makers! Prioritize time for yourself and make a habit of appreciating your own work.