Hometown Hero: Jeremy Winzer steers kids out of trouble

Progress Pushers shared presentations at City Hall about gangs, teen drug use and more.

Jeremy Winzer has worked at Progress Pushers for the past two years, and through his life experiences, he feels God made him to guide youth.

Winzer is a youth specialist at Progress Pushers, an organization dedicated to guiding, educating and empowering youth who are most affected by societal systems. Winzer said that before he began working at Progress Pushers, he was already involved in community basketball, but in 2016, he got more involved, and eventually, after losing a job at the right time, he joined Progress Pushers.

For his selfless work with local youth, Winzer has been named the Mirror’s Hometown Hero of the Month for June 2024.

Winzer said Progress Pushers mentors kids coming out of juvenile detention, but kids also get referred to Progress Pushers by judges, prosecutors, family members, or other avenues.

In addition to kids joining progress pushers due to involvement in the justice system, Winzer said they also have an after-school program. Winzer said recently he’s been going to Todd Beamer High School and working with youth there during their after-school program.

Winzer said the high school program has four phases of curriculum, starting with life skills, leadership development, civic engagement, and job readiness. Winzer said usually, after kids get through a phase of the program, they have a celebration. Their latest celebration was for the completion of the civic engagement program.

They celebrated this achievement by hosting a civic engagement night at Federal Way City Hall on June 21. Winzer said the public was invited to see the kids share their presentations at the celebration. Winzer said the kids’ presentations covered mental health, teen drug abuse, youth incarceration and youth gang violence.

“To see these kids get up there and present, it was like watching my son for the first time ride a bike,” Winzer said, praising the youth for their thoughtful presentations in front of their peers. “It was overwhelmingly joyful for me, to say the least.”

Winzer said the only thing he was disappointed in was that he wished people from City Hall would have attended. Attendees did include 30th District State Rep. Jamila Taylor and members of the Federal Way School Board, but he would have liked to have seen more support for the kids.

Winzer said he’s trying to work on some kind of late-night program to support the Federal Way youth. He said that when youth don’t have anything to do late at night, it’s likely that some of them will get into trouble.

“Community centers all across the state close at 7 when the sun goes down, especially in the summer. So you’re telling me I’m a rowdy 16-year-old boy, and I played basketball for two hours. I don’t have a good, healthy home to go to, right? And you close at 7, the sun’s down. Now I’m walking around the Federal Way community,” Winzer said. “Yes, I’m going to find myself in some trouble. It’s like they’re steering the kids into trouble.”

Winzer works all around King County. He said that over the last month, he’s known kids who have died in Kent, Renton and recently at Garfield High School in Seattle. Despite this, he said he’s going to continue helping who he can because he believes God built him to do the work he does.

“How many people say they could say they’re a veteran, college graduate, and I’m a convicted felon? … I believe all those things have built me to be who I am today, which, again, all I am is a servant to my community,” Winzer said. “So I’m going to go out here, and I’m going to try to steer every youth I can. … The thing about it is you just meet them where they are and keep pushing those kids to the right direction.”

Attendees and kids gathered for a photo at the Progress Pushers civic engagement event. Photo by Mos Photography

Attendees and kids gathered for a photo at the Progress Pushers civic engagement event. Photo by Mos Photography