Federal Way Council to host fresh new faces

Emerging Leaders pairs students with council members who mentor youth in all things city.

Six new faces will soon be coming to the council dais.

Federal Way City Council welcomed their first mentees with the Emerging Leaders program at the first meeting of the new year. The mentees were paired with council members and will learn the inner-workings of city government.

Council member Jesse Johnson is excited about the opportunity for the council to partner with the four local high schools to work with the youth and show them how their city government functions.

“I understand that we as council members will not occupy our seats forever so it is crucial that we are reaching back to our youth leaders to become the next city leaders,” said Johnson.

Each mentee will be paired with a council member, as well as the deputy mayor, for the spring semester, excluding council member Dini DuClos, who is stepping down from her position. 

Katie Astruon, who will be mentored by Deputy Mayor Susan Honda, is very excited about the prospect of working so closely in her city’s government.

“I found a passion for politics and I wanted to pursue that,” she said.

Astruon currently attends Federal Way High School as a junior, where she is also on the drill team as part of the school’s ROTC program. Along with her extracurriculars, she also works at Arby’s part-time.

Last year she said she was a page for the House of Representatives with Rep. Mike Pellicciotti as her sponsor, and afterwards she knew politics was the career path for her.

While her official duties with the program are just getting started, she will be attending all the City Council meetings with the deputy mayor as well as any other meetings or events she goes to and other tasks as assigned.

Marcel Manjarez, who will be under council member Hoang Tran for the duration of the program, said he is looking forward to learning from the council.

Manjarez is currently attending Running Start as a junior at Federal Way High School, where he is also on the basketball team and is involved with the honor society.

He is excited to use this opportunity to learn and grow in his leadership skills, as well as an opportunity for the council.

“It’s a learning opportunity for both sides,” he said.

Council member Lydia Assefa-Dawson said she hasn’t yet met face-to-face with her mentee, Hannah Santiago, but she’s excited they have similiar backgrounds as immigrants.

“I hope these young people get inspired by what they see,” she said, “And make it their priority to engage in the community.”

Council member Martin Moore’s mentee, Brigitte Jimenez, is a senior at Open Doors and a Running Start student as well. After graduating, she’s hoping to go on to the University of Washington to study corporate law.

Jimenez said she wanted to join this program because she’s always had a fascination with local government.

“It seems beneficial to what I want to do,” she said.

Hope Sichel, Johnson’s mentee, is a junior at TAF Academy at Saghalie who is also in Running Start at Highline. She also works part-time at a martial arts studio in Federal Way.

She applied for this mentorship program because it’s something she’s always been driven to do, and she believes it will help her meet her future goals.

“As long as I push myself … then I always meet my goals,” Sichel said.

She added she has a lot of passion and thinks this program will be one way to put it to use.

“I wanted to learn more about local government, and put myself out there to make more of an impact,” she said.

Mayor Jim Ferrell also sees the merits of having a program like this involved with the council.

“The mentees receive the kind of access that allows them to see some of the inner workings of local government and the work that goes on behind the scenes on policy matters,” he said.

Ferrell also expressed his belief in how the program would benefit the council members themselves.

“They get the chance to serve in a mentoring role while building a solid foundation for a program that I hope can reach future generations of students who are selected to participate.”

Council member Mark Koppang will also be paired with student Chloe Barrier.

Johnson said this program has been in the works for a while, with the city council passing a motion to enact the program last October.

Originally the program was supposed to be an internship, but Johnson said for now it’s a mentorship program solely for volunteer hours and experience.

“It’s similar to the House Page program,” Johnson said.

The House Page Program at the Capitol in Oympia takes young high school students from across Washington and gives them the opportunity to work with state legislators and have an up-close expeirnece with the legilsative process.