Partnership helps students, homeless

Cocoon House logoBy Douglas Esser
With a dual major in community psychology and health studies, Angeilea Yancey-Watson knew she wanted a career in service to underrepresented and underserved people. Volunteering at Cocoon House, an Everett teen shelter, helped the University of Washington Bothell senior sharpen the focus.

“This really narrowed the target audience I want to help,” said Yancey-Watson. “I was able to figure out how I want to help. I still wanted to remain with the homeless and provide community resources.”

After graduating in June, Yancey-Watson now works for Project Access Northwest, a Seattle-based agency that connects uninsured people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties with Medicaid and Medicare services.

Angeilea Yancey-WatsonIt was the fieldwork requirement for the community psychology degree that led Yancey-Watson, left, to volunteer last winter quarter at Cocoon House. The nonprofit operates two shelters and long-term housing for teens and young adults as well as offering programs to prevent homelessness.

Cocoon House is fortunate to have student volunteers from UW Bothell who understand the mission and bring their talent and perspective, said Sophia Beltran, prevention manager.

Yancey-Watson helped facilitate one of those programs call WayOUT. It bridges communications between parents and high-risk teens who have run away or had a run-in with police for a minor crime such as vandalism. Yancey-Watson engaged with nearly three-dozen families over two weekend seminars held at Everett Community College. Some of the participants had been diverted from Snohomish County juvenile detention.

“Being able to talk to kids who are high risk, with behavioral issues, and who don’t have support prepared me to be sensitive to the homeless,” said Yancey-Watson.

The work included submitting a report to Cocoon House with observations and feedback from parents and teens on what the program delivered.

“I felt well respected. My ideas were always valued,” Yancy-Watson said. “They want to have this real-world use.”

Other UW Bothell students have volunteered at the Cocoon House drop-in center for homeless youth. Students build trust as they play games or help with access to showers, laundry, meals or a bus ticket. 

“UW Bothell has been an invaluable partnership for the outreach programs,” said Elysa Hovard, director of outreach. “The students have been very professional and helpful to the program staff, and the youth have really enjoyed connecting with them.”

Multiple students from various schools and majors work at Cocoon House on a variety of projects, said Kara Adams, UW Bothell director of community engagement.

“Cocoon House provides an excellent learning environment, in which many of our students go on to get part-time and full-time jobs with Cocoon House,” Adams said at a partner recognition event.

Sophia Beltran“We’re just thankful for our partnership with UW Bothell,” said Beltran, left. “We’ve had students who have a lot of critical thinking skills, care and compassion. Students not only contribute but gain something from the experience.”

Yancey-Watson agrees.

“Cocoon House is really amazing. Even though it may not be something you want to do, take the opportunity. You can never know what it might bring out of you.”