Asfaha Lemlem helps people succeed
SU's Maria Leininger partners with Asfaha Lemlem at a Yesler Terrace class on citizenship..
He's a man whose efforts touch many lives.
Identifying community needs has a way of propelling Asfaha Lemlem, who for 11 years has been coordinator of the Yesler Terrace Learning Center. This native of Ethiopia and father of three leads a computer lab with basic computer skills classes for children, adults and seniors and multimedia classes for teens—plus much more—at the Yesler Community Center.
"He's in a position to see the needs in the community. He's one of the big reasons why our class on citizenship is growing." Maria Leininger, citizen project coordinator access to Justice Institute / SU School of law
How to file taxes online for free? Immigration issues? English as a second language? Computers and the skills to use them? On numerous fronts, Lemlem is a catalyst who listens to the needs of those he serves and has the know-how to locate resources as he brings greater self-sufficiency to the people at Yesler Terrace.
When he spots a gap, he frequently turns to Seattle University for help. He asked faculty at the Albers School of Business and Economics if students might create a questionnaire to find out more about computer skills of Yesler Terrace residents. Armed with the survey results, SU students then helped him create a plan to address the need. Soon, he had new computers and found SU students with the technology background to assist with training.
"When you work with Seattle University volunteers, they become more conscious of giving and can see the needs," Lemlem says.
Lemlem's partnership with SU dates back to 2002, when he sought business students to assist a few Yesler Terrace residents with their taxes. Today, the program has United Way support and provides free tax assistance to nearly 400 city residents.
On the wall next to his desk at the Learning Center are numerous awards, including four certificates of appreciation from SU's Center for Service and Community Engagement and another from the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference for sustained excellence while managing a community technology center.
Law student Maria Leininger, citizenship project coordinator at the SU School of Law's Access to Justice Institute, says Lemlem is a terrific resource on immigration and citizenship matters. Since last summer, law students have offered classes with this focus at Yesler Terrace.
"He has amazing ideas for everything and he's in a position to see the needs in the community. He's one of the big reasons why our class on citizenship is growing," she says.
Lemlem is now developing a proposal with help from SU Fine Arts faculty member Claire Garoutte, Youth in Focus, Multimedia Resources and Training Institute and Yesler Terrace to create a summer intern program for youth. The outcome of the effort will be a youth-generated archive of photos, interviews, broadcasts and exhibitions that reflects the community of Yesler Terrace and the transition that's taking place there.