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Lighthouse Café growing outreach arm in Othello

by GABRIEL DAVIS
Staff Writer | October 16, 2023 1:30 AM

OTHELLO — Since hiring Program Director Angela Kudsk earlier in the year, Lighthouse Café has developed a slew of after-school activities, job growth and education programs and community programs, which Kudsk presented during her first quarterly report at the Othello City Council meeting Oct. 9.

“Thank you for having me here,” Kudsk said. “It's my privilege and honor to serve in this capacity, and I just want to share a little bit of what we've done just in the short time that we've had it operating with students coming in during the fall.”

Lighthouse entered into a two-year contract with the city of Othello to fund Kudsk’s position and to start youth intervention programs through the cafe, which regularly sees 80 to 90 students come in during the open lunch hour, as well as students visiting before and after school.

Kudsk said the cafe has already started its Mentor Match program, which will pair local businesses with high school upperclassmen in Othello and teach those students how to run a business.

“My informational meeting brought in 25 students,” Kudsk said. “21 signed on as a commitment that night. I'm seeing 16 consistently. The person who trained me said our goal should be 10. So I'm excited about the 16 who are showing that commitment. Right now what they're doing is they’ve thought of the business that they want to try to start…We are hoping to take a field trip soon to local businesses.”

The cafe is also holding Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs state-funded tutoring programs and other meetings with students.

“We’ve had individual meetings with people who just want to come in and use the Lighthouse. My individual meetings consist of meeting with some teams before school, after school, during lunch,” Kudsk said. “During those meeting times though, I'm able to just lean positively into the kids. I think that they enjoy seeing a friendly face. And then just trying to strike up conversations with them and encourage them where they're at.”

The cafe has already started offering a religious course teaching financial training, healthy relationships and answering biblical questions. Othello High School students can take the course at Lighthouse during their second period.

Kudsk said Lighthouse is working with Eastern Washington University to potentially have a representative visit the cafe to meet with students and community members once a week about continuing education.

Lighthouse is also beginning to partner with Northwest University in Kirkland to offer online courses in Othello through the cafe.

“I’ve gone through training with them and I'm officially a coordinator who can bring in classes for students and the community members to take continuing education classes or get their degrees,” Kudsk said. “We'll be able to offer, in the spring semester starting in January 2024, two associate degrees, a Certificate in Ministry Leadership, and eight bachelor of art degrees … I'm excited about that.”

Kudsk said she has been in frequent contact with Big Bend Community College and hopes to have more representation there. She said Big Bend currently has a representative who regularly speaks with students in the cafe.

As far as community programs, Rural Development Initiatives has also offered a Teen Focus Group at Lighthouse, allowing young members of the community a chance to provide input on growing Othello. Kudsk said they are also working with RDI on the organization’s Rural Community Leadership Program, which began Thursday, and that they plan on continuing to work with RDI and Elevate Othello in the future.

Kudsk said she has been working with Washington Department of Commerce Community Engagement Specialist Norma Chavez to help develop community programs and help find funding.

“She's very willing to help me understand what's out there in terms of resources, and so she’s helped me look at different grants that might be available for us to look into,” Kudsk said.

Looking to the future, Kudsk said she is hoping to reform the Lighthouse Café Board, with student representatives included as members. Kudsk also mentioned looking to develop parenting classes, financial classes and more structured mentoring groups.

“I guess you can only take my word for what I’ve seen in my 11 years at the high school,” Kudsk said. “I’ve always estimated about 20% (of students) who have their clear direction on what they're going to do. That means about 80% of the students don't know what they're doing and don't have the guidance to know what they're doing. I believe that at the Lighthouse we are addressing not just those 20%, and encouraging them, but those 80% (as well).”

Samuel Garza, senior pastor of Bethel Assembly of God in Othello, thanked the city for its help with Lighthouse’s outreach programs.

“I appreciate the city for working with us and I think that we have a great thing going on here,” Garza said. “I pray that someday it involves even greater things we can do in our community for the betterment of our community.”

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com. Download the Columbia Basin Herald app on iOS and Android.

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GABRIEL DAVIS/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Lighthouse Café, pictured, sits directly across from the Othello High School and sees 80 to 90 students during the open campus lunch hour. Lighthouse is open before school starts and hosts various after-school programs.

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GABRIEL DAVIS/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Bethel Assemblies of God Senior Pastor Samuel Garza, who started Lighthouse Café with his family, addresses the Othello City Council during the Oct. 9 regular meeting.

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GABRIEL DAVIS/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Lighthouse Café’s main room, pictured, where the cafe serves food and drinks, is just one area of the cafe building that can be used for hosting students and various programs the cafe offers.

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GABRIEL DAVIS/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Lighthouse Café, pictured, is situated inside a former Assemblies of God church that Bethel Assemblies of God Senior Pastor Samuel Garza repurposed into the cafe.