My friend Lois Brewer has passed away.
On Sunday, April 12, 2020, Lois Brewer’s family announced her passing. Seattle’s strongest champion for service learning, Lois began her advocacy and involvement with the movement in the 1990s. After that, she became involved in the local, state and national levels promoting high quality, authentic, equitable and powerful service learning experiences for students.
Along the way, she and I wove together a tapestry of mutual respect, friendship and determination. We met in 1999 when I was an AmeriCorps Leader in New Mexico and presented at the National Service Learning Conference. Lois came to me after my session and said we should work together when I got back to Washington state, and I excitedly agreed. The next year we became friends through involvement with the Learn and Serve America grant at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. After that, she and I collaborated on literally dozens of projects, building activities from scratch and fighting the good fight as comrades.
A microbiologist by training, Lois’s love for learning led to her involvement with Seattle Public Schools and a decades-long career in service to others. More than 30 years ago, Lois established and led a program called Service Learning Seattle. Through it, she guided dozens of K-12 schools citywide as they created powerful, effective opportunities for students to learn through service. In addition to convening a large annual symposium for hundreds of student and educators to attend, Lois was also the engine behind some of the earliest efforts in King County to focus on the south side of Seattle. She was also a grant writer for students at Stevens Elementary and Cleveland STEM High Schools. Her support was also given to AmeriCorps and VISTA while she helped dozens of members towards success through the years.
Lois was active in the service learning movement throughout her career. A frequent presenter at the National Service Learning Conference, she was a founding member of Service Learning Washington, the Seattle Youth Engagement Zone, and the King County Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre. She was also a member of SOAR and Civics for All, and a champion of student equity, STEM, civic education and much more.
We conspired on things a lot, and she frequently brought me into spaces I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. Early in our efforts, Lois helped me with presentations at the National Service Learning Conference. Throughout the years, she gave me keynote opportunities at conferences for Seattle Public Schools, let me facilitate workshops at several of her annual symposia, and worked with me to develop her organization, Service Learning Seattle, as well as the Seattle Youth Engagement Zone and more. We sat on SOAR’s Partnership Board together for five years, and she funded some of my best work, including the SoundOut Summer Camps in Seattle; the Youth Media Summer Camp, and; the King County Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre.
The last time Lois and I talked was January of this year. We sat in her beautiful Craftsman style home at her gorgeous oak dining room table on a sunny winter day. Along with discussing racial equity, youth engagement, service learning and changing schools like we always did, she doted on her grandkids in New Mexico. It was always the best to hear her enjoy them, along with her love of her son and daughter. She was so proud of them all. While we sat there her husband Don was in the backyard doing a project, but came in and said goodbye to me when I left. Lois waved me out the door, smiling like she always did, and I felt good about where we were: On fire with the love of helping schools be better, and engaging youth in making the world a better place.
Lois lived by the Arthur Ashe quote, “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can do.” She would have wanted nothing more than for us to honor that message in her memory.