My Friend Kathleen

by
Tanya Winje, FCNI Staff
June, 13, 2018 -

“Education exposes young people to a broader world, a world full of opportunity and hope.”  -Christine Gregorie

It is a hard life lesson to learn that you need to stop and spend time with those you care about before it is too late.  In thinking about the loss of my friend, Kathleen Richen, who passed in 2015,  I regret that I didn’t get the chance to share with her how much she meant to me.  I would love to have one last visit with Kathleen to tell her all those things that I meant to and, most importantly, to share with her how special she was in the course of my life.  

Kathleen and I worked together many years ago in coordinating the program at the San Luis Obispo Juvenile Services Center called the Friends of JSC. This volunteer program trained and supported community members who mentored youth detained at the Hall. I specifically remember when I first became a volunteer there and decided to create an art project with a group of youth. It was a disaster. I swore to Kathleen that I was never, ever going back to volunteer again. She calmly, supportively, humorously and lovingly changed my mind about this to the point where I ended up spending over three years as a volunteer playing cards and Connect Four, drawing and, most importantly, spending time with some resilient and special youth.  

Kathleen spent many years serving the community of San Luis Obispo County in a variety of ways. From her years spent working at “Friends Outside” located at the California Men’s Colony, to her dedication as a Commissioner for the Juvenile Justice Commission, to her involvement with the United Way. I am thankful for the heart she had for the community and especially the children of San Luis Obispo County. Most of all, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to call her my friend and mentor.

In honor of Kathleen Richen, a scholarship in her memory was created to celebrate her legacy.  The recipient of these funds will be former residences of the San Luis Obispo Juvenile Services Center who are pursuing higher education.   

“It is in the interest of every community to help incarcerated youth who are exiting the juvenile justice system build the skills they need to succeed in college and careers and to become productive citizens.  Unfortunately, many barriers can prevent justice-involved youth from making a successful transition back to school. We want to use every tool we have to help eliminate barriers for all students and ensure all young people can reach their full potential.”

- Former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

Although I did not get the opportunity to share all the things I wanted to with Kathleen before she left us, I feel confident that the creation of this scholarship would delight her. Kathleen, I bet you are playing Scrabble with B.B King in heaven right now.  Enjoy, my friend. You are missed and loved dearly.

In its first year, the Kathleen Richen Memorial Scholarship received community donations for a total of  $1,125 which was evenly divided and awarded to two youth on May 24, 2018 during a ceremony held at the Family Care Network. This scholarship is designed to aid a juvenile justice involved youth to change their story. Kathleen believed in redemption, hope, resiliency, and that we all have a gift that we bring to the world. Thank you to those community members who donated to this educational scholarship designed to serve our resilient San Luis Obispo County youth.  


For more information on how you can give to this fund and for other donor opportunities, please visit us at FCNI.org or call (805) 781-3535