Not all kids who grow up in White Swan have the same employment opportunities as other Yakima Valley youths. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
For the young people who live way out on the Yakama Nation reservation — about 35 miles southwest of Yakima — it’s nice to know that there is someone looking out for their future prospects.
With help from Sacred Road Ministries, Darren and Susie Maxfield helped start Swan Graphics Screenprint Studio in 2015 as a way of teaching employment and life skills to White Swan teens. Four years later, the nonprofit company is looking to expand.
“There are a lot of smart, motivated kids out here who just lack some basic skills they will need to get a job,” said Darren Maxfield, a former CPA who moved from the Seattle area to open the studio, located about two miles from White Swan High School.
“There’s a faith component to what we’re doing, but there’s also a big education piece,” he added. “We’ve been able to give these kids some valuable vocational training, but we’ve also been able to teach them financial literacy and the importance of having strong character. Studies have shown that training programs like this are more successful when character skills are introduced as well.”
The team of five students consists of graphic artists and screen-print technicians who develop designs that appear on shirts, hats, sweatshirts, bags, aprons and more.
Some staff members work from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., while the high school students come in from 2:30 to 5:30. The Maxfields are able to provide transportation to and from work, which has helped with retention.
The five students currently working at Swan Graphics are Ty Wyman, D’Armon Logie, Tionna Tillequots, Yesenia Garcia and Nelson Frank. Joel Nash remains involved, but he is away at college.
Maxfield said Swan Graphics currently serves about 50 clients around the state, but interest in the organization has been steadily growing over the past year. He said he’d like to bring in as many as four new local youths to help out in 2019.
He’s also in the process of buying a heat-transfer printer so Swan Graphics can expand its product offerings.
“We may eventually need a bigger space, but for now, we’re able to manage with what we have,” said Maxfield, a resident of Toppenish. “But we haven’t really marketed ourselves much, so that could change once more people find out about us.”
Even though the organization has been around for four years, Swan Graphics remains a relatively unknown commodity in the Valley. To date, the business has only marketed itself on Facebook and via word of mouth.
But Maxfield believes that if more businesses knew about the broader vision of Swan Graphics — a faith-based, community-oriented and youth-centric vocational training studio — they would be even more willing to support the organization.
“Some people have heard about us through Sacred Road, and the people of White Swan know about us,” he said. “But we’re still relatively anonymous out here.”
Sacred Road Ministries was established on the Yakama reservation in 1855 with the goal of being “a unified and growing community of believers who have a passion for God, for each other and for the lost, and who are prepared and equipped to serve the Lord by ministering in the community of Native America and the world.”
The Maxfields were involved with Sacred Road before they moved to the Valley, so when the opportunity arose to develop Swan Graphics, they were ecstatic. Four years later, the results they have seen only give them added motivation.
“It’s easy to incorporate the character skills portion of our training program because we’re a Christian-based organization,” Darren Maxfield said.
“We’re not just focused on reading, writing and arithmetic. We also stress the importance of love, peace, patience and self-control. We want to instill a growth mindset and show the importance of lifelong learning.”
Organizations like Yakima Valley Young Life have gone out of their way to support Swan Graphics, due in large part to its focus on developing skills and character in young people.
Young Life has been ordering shirts and other apparel from Swan Graphics since the beginning.
“There are lots of places that can do screenprinting, but to us, it’s not just about buying a great product,” said Craig Hooper, the area director for Yakima Valley Young Life. “Swan Graphics does great work, but they’re also training kids and giving them valuable job skills. We think it’s awesome that the kids are doing this and we are proud to support them.”
Other regular clients in the Valley include White Swan High School, Sacred Road Ministries and Hope Fellowship. The company also does occasional work for Seattle-area clients.
Hooper said Swan Graphics’ prices are competitive, so when given the option, he would rather work with the community-based business that is helping make the world a better place.
“To us, it’s about social responsibility,” he said. “We love this sort of thing, and because they are supporting young people like we are, it just makes sense for us to work together. These kids are gaining skills that they can use in a lot of ways, and it’s nice to see a business that is working for the common good.”
Learn more about Swan Graphics at swangraphicsbysrm.com or by calling Maxfield at 930-6513. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.