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What does the word ‘Amicus’ mean to you?

February 3, 2012

Katya, Mark and family aboard Amicus II. Through their business, Katya and Mark have figured out a way to combine two of their passions: sailing, and working with young adults.

Editor’s note: When you think of the people who helped shape the Amicus we know today, Katya Goodenough Gordon has got to be on the list. Katya’s work with girls helped form the backbone of what is now Amicus Radius. As you’ll read, Katya’s zipcode may have changed, but she’s never truly left Amicus!

Guest post by Katya Gordon

What Amicus has meant for me has evolved many times through the years.  About 12 years ago when I first joined the Amicus team, we were given the immense freedom and responsibility of creating a pilot program with “serious and chronic” teenage girl offenders in Minnesota.  We were told that we were to employ the principles of gender-specific programming (what works for girls) and restorative justice to our program.  What this would actually look like was for us to discover.  Through much blood, sweat, and tears, as well as moments of euphoria, healing, and rays of truth that shone like a shaft of light through the bars of a prison cell, we developed a program that centered around the circle process.  The girls in our program, along with their families and support systems, had the answers to their complex and horrific pasts.  They knew what needed to happen better than us, better than any system, and better together than any of them alone.  Our job became clear—to clear the path for them to connect deeply with one another and figure out what needed to be done—today, next month, and next year.  We learned that every person has a story.  We learned that hope is an important torch that Amicus must carry, even if (especially if) we are the only ones.  We learned that truth-telling, grief, and healing is messy.  All these things were deeply instilled in me and came to symbolize the “Amicus spirit,” embodied by our programs but available to anyone with an open heart and a listening mind.  To make a long story short, the program morphed into the girls program we call “radius” today, and I left the picture to marry my soulmate, Mark, and bring two daughters into our lovable but oh-so-imperfect world.

Fast forward a few years.  Mark and I, committed circle facilitators and also outdoor enthusiasts, bought a sailboat.  It was time to bring our principles to the vast waters of Lake Superior and beyond.  Naming our boat was as easy as naming our children (which each took about one 2-minute conversation)—Amicus, of course!  But wait!  How could we be so sure, and so, um, presumptuous?  The word carries such…soul.  Amicus to us meant all that was hopeful in spirit and nonjudgmental in practice. It meant that we intended to be a real “friend”—respectful of all peoples, believers in personal transformation, and unafraid of the messiness of life.  Surely we would feel nurtured by such a spirit.

And we have.  Amicus took us to the Bahamas for a year when our girls were 2 and 4.  She gracefully sailed over rough waters, weathered storms and reefs, and brought us safely home.  When we outgrew her, we bought a boat that would bring us into the next layer of our life vision—taking others sailing, and in doing so spreading the growth and joy with which we have been blessed.   Naming our new boat—a 40-foot steel cutter–was easy again—Amicus II, of course.  Change really does start from the inside.  Sailing had changed us, and we knew it could change others.

Now we are the proud owners of a small charter sailing business on Lake Superior.  We work every day to bring the Amicus spirit into our everyday lives and into the lives of those who sail with us.  While we take plenty of people on two-hour day sails on the north shore, our passion is taking young adults sailing for weeks at a time, and in the next year we have planned four voyages that will bring us through the Great Lakes and to the Caribbean.

Why young adults?  As anyone who works for Amicus, Inc., knows, young adults are steeped in the most formative years of their lives, and they are living them in tumultuous times.  The preposterous cost of higher education, the addictive pull of electronic media, bewildering and conflicting moral and political paradigms, the need to separate from one’s parents, and the lack of entry-level living wage jobs all conspire to make life anything but easy for many of today’s young adults.  What we offer is not that different from what Amicus, Inc., has always provided—a supportive environment in which to make important decisions, a break from daily life, and opportunities for meaningful relationships.  Young adults who sail with us know that life doesn’t have to be fun to have fun.  They learn that there are many ways to live, some which they have never even considered.  They learn that it is not foolhardy to have dreams and work hard to realize them.  Our deepest hope is that we are carrying the torch that Amicus, Inc. lighted in us, and both Mark and I are proud to consider our sailing mission a small branch in the incredible work that is happening on land.  Thank you Amicus!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2012 10:33 am

    Wow Katya! This is such a powerful reminder of why we are in the world – why? if not to help each other. thank you for writing.

  2. Gini McCain, Amicus Board permalink
    February 16, 2012 11:42 am

    Katya ….

    Bravo to you and Mark! I will find out more about your trips on Lake Superior for the next time we are on the north shore.

    Thank you for all you have done and are doing for Amicus!

  3. February 16, 2012 4:09 pm

    Even before reading this impressive document, it occurred to me that Amicus might consider the following:
    1. Discussing with the management of KFAI a monthly radio program, either a half hour or an hour, discussing Amicus’ activities, trying to get the public involved, attracting new funders and other supporters and generally increasing awareness of Amicus and the social problems it deals with.
    2. I also think you have the germ of an idea for a public TV special in which TPT specializes. I suggest discussing this with Amicus’ management and board and determine what your presentation to TPT should be all about. It’s no secret that if you can walk into their offices in downtown St. Paul not only with a program idea but a funder or group of funders, you are going to get a good hearing. Would DOC partner with you on this and use state funds? Be good to discuss with Tom Roy.
    3. Suggesting some kind of series on the problems Amicus deals with to editorial boards of PP and S-T. Ditto MPR.

    Best, Will Shapira

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