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Seattle City (spot)Light: Nikitta Vinson

Nikitta Vinson has been with the City of Seattle for twelve years, including her current role as a program intake representative for the Utility Discount Program. “I speak with customers and conduct interviews to see if they meet the program’s eligibility requirements,” Nikitta explained. “We also do community outreach and meet people at different events which is a benefit because it’s often a comfortable environment where people are in their element. There’s also that face-to-face interaction you just don’t have over the phone.”

Nikitta lives near Madrona with her two teenage children—her son Cipher and her daughter Nia. Some of her favorite activities include rollerblading by Alki Beach, walking along Lake Washington and cooking. “I love to make lasagna and my friends and family love to eat it,” she joked. In this week’s (spot)Light, Nikitta talks about the power of food and the importance of building a sense of community.

Nikitta (middle) with her children

“I was born in Seattle, but moved to Eatonville when I was young. Once I graduated from high school, I returned to the city life…it brought me back! I describe Seattle as a great salad bowl. To me, ‘melting pot’ means that once it’s melted, everything is gelled together. With a salad bowl, everything stays the same. Once it’s tossed, it remains integrated which means there’s diversity. And that’s what I was looking for.”

“My parents instilled a love of cooking in me and it’s something I’ve shared with others. Before coming to City Light, I was a teen development leader (later changed to recreation leader) at Parks and Rec. I thought it was important to include cooking as part of the programming—to get the teens in the kitchen working together. Some kids took a little longer to warm up to the idea, but once they got in there, heard the music playing and saw the process, they were engaged. They weren’t focused on trivial matters because everyone was contributing to something that we were all going to consume. So, their thoughts were ‘Yes, I want this to be good’ or ‘Yes, I’m learning a new technique.’ It allowed them to build a sense of community and, with that, more and more kids started to come in and wanted to be involved.”

“Growing up, we had a fish fry every Friday. That’s how our family stayed connected. Even though my dad worked, he made sure we had one. Friends and family would stop by on Fridays because they knew there’d be a fish fry. As a young kid, I didn’t realize the history that went behind that, but it was a tradition—that every Friday there was a meal that brought us together.”

“Now, I have my sense of community by volunteering at Northwest Tap Connection which provides kids with wonderful training in the south end of Seattle–a place that has a negative association. But there is some amazing stuff taking place at that studio. It’s important to me to be there. To be an advocate for the kids and to teach them that they have a voice and that their voice matters. It’s also teaching them how to use that voice through art. To help them understand that they can promote change through an art form, through creativity, through dance.”