To say that Utmost Athletics is under the umbrella of The Columbia Future Forge on a day it was pouring down rain, well, it just seemed perfect.
The two Vancouver nonprofit organizations have the same ultimate goal: to teach life skills to young adults.
Matt Overton founded Columbia Future Forge five years ago. Ty Singleton, who knew Overton and after conversations with him, got nonprofit Utmost up and running in 2018 as a part of Forge. Together, the programs provide an outlet many kids — and adults — don’t have right now due to the pandemic.
What started as eight participants at Utmost in 2018 is now about 120.
“Mentorship, transformation through relationship, wanting to help people live life more fully, are all things we have in common,” Singleton said of Utmost and Forge.
Case in point: A recent rainy Vancouver afternoon didn’t deter several groups from coming over to what was once a warehouse storage space at Columbia Presbyterian Church and getting in a strength training workout. It’s like team bonding.
And don’t think for a second a nonprofit operating out of a storage facility — and because of COVID-19, temporarily under tents outdoors –doesn’t have quality workout equipment. Singleton said the weight racks are on par with what you would see at an NCAA Division I college athletic program.
He took Utmost to nonprofit status in order to offer scholarships to be part of the Utmost program.
“We hope to provide scholarships for anyone who wants to be here,” Singleton said. “We are open to adults and open to youths. Right now we have middle school kids on up. We go as high as late 70s (years old) in the weight room.”
Overton created Mowtown Teen Lawn Care to employ students in the Forge program. It provides a first job opportunity and skill building.
“Mentorship matters to us. It’s a big deal,” Overton said, adding that those in the programs aren’t treated like a commodity.
Same can be said with Utmost. Just about every school in Clark County is represented during the week of strength conditioning time blocks. That even includes the Clark College baseball team.
Jun Jeong, one of the coaches at Utmost, moved to Vancouver over the summer from where he worked at the University of Virginia as a strength and conditioning coach for the wrestling, swimming, and track and field programs. His director at Virginia knew Singleton and thought Jeong would be a good fit at Utmost.
“It’s a vehicle to make someone a better person,” Jeong said of Utmost. “I think that gets lost in society. Kids can see that and the coaches care. We want to know what their life is like.”
Right now, life is pretty tough for lots of students as the pandemic has shut down interaction opportunities.
Emma Watkins, a Seton Catholic High School graduate and first-year student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, said coming to work out is something she can look forward to.
“We all still have goals and those goals don’t go away because of COVID,” she said. “We are all working toward something.”
Kenner Devine, a sophomore at King’s Way Christian High School, has known Singleton for a long time and started at Utmost almost as soon as it opened.
“All the coaches are super supportive and we all work together to reach our goals,” he said. “What I like is that there’s a big variance of age and I can say others don’t look at me as some 15-year-old high-schooler. They look at me as a friend or someone to work with. I can say that for everybody here. We all work together and stay friends.”
That includes keeping a safe environment. Singleton said the kids do such a good job of cleaning there’s very little left for the staff to do. And everyone wears their masks for workouts, and informs the staff if they have been exposed to COVID.
“They take it very seriously,” Singleton said of the students’ awareness of the pandemic. “They are thinking about the next group in.”
Camas High and Whitworth University graduate Liam Fitzpatrick, lead coach at Utmost, likes seeing how the students from all the different schools interact.
“You’re seeing athletes, say, from Camas or Skyview who are rivals, but friends here,” he said. “Just to see athletes have social interaction and yet get weight training, pushes them to be better young men and women in society.”
Singleton said new groups and new days are opening in January for anyone interested.
“This is unlike any other gym, at least in this area,” said Camas High student Lucas Warner, “because there’s a really big community and that’s what it’s centered on. You just want to find something you can make connections with other athletes, other coaches who aren’t necessarily athletes you see all the time.
“I’ve built good relationships with kids younger and older than me from different schools. It’s something that’s really cool and special, it really pushes you to do your best.”