MLK Medal of Distinguished Service awardee works with young people as coach and corrections officer
| (l-r) TJHS Student Cassie Lee, TJHS Student Haylee Pollard,
Councilmember von Reichbauer,
TJHS Coach and MLK Medal recipient Joseph Townsend,
TJHS Student Mason DeLaCruz, and TJHS Student Avery Cantino-Kennedy
During a period in Joseph Townsend’s life when he needed a mentor, someone was there for him, and Townsend promised that he would do the same when he had the chance. Today Metropolitan King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer awarded the Thomas Jefferson High School Coach the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal of Distinguished Service for his mentorship of young people throughout South King County.
“In these times, Coach Townsend exemplifies the best of our society,” said von Reichbauer. “Recognizing that no one can go it alone, he has provided a guiding hand and a point of focus for those who are at risk of heading down the wrong path.”
Raised by his father in Brooklyn, NY after his mother passed away, Townsend admits he was headed to a life on the streets until his high school baseball coach stepped in and kept him on the baseball diamond, risking his own life to drive Townsend to and from practice. After a stint in the Chicago Cubs minor league system and time in the military, Townsend found himself at Ft. Lewis and in a position to fulfill a vow he made to “give back” in honor of the coach who reached out to him. He promised to “fight for children who are as lost as I was.”
Townsend has been the coach of the Thomas Jefferson Baseball team for 8 years. And with a father who was a professional bowler, it should be no surprise that he is also the coach of the school’s nationally ranked Girls Bowling team, the only team west of Colorado competing at Nationals.
Townsend, who works the graveyard shift as a corrections officer at the King County Juvenile Detention Center in Seattle, is committed to mentoring young people whose lives can change when there is an adult willing to reach out. “When you see people help out young people who they don’t know, help them reach a goal, reach a dream, you know life’s not as bad as it’s made out to be sometimes.”
Townsend is one of nine citizens living across King County whose contributions to their community echo the selfless leadership of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The MLK Medal of Distinguished Service recognizes those who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to make a difference in communities across King County.