Ten years ago, Phebe Brako-Owusu was at the airport in Accra, Ghana, with her mother and brothers sending her off to America to attend college. The remarkable journey since then clearly merits her inclusion in 2017 “40 Under Forty” recognition.
Phebe’s life even to that day had been a path of service, mostly filled with children. She had been teaching a toddlers’ class at her church Sunday School for five years, so it was an easy step to spend her college summers as a Girl Scout camp counselor in the woods of North Carolina. An internship during graduate school with a teen home turned into a job working with at-risk youth.
Her first employment with her Masters degree was as a child and family therapist for a community mental health center in Lakewood. Later married to a soldier at JBLM, it’s been natural to have a special inclusion for children of military families as she developed her own solo practice in marriage and family therapy.
“I’m passionate about mental wellness, especially for people of color,” Brako-Owusu says. She also believes in “modeling positive mental health … and (sharing) about the power of inner components.”
Conor McCarthy is another honoree whose path started (and has stayed) much closer to home. A Tacoma kid, he is following a model of elected public service illustrated by both his mother and father, when he joined Tacoma City Council last year.
McCarthy is a solo practice attorney specializing in real estate and land use, in addition to being an active husband and dad. He is also active in Rotary, on the board of Tacoma Community House, the bar association along with past volunteer service with American Red Cross, search and rescue, and a number of others.
“My biggest challenge is to balance building a law practice, while being a positive and effective contributor to the work of the City Council, while making sure that I am present and active for my family,” McCarthy says.
He is passionate about working to create more living wage jobs in Tacoma and expanding economic opportunity to more families there. “Bottom line, we need to become a center for jobs, not just for housing that most Tacomans cannot afford.”
Another “40 Under Forty” honoree who loves working in community is Laura Brewer, operations and programs manager at Rainbow Center. She moved to the South Sound from Alaska to attend Pacific Lutheran University carrying life lessons learned from working on a farm, babysitting and working in political campaigns.
“Picking carrots (in the field) taught the need to sometimes just get into the weeds literally and work hard. Babysitting was a real lesson in patience,” Brewer explains. “As a campaign aide, I learned how to connect with people … and logistics knowledge (learned on the political trail) is something that can be helpful in all careers.”
With six years experience in her non-profit organization, she was even its interim director, before deciding not to seek the executive’s position, “realizing that my greatest chance to make the impact I want is by doing more of the day-to-day work keeping the organization running.”
Laura Brewer was honored by her alma mater P.L.U. earlier this year as a Woman with Vision, and now, she can add the designation of being part of 2017 “40 Under Forty.”
Meet Phoebe, Conor and Laura, plus 37 other remarkable members of 2017’s 40 Under Forty cohort at the celebration of their honors on Wednesday, October 11, at Foss Waterway Seaport in downtown Tacoma. It begins with a social hour at 5:30 p.m. and the recognition program will conclude before 8 o’clock. Tickets are available at this link.