Seattle (Seattle Medium) — By Aaron Allen
Everyone in the world has a story and each story has its own unique plots, twists and turns, up and downs, negative and positive trajectories. Rev. Anttimo Bennett’s story possesses all of these attributes. His story is one of personal pain, growth and redemption and giving back.
A native of Seattle’s Central Area, Bennett found himself fending for himself at a early age. Due to the draw of the streets, Bennett found himself without his parent as both fell prey to the hustle of street life. In and out of foster care, Bennett had to adjust to life quickly if he were to survive.
Pondering on his past Bennett remembers the last day he spent with his mom.
“I remember it was the 80’s my parents were partying doing what they do and my mom forgot to come and pick me up from school,” recalls Bennett. “I sat in front of T.T. Minor Elementary School until around 6 in the evening until a teacher discovered me and the rest was history. I became a ward of the state and was sent to foster care after that.”
After several stints in different foster homes Bennett through what he calls “a blessing” and was finally united with family when he was sent to live with his great aunt and uncle.
“After a few foster homes its was a blessing that my aunt and uncle adopted me along with seven other children, two cousin and five other adopted kids, we all lived in a two-bedroom home,” says Bennett.
After a period of time Bennett and his family moved from Seattle to Renton and as all young people do they test life. Growing up Bennett was in and out of trouble trying to find his way.
“Seattle was all I knew, coming from the valley, they saw I was wilding, I thought I was going to be a banger and they weren’t having that,” remembers Bennett.
During his seventh-grade year Bennett’s troubles mounted and as he was expelled from school. From there his aunt and uncle chose to home school Bennett with a faith-based curriculum this was the foundation of his religious belief system that helps guide him today.
“That’s where I got my foundation as far as my faith because the curriculum they used was faith based, bible based and so I did that until I would have graduated from high school,” Bennett explains.
At the age of twenty, Bennett received his GED from Renton Technical College because some colleges and universities did not recognize his home school diploma.
As Bennett entered into young adulthood his faith in both himself and in God would be tried in 2003 when he discovered he was to become a father. For Bennett, it was a moment of self-reflection and purpose.
“At the time I’m living on my own, and living beyond my means,” said Bennett. “I had a job, an apartment, but I didn’t have any groceries and I’m thinking, I’ve got to do something better with my life.”
“That changed everything,” added Bennett. “And I thought maybe I should take this school stuff more seriously.”
Working for the Union Gospel Mission at the Youth Reach Out Center Bennett’s adversities began to strengthen his resolve and shape his calling.
“My first job was with a Youth Reach Out Center and ever since then I’ve only worked with young people in the community, that is the route I’ve chose to stay on,” says Bennett. “Part of it is because being a foster kid, a ward of the state, I wanted to give back and help kids that have similar backgrounds like myself.”
Roderick Booker, a college and career specialist for the Highline School District, who has known Bennett since they both worked at the Union Gospel Mission attests is proud and encouraged by the work that Bennett has done and continues to do.
“Through his passion and commitment his impact on youth who share and reflect what Anttimo himself has been through is great work,” says Booker. “It shows through him that all things are possible and it’s a privilege to be friends with him.”
Once he became focused it wouldn’t take long before education would become a major influence in how Bennett approached life. As much as a formal education eluded him in his youth, it would become his motivator and the driving force in reaching his goals.
Bennett would go onto receiving his Associates Degree from Shoreline College in 2005 and a double major, a Bachelors Degree in Social Work and American Ethnic Studies with focus on African American Studies from the University of Washington 2009. While in college, Bennett pledged Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and it became a major influence and tool to partner with in his efforts to give back to his community.
“I was taking classes at various community colleges but I wasn’t taking it seriously until I met one of my first mentors, Pastor Terrence Proctor, and on a field trip with the young people he brought a cane and began twirling it and I was intrigue, this peaked my interest,”
“I asked what is that about?” Pastor Proctor replied ‘You can’t touch this and if you wanna know about it you gotta get yourself together and go to college, you need to graduate from college because this is about achievement,’” Bennett vividly remembers.
College was not easy for Bennett. In fact, it was overwhelming at first but in 2006 he changed his outlook and approach to school from his attendance to his attire — professionalism was the new Bennett and the world took notice. Other students recognized the change in Bennett and encouraged him to get involved in the student government. Bennett did become involved and eventually became the student body president at the University of Washington.
“Yeah, I ran a campaign and the students voted for me! What was funny it was the time that Obama became president’,” he says with a laugh!
In 2011 Bennett began studying at Seattle University where he received a Masters Degree in Public Administration in 2014. His career has been about the betterment of young people since the beginnings and he hasn’t deviated from his path. From the Union Gospel Mission, Southwest Youth and Family Service, Seattle Youth and Violence Prevention Initiative and King County Juvenile Drug Court, Bennett is a passionate and steadfast presence in the lives of young people.
“Anttimo’s journey allows him to reach that population (the African American males) without bearers, he could run for Congress with his experience and education, his passion and compassion,” says Josalyn Conley, a juvenile drug court manager for King County Superior Court who hired Bennett as an intern. “Anttimo is that type of up and coming talent.”
Since his childhood Bennett always had two goals that haunted him because they were not fully realized. He wanted to serve in the military as an Air Force pilot and his need to exercise his spiritual system. The former seemed out of reach due to poor eyesight and the latter the timing was not right as his youthful transgression got in the way.
“There was always a tug, a pull toward ministry since I was twelve, but as a teenager I ran from that,” says Bennett.
Around 2012 Bennett knew he couldn’t escape his call to ministry. On August 4, 2013, at Greater Mount Baker Missionary Baptist Church Bennett preached his first sermon and became licensed and ordained. Bennett, who is now five years into his ministry, finds joy in the fact that he has finally found his calling.
Due to health reasons his dream of the military was stifled, but because God works in mysterious ways his ministry carved an avenue in which both goals could be accomplished as Bennett set out to become a Chaplain in the Air Force. Now stationed at McCord Airforce Base you can say the Anttimo Bennett, Sr. is living his dreams.
As his oldest friend says, “he encourages me, he is a prime example of when doors are slammed in your face, never take no for answer. There are plenty of other doors to open, so much accomplishment.”
As life evolves, Anttimo Bennett continues to open doors.
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Chris B. Bennett
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