The Hilltop Dynamo

February 9, 2018

Korbett Mossesly


It was a rainy Tuesday in January 2007 and Korbett Mosesly ’11, MPA ’17 had a decision to make. In the morning, the youngest of his three sons, Andre, was having a kidney removed. That evening, he was scheduled to attend his first class at Evergreen-Tacoma.

Mosesly was mentally exhausted from watching Andre, just one year old, battle a rare, life-threatening disease called congenital nephrotic syndrome. He was physically exhausted from sleepless nights and constant drives to Seattle Children’s Hospital. Attending a three-hour class after a kidney was removed from Andre’s tiny body would require strength he wasn’t sure he had.

“I’d been praying about it all week,” he remembered. “Driving up to Seattle that morning for the operation, I decided that if it went well I would go to class that night.”

For Mosesly, it wasn’t merely a matter of starting fall quarter on the right foot. It was about modeling perseverance to his young son.

“When you have a child with medical challenges, you want to be able to tell them that, despite whatever they go through, they can do whatever they set their mind to,’” Mosesly said. “But I couldn’t say that honestly if I put barriers on myself by not driving back for school that night.”

By the time he enrolled at Evergreen-Tacoma, Mosesly had been well known in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood for many years. Charismatic, with infectious energy and a DIY spirit, he comfortably wore many hats in the historically African-American community. He’d planned cookouts at People’s Park, sold T-shirts of his own design in the barbershops and beauty salons that lined Martin Luther King Junior Way, led community outreach for the Tacoma Urban League, and published the Hilltop-centric Message Magazine.

Then-Evergreen-Tacoma executive director and faculty member Joye Hardiman approached Mosesly one afternoon in June 2006 as he dropped off a bundle of magazines at the campus.

“Dr. Hardiman sat down with me and took the time to learn about that I was trying to do,” Mosesly said. “She told me I’d get a lot more support if I came back to school and continued my education. That’s how I wound up a Greener.”

At Evergreen-Tacoma, Mosesly was introduced to faculty members who recognized his gifts and appreciated his story. “They validated who I was and told me ‘you are good the way you are—you are whole—and you can go so much further.’”

“My first impression of Korbett was [that he was] very intelligent, enthusiastic, and hardworking,” said faculty member Tyrus Smith. “He was eager to learn and apply his learning to address issues and concerns identified in his community.”

Shortly after enrolling at Evergreen, Mosesly landed his first fulltime job at a service organization. As the assistant director of the REACH Center, he wrote grants, built a database, and developed programs to serve youth and young adults living in poverty or homeless in Tacoma.

While studying public policy at Evergreen and learning the ways and means of the nonprofit sector at REACH, Mosesly began to discern the nuances of bureaucratic systems and resource distribution. Cross-referencing these new lessons with the lived experiences of his loved ones on the Hilltop, he found himself diagnosing systemic defects and missed opportunities that were taking a heavy toll on impoverished families in Tacoma, disproportionately harming people of color.

Korbett Mossesly

Korbett Mosesly is Director of Family Stability Initiatives for United Way of Pierce County. In additon to balancing family and work, he serves on the City of Tacoma’s Human Service Commission and Vision 2025 Advisory Committee.

Ten years later, Mosesly is now a key leader in the anti-poverty work being done in the greater Tacoma area. As the director of family stability initiatives at United Way of Pierce County, his job is to lead programs and campaigns to reduce poverty and help families become financially secure.

“Korbett is constantly thinking about how we can make things better and fundamentally change conditions in our community,” said Dona Ponepinto, CEO of United Way of Pierce County. “He’s got ideation, meaning he’s always thinking ‘what about this?’ and is always full of great ideas.”

Honed in research papers and seminars at Evergreen-Tacoma, Mosesly’s ideas are now embraced by an eager audience of influencers. The natural leadership and warmth he once relied on to make ends meet now help him unite local leaders around initiatives addressing poverty, education, and employment issues in Pierce County.

“When Korbett calls, I get excited, because I know he probably has an incredible new idea about how we can make our city better,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “And not only that, he’s probably written a plan, thought about logistics and funding, and even recruited folks to help.”

Mosesly’s work and service extend beyond his office hours at United Way. He’s currently designing online business software that connects construction outfits with ready-to-work laborers, spearheading a community workforce agreement, serving as vice-chair of the Tacoma Human Services Commission, and continuing to publish a local magazine, now called The Hilltop Action Journal.

“He combines his knowledge of technology, business, science, and government in an exceptional way,” said Harold Moss, a former Tacoma mayor and Pierce County council member. “That along with his amazing gift of being able to bring people together—he’s a fantastic young leader.”

Mosesly, who earned his Master of Public Administration from Evergreen in 2017, says his commitment to Tacoma dates back to Andre’s battle with kidney disease. “When we were down and needed support, people in our community, folks who don’t have a lot themselves, took care of us,” he said. “I promised myself that, if and when we made it through Andre’s kidney removal and transplant, I would do everything I could to give back to my community.

“I realized that it was impossible for me to give Andre new kidneys, but going to school that night was possible. And now, bringing people together to find solutions to poverty in my community—I know that’s possible too.”

*In 2008, Korbett Mosesly’s son Andre was the recipient of a kidney donated by his mother. He’s now a happy, healthy sixth grader who loves improv comedy, performing magic tricks and producing music with his older brothers, Kaisean and Deanon.