When asked what was unique about Washington Asian Pacific Islander Community Services (WAPI), Executive Director Aileen De Leon immediately named the organization’s focus on serving marginalized communities. They hire from within the community to promote authentic relationship building with youth, and to provide leadership opportunities for people who historically haven’t had access to positions of power.
Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA) held their first Pride celebration at the Seattle World School this June. Students had rainbow temporary tattoos all over their faces and looked at posters showing Prides from around the world. The event was an opportunity for the newly-arrived immigrant and refugee middle and high school students served by the organization to have fun with each other and with the staff that they had built relationships with over the last school year. It was the first Pride event for many of them but it was also a first for VFA, who officially started serving middle schoolers in the fall of 2018.
The kids file out of the van and into WAPI Community Services’ Federal Way studio. They’ve just arrived from the Seola Gardens site of Neighborhood House, which, like WAPI, is a cohort member of the Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time initiative. They sit down in front of iPads, drum pads, and production-quality headphones that absolutely dwarf the middle schoolers, and are barely able to contain their excitement.
In Renton at the Highlands Neighborhood Center, kids were learning about how environmental pollutants enter our water systems (and enthusiastically spraying “rain” all over the model town), filling a room with giggles as they concocted shimmery slime using a recipe written in Spanish, and racing to construct machines out of items like pipe cleaners, tape, and pennies.