Lensé Esheté is struck by the love that is the foundation of her organization. “We make our constituents feel like they have a home, where they can go and be understood.” For Iraqi Community Center of Washington (IRCCW), this is not a hyperbole. Serving immigrant and refugees from Iraq, IRCCW is an organization that was formed by community members in order to meet the needs of their peers and continues to be steered by immigrant and refugee participants.
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. This allows WAPI to be recognized as a leader in their field. Their staff reflect the community they serve-- and not just racially or ethnically, but also street life experience. As Aileen says, “it’s one thing to teach hip hop, but it’s another to live it.”
WAPI uses hip hop music production as a vehicle to prevent substance use amongst API youth, and all under-served youth.
On Tuesday, April 16th, Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time Investment grantees gathered at TAF Bethaday Community Learning Space with SOWA coaches and staff along with King County officials to celebrate the incredible first year of this inaugural cohort. After settling into the space and being greeted by Omana Imani, SOWA’s King County Expanded Learning Opportunities Systems Director, Elizabeth Whitford, SOWA’s CEO, and Megan McJennett of King County, grantees were presented back some of the collective impact data from 2018. As documented in this blog post, there were some major wins during the roll-out of this project: for example, BSK OST programs served young people for 23,179 hours—almost 1,000 days!
A core tenant of the Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time Investment (BSK OST) is that in order for young people to thrive, the youth programs they participate in need to be high-quality. We also know communities of color, low-income communities, and specific regions within King County face significant barriers accessing support to grow into their full potential. School’s Out Washington now has the data to demonstrate our work to provide support to BSK OST grantees, and the impact that is having on young people in the inaugural year of this initiative!
TheBridge Conferenceis right around the corner! October 29th and 30th promise to be two full days of top tier professional development for front-line youth workers, and an incubator of strategic thinking for systems-level leaders like funders and policymakers.