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Home Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time Grantee Profiles

Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time Grantee Profiles

SOWA is excited to work with the many amazing organizations funded through the King County Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time (BSK OST) investment! We also have the opportunity to support many of these organizations through SOWA’s Housing & Expanded Learning Opportunities (HELO) Network.

These organizations, funded either as stand alone People of Color-Led organizations or Place-Based Partnerships, are all working hard to maximize their positive impact on King County youth. 

As part of this investment, all grantees participate in SOWA’s Youth Program Quality Initiative (YPQI) process with the aim of engaging in continuous quality improvement supports and promoting social emotional learning (SEL) for all. For a deeper look at the funding strategies and project roll-out of the BSK OST investment, check out the initial Implementation Plan

To learn more about the BSK OST grantees, the following profiles provide a deeper dive into how organizations and partnerships are utilizing the grant funds to provide access to consistent, high quality, and culturally relevant summer and afterschool programming to underserved communities and geographies. The SOWA BSK team will continue to update these profiles with more information throughout the 3-year funding period. 

ARTS CORPS

Arts Corps is a member of a Place-Based Partnership in White Center, Burien and SeaTac with Southwest Youth and Family Services (SWYFS) and Geeking Out Kids of Color (GOKiC), serving the Arbor Heights, Woodridge Park, and Windsor Heights housing communities. They are also funded through the POC-Led model for their work in Mount View and Hazel Valley Elementary Schools. Arts Corps “revolutionizes arts education by igniting the creative power of young people through culturally engaging learning experiences.” They have served young people in out-of-school time for many years and have been involved in YPQ work since its inception in Washington State, initially participating in a pilot program. SEL practices are a new learning curve which offers additional Methods trainings and rich, exciting skill-building.

Funding has been challenging as the sites they partner with often had their budgets cut, or could not hold programming for the full year which is unsustainable for teaching artists. With the BSK OST investment, there is now dependable funding and thus the ability to deepen the impacts of quality programs. It’s beneficial to improve systems and strengthen partnerships through program assessments and coaching intervention.

Young people will now have opportunities to express themselves through the arts in a consistent way—teaching artists and entire arts programs won’t be evaporating after 6 months. This enables deep relationship building, fostering the courage for youth to speak their minds in a safe container. For teaching artists, the solidity of their job means that they’re not concerned about whether or not they’ll have a job next year and can instead devote themselves entirely to serving young people. This allows them to embed themselves in the community they serve and everyone works together in a safe and fun way, so everyone wins! Program coordinators and managers can zoom in and support the growth of a given offering without the concern of having to constantly build something and then move it elsewhere.  

SOWA’s ability to provide technical support that helps keeps programs running is very valuable for Arts Corps. The opportunities to receive trainings with other youth development workers and then share lessons learned and strategies used is important, making sure that the entire field is working together for high quality programs. Providing financial support for programs and partnerships allows organizations already doing good work to strengthen and sustain.

Being a part of both the Place-Based and POC-Led funding models, Arts Corps is in a unique position to comment on benefits of each strategy. The Place-Based Partnerships promote collaboration within under-resourced communities and allows Arts Corps to partner with service providers in housing communities. This enables robust arts programming to reach youth who often have access to that resource. Arts Corps’ solid partnership with SWYFS and GOKiC makes them eager to bring more collaboration to sites that will allow them to provide more youth access to the arts.  

The POC-Led funding model is a  much-needed strategy that Arts Corps has wanted to see for a long time. Often, organizations employ front-line service providers of color and have white leadership. It is absolutely important to have People of Color present with youth that look like them, and is also crucial to have People of Color in leadership in order to make decisions and executive connections. Receiving funding specifically as a POC-Led organization validates Arts Corps’ commitment to (the arts as a vehicle of) racial justice. 

BELLEVUE SCHOOL DISTRICT

The Bellevue School District (BSD) is the lead organization in a Place-Based Partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue (BGC), KidsQuest Children’s Museum, and YMCA of Greater Seattle’s Bellevue branch. They are collaborating specifically to serve McKinney-Vento students by offering free access to BSD’s before- and after-school care (as well as free access to BGC programs, free memberships to KidsQuest, and free memberships to the YMCA). The BSK OST investment expands this partnership, which is now able to serve homeless students year-round.

BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF BELLEVUE

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue (BGC) is part of a Place-Based Partnership with the Bellevue School District (BSD), KidsQuest Children’s Museum, and the YMCA of Greater Seattle, serving McKinney-Vento youth. They are also a part of SOWA’s HELO network. BGC has had a longstanding presence in Bellevue, operating 13 sites for children ages 2 ½ to 19 including standalone clubs and partnerships with elementary schools, community centers, and public housing. They are one of the only Clubs to run a preschool, and have operated a standalone teen center for almost 30 years which makes them one of the first Clubs in the nation to do so. They have an additional standalone teen center, and a fieldhouse with one of the largest athletics programs of any club in the nation. They provided over 1 million dollars of scholarships last year which were available for use with any of their services.  

BGC has been collaborating with BSD and KidsQuest for over a year, and were able to serve McKinney-Vento kids during the summer. With the BSK OST investment they are now able to serve more of these students, throughout the entire year. These funds also enabled them to expand services for McKinney-Vento youth beyond elementary school age, now up to 12 years old. BGC is also now able to access targeted professional development trainings in partnership with the district, including trauma-informed care and cultural responsiveness. Ultimately this means that BGC is able to serve more vulnerable youth, many of whom were on waitlists at all facilities during the school year but are now being prioritized.  

Having formerly participated in YPQ, BGC is excited to receive SOWA’s training and coaching services at additional sites. They’re able to offer these trainings to new staff, share language, and streamline programs which ensures that everyone is one the same page. BGC is also grateful to receive funding with the Place-Based model, as their partnership was already working well together. Monetary constraints prevented them from being able to consistently host KidsQuest as drop-in partners (and KQ now serves Club sites year-round) or to further expand their collaborations. This partnership brings their community closer together, and elevates the reality of youth homelessness in Bellevue which people often don’t realize. Vulnerable youth are having their needs addressed, and services are expanding throughout the entire community. 

CENTRO RENDU OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL

Centro Rendu is the Latino Services and Program Center of St. Vincent de Paul. They are in a Place-Based Partnership with the City of Renton and Techbridge Girls at the Highlands Neighborhood Center. Centro Rendu “exists to protect, support, and defend Latino immigrant families through education, social services, legal advocacy, and leadership development that strengthens healthier communities and future generations.” In their BSK OST-funded partnership, Centro Rendu provides academic supports for all youth and also recognizes the importance of cultural identity for Latino students, who make up more than half of all youth at the Highlands Neighborhood Center. 

CHINESE INFORMATION AND SERVICE CENTER

Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) is a Seattle-based organization which works to “support immigrants and their families by creating opportunities for them to succeed, while honoring their heritage.” They provide a multitude of services, including early learning and youth development programs. CISC has been running after-school services for over 20 years, and largely work with students who are below level in math and reading. In addition to dedicated academic supports with homework help, English acquisition, and STEM education, they also provide field trips, guest speakers, and cross-cultural experiences to expose youth to the variety of heritages and traditions present in their new home country. The BSK OST investment supports the hiring of additional reading, phonics, and math specialists. 

CITY OF RENTON

The City of Renton Recreation and Neighborhood Division is the lead organization in a Place-Based Partnership with Centro Rendu and Techbirdge Girls, serving youth at the Highlands Neighborhood Center. Before the BSK OST investment, The City of Renton was been running drop-in programming at the Center for 6 to 18 year olds, from 3 to 7 pm after school.  They have also maintained a relationship with Food Lifeline, who provides after-school lunches and snacks for youth, for the last two and a half years. It was a noncustodial program model, meaning youth could come and go as they please. Fee-based programs ran in the building, and the no-cost options were limited to the gym, game room, and lobby. Homework help happen informally as-needed, rather than as a structured program. While the Neighborhood Center provided a much needed space for young people (it’s situated very close to Highlands Elementary School), it was often a challenge to keep kids engaged in the limited programming—they often wouldn’t want to focus on homework, and opted to instead play dodgeball and then walk to a nearby grocery school.  

With the BSK OST investment, the City of Renton is able to strengthen their academic supports. There will be a focus on homework help, and The City is currently in conversations with local principals to explore if Renton teachers can receive out-of-school-time hours to tutor students at the Neighborhood Center. There will also be opportunities for members of the Renton Youth Council to tutor students. The Environmental Science Center and independent contractors (such as a gymnastics instructor and taekwondo instructor) will offer classes and the City will provide additional programming such as goal-setting curriculum and varied STEM offerings for all ages and for boys (to serve youth not eligible for Techbridge Girls’ and the Environmental Science Center’s programming). The vision is to develop a full, robust enrichment program aligned with youth quality indicators instead of just a drop-in program.

The City of Renton’s programming at the Neighborhood Center has always been high quality and well-received by the community. This investment now offers an opportunity to elevate the programs into YPQ-aligned, evidence-based ones. A former Neighborhood Center youth, who has gone on to work at the Center, has been hired as a full-time, dedicated program coordinator to oversee these changes. The evolution of the program into and evidence-based YPQ-backed model has aided in the development of a partnership with the school district, including the district doing outreach to connect with families not yet involved in the Neighborhood Center and the initiation of a data sharing agreement with schools. This evolution has also already elicited positive feedback in unofficial parent polls.  

This program redesign was itself informed by a survey of elementary school parents, in which a desire for STEM programming and structured sports programming was made clear. The BSK OST funds enable the City of Renton to respond to the needs of their community, and provides even more than what parents asked for—including providing transportation from McKnight Middle School, which is across a major road from the Neighborhood Center. This funding also supports the City in maintaining a relationship with Food Lifeline so they can continue serving a higher volume of youth that will be engaged in this new programming.

SOWA’s supports have been meaningful for City staff. They’re able to connect with other grantees who are their peers in the field, exchange ideas and strategies, and develop partnerships with other agencies who have otherwise seemed siloed. Developing a network of other youth development professionals, all of whom are receiving SOWA trainings grounded in YPQ, strengthens the programs of our entire county. Additionally, being affiliated with SOWA is exciting for both the City and for other entities they work with, such at the school district as we are seen as leaders in this field.  

The Place-Based funding model is very exciting for the City of Renton—they’re thrilled to be working with Centro Rendu and Techbridge Girls! They’d like to expand this BSK OST-funded partnership to other community centers in Renton, and are also motivated to organically develop additional partnerships. Their experience in this cohort of grantees will hopefully be a jumping-off point for robust multi-organization programs.

COALITION FOR REFUGEES FROM BURMA

The Coalition for Refugees from Burma (CRB) is a member of a Place-Based Partnership with Kent Youth and Family Services (KYFS), the YMCA of Greater Seattle, and Somali Youth and Family Club (SYFC), serving the Birch Creek Housing Community in Kent. CRB has a long history of running a variety of educational youth programs targeting K-12 students and their parents, which are supported by partnerships with the Kent School District and Seattle Public Schools. They are also supported by SOWA’s Refugee School Impact Grant, and recently completed their 8th year of services. CRB provides out-of-school time academic enrichment at school sites (with Technology Matching Funds in 2 Seattle school sites), and also recruits and extensively trains tutors for 1-on-1 in-home tutoring to address the transportation barriers for parents in accessing after-school program sites. Parents are supported with digital literacy programs and school navigation information.

With the BSK OST investment, CRB is now supporting KYFS with their long-standing reading program. They are also able to provide technical assistance and capacity building for their partner organizations with a “train the readers” program—they trained 13 KYFS and SYFC staff at Birch Creek on how to use reading mechanics with students and how to get them leveled up in reading.

SOWA’s trainings and their Active Participatory Approach structure provides hands-on opportunities to strengthen programs. The Place-Based funding model allows the relationships KYFS staff has with families at Birch Creek to be leveraged, increasing kids’ access to high-quality programming. Being a housing community, the youth center has already been established and identified as a safe place kids can go after school—and with newly arrived communities often being comprised of single parents or people working multiple jobs (frequently graveyard shifts), a housing community-based venue removed barriers to kids being safe and academically supported. KYFS is very successful in the recruitment and retention of youth. BSK OST funds allowed for Birch Creek partner organizations to have a planning period in order to drill down to the specific approach they would take with this collaboration. CRB’s partnership with the Kent School District allowed them to create distilled reading curriculums based on the IRLA (Independent Reading Level Assessments) methods utilized in Kent schools. KYFS has valued the reading mechanics training and CRB will run refresher trainings at the beginning of a school year for all staff and volunteers.

DICK SCOBEE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL & CASCADE MIDDLE SCHOOL

Dick Scobee Elementary School and Cascade Middle School are members of a Place-Based Partnership in Auburn with Neighborhood House. They provide academic and enrichment after-school and summer programming for students in the Auburn School District. The BSK OST investment has supported the expansion of these programs and the hiring of additional Family Engagement Coordinators. 

EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY SERVICES

East African Community Services (EACS) works “to provide culturally responsive K-12 Education programs that keep youth safe and help them succeed in school and life.” They offer after-school education and enrichment programs for kids in Seattle’s NewHolly housing community, including reading, math, leadership, and survival skills. EACS also facilitates Harambee events (which is an East African tradition and value of mutual community support, meaning “all together” in Swahili), cultural dances, and field trips including snowshoeing and ziplining-- which are particularly meaningful experiences for low-income youth who otherwise wouldn’t have access to those activities. Parent engagement opportunities and mentorship programs which pair high school students with mentors in the community ensure that intergenerational relationships are built with EACS’ help.

Being a small grassroots nonprofit, EACS has often had to stretch resources in order to accommodate needs. With the BSK OST investment, they’re now able to expand their organizational assets, such as buying a projector and a laptop for their program. They’re also able to expand their field trip offerings, and bring in additional partners to provide new enrichment programs. For example, they recently partnered with a group that ran a Writing Through Photography program which engaged youth in technology that they were excited about to promote literacy skills.

This funding has provided an opportunity for EACS staff to be more supportive of their youth. They’ve hired additional staff for their middle school program which allows teachers to form one-on-one relationships with kids and be highly attuned to their individual needs. EACS is also eager to expand their programming to include health and wellness classes like yoga, zumba, and kickboxing for Fit Fridays, and a monthly Family Institute meeting for parents.

Working with SOWA allows EACS to have access to the YPQI process rather than simply reporting metrics to a funder-- there’s intentional programmatic support build into the structure of this grant. Our cohort conveneings allow for networking, and also for personal connections to form amongst peers in the field. Additionally, because so many SOWA staff come from a background of youth program work, EACS trusts our perspective as funders and has experienced us as responsive and hands-on.

Being funded through the POC-Led model, EACS is excited to work alongside other organizations who share the perspective and experience of being a grassroots organization. Many funders don’t understand the unique challenges and strengths of programs reflective of the communities they serve. This funding acknowledges organizations like EACS and validates that they exist, and that their work is crucial to the youth development field, and to the youth of Seattle.

EMPOWERING YOUTH AND FAMILIES OUTREACH

Empowering Youth and Families Outreach (EYFO) works for “all youth to reach adult with the skills and support needed to achieve their goals and contribute to a just and humane world.” They have provided a number of programs around King County such as after-school care, literacy programs, sports, parenting workshops, and partnering with other organizations depending on programmatic need.

Because of the BSK OST investment, EYFO has been able to expand their area of service to include Federal Way. They are able to grow their infrastructure, with 25 staff now receiving YPQI training and other professional development. This funding has already resulted in 15-20% more kids being served this year, all of whom are receiving YPQ-aligned programming.

The connection with other grantees in the BSK OST cohort is giving them access to other organizations doing great work that were previously siloed, and now comradery and solidarity is forming—including the development of new partnerships within the cohort! They have written a grant application with Geeking Out Kids of Color, and also had summer programs in the same building as Walk Away City Collaborative and are working towards partnership with them.  EYFO has also had a long term partnership with Life Enrichment Group, with each organization supporting the other’s programming and referring youth to one another. Even other, non-BSK OST-funded organization have been seeking out partnerships with EYFO due to the expansion of their services.

SOWA has been a model for EYFO in our delivery of high quality trainings, effective and responsive communication, and relationship building. EYFO appreciates the intentionality around funding organizations that have been doing good work in their communities for a long time, and making the BSK OST investment about them rather than about us.  

The POC-Led model promotes equity in funding. It is part of a new era of grant-making in which POC-led organization can celebrate the strength of organizations being steered by people from the communities that they’re serving, rather than having to obscure this in funding applications. This funding model also responds to the reality that larger, institutionally white organizations often receive funding because POC-Led organization have more limited capacity and infrastructure and are focused on the front-line work. This funding model is responsive to these disparities and seeks to influence other grant-makers to ensure more equitable resource allocation. EYFO is excited to have additional support in serving their kids and communities with high quality programming, and are grateful for SOWA’s role in promoting quality youth programming for kids across the state.

FILIPINO COMMUNITY OF SEATTLE

Filipino Community of Seattle (FCS) is “committed to promoting cultural diversity, ethnic pride, unity, and educational and socioeconomic empowerment among Filipino Americans in the Pacific Northwest”. They have run middle and high school programs focused around team building and STEAM education, predominantly funded through United Way. Their staff had very limited hours, and had to be incredibly creative with their crafty programming—often using Dollar Tree materials for STEAM offerings.  

With the BSK OST investment, FCS has been able to expand in multiple ways. They are now able to offer elementary school programming, and piloted a Filipino STEAM camp this year. Staff hours increased, and specific camp staff were also hired. Additionally, a parent was the teacher, which promoted a family-oriented community feel. This has resulted in numerous families becoming engaged in programming asking for follow-up services. High school programming ran at the same time, and staff were able to see for one or two days a week what it would be like to have their dream of K-12 program offerings realized. They also have bigger toys in the classroom, which youth and staff alike are excited about. At Southshore, prior to STEAM club there weren’t any after-school programs running. Now FCS is able to have a bigger influence on the future of after-school programming at the site.  

SOWA’s supports come at opportune time for FCS, as their youth programs are being revamped and now we can aid in the development and sustainability of those programs. With the excitement around the new summer camp offerings which involved the high school programs, families will be able to see that high quality youth programming can become a consistent part of their community. SOWA’s responsive relationship as grant-maker with FCS and our readiness coaching services empowers their organization to create unique opportunities for more programming that engages the whole family. After the pilot summer camp, parents were eager for longer camps in the future and a group of community members are starting a parent committee to contribute to the sustainability of the program.

The POC-Led funding model is a unique structure which incubates some equally unique experiences. STEAM Camp was a group of 15 Filipino kids in an environment which focused solely on their culture, and Filipino program staff were given the freedom to create that environment. POC-Led organization often struggle without the infrastructure and support that bigger, mainstream nonprofits have. Grassroots programs are starting at a different standpoint, have different priorities, and different trajectories. This funding recognizes these differences and elevates their value while also addressing organizational capacity disparities.

GEEKING OUT KIDS OF COLOR

Geeking Out Kids of Color (GOKiC) is a member of a Place-Based Partnership in White Center, Burien and SeaTac with Southwest Youth and Family Services and Arts Corps, serving youth in three housing communities. They work “to empower kids of color with education in computer science so they can use technology to help make a positive impact in their communities.” GOKiC reduces the digital learning gap by providing culturally responsive STEM education through a racial justice lens. The BSK OST investment has allowed them to hire staff and purchase additional computers and robotics equipment.

IRAQI COMMUNITY CENTER OF WASHINGTON

Iraqi Community Center of Washington (IRCCW) is an organization “providing culturally and linguistically competent social services to Iraqi refugees in Washington State to obtain self-sufficiency and make a successful transition to the life in America.” They have served this region for 20 years, growing considerable since their initial partnership with Southwest Youth and Family Services in West Seattle and White Center. In addition to the long history of dynamic programming for adults (including parenting and early learning education, introductions to the US school system, and women’s support and citizenship classes) IRCCW has run Arabic schools on for more than 6 years in Kent and White Center, and around 170 kids attend on Thursdays and Saturdays.

This program was born out of a desire of parents to preserve their language, and was totally volunteer-based (and had no grant funding) for many years. The classes are run by parent volunteers who have accessed other IRCCW services and by Iraqi teachers without American teaching certificates. IRCCW sends these teachers to additional trainings for math, reading, and assessment, supporting their professional development and progress towards obtaining American certification—7 moms are now certified teachers or Head Start educators, including dual-language Head Start educators. The organization is a member of the Kent Education Equity Partnership, and has received a PSESD grant to do an after-school program at a school in Kent which resulted in a boost in the reading levels of youth (as reflected in school district data).

Another programmatic focus is on case management regarding housing—IRCCW also received BSK Homelessness Prevention funds. They aim to feel like a family that also happens to be a one-stop service shop, supporting with everything from the acquisition of car insurance to reading report cards. The unique organizational culture created by IRCCW enables them to work well both with parents and families, but also with the school district. The Arabic language schools are growing at Kent Phoenix Academy, and at the Greenbridge housing center in White Center. Additional cultural events, like International Women’s Day celebrations, help kids and families feel proud of who they are and maintain cultural ties while also responding to their new home and new dreams to achieve in America. “It’s for their kid’s futures, and they can’t do it alone.”

The BSK OST investment feels like a dream come true for IRCCW. They have long been hosting bimonthly focus groups where their community can express concerns, and most of them are their kids. There was so much interest in summer activities that the organization decided to develop one, which now has a waiting list. They have hired community members on as staff, and have secured space in partnership with a principal at a school who has experience working with refugee populations. The community they serve has responded very positively to this, and the organization is grateful to have flexibility in their use of funds—they’re building their own database to support them in embarking on a new path that’s firmly embedded within the community they’ve already cultivated.

SOWA’s expertise in capacity building and our knowledge of schools and other community-based organizations are very useful for IRCCW. They’re also looking forward to the training and coaching made available by this investment, which will build individual staff member’s capacities as well as the program as a whole. SOWA staff have also proven to be helpful resources, creating responsive, transparent, and trusting relationships in which grantees feel comfortable communicating with us. Being funded as a POC-Led organization promotes this trust and relationship, as often grassroots organizations can feel like they are underestimated or are being taken from without being given to. The leadership of People of Color is being supported, and their culturally-specific experiences and perspectives are determining factors of the direction of the organization. Organizations like IRCCW are getting recognized for all the incredible work they do with limited resources, and it’s exciting to see how much they’re planning to accomplish with sustained funding.

KENT YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES

Kent Youth and Family Services (KYFS) is the lead organization in a Place-Based Partnership with Somali Youth and Family Club, Coalition for Refugees from Burma, and the YMCA of Greater Seattle, serving the Birch Creek housing community. KYFS is also a part of SOWA’s HELO network. They offer academic, athletic, and enrichment programming, and have a long-standing collaboration with the Kent School District.

KIDSQUEST CHILDREN’S MUSEUM

KidsQuest Children’s Museum is in a Place-Based Partnership with the Bellevue School District, Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue, and the YMCA of Greater Seattle, focusing on serving McKinney-Vento students. In 2017, the museum moved from Factoria to downtown Bellevue which increased the number of visitors that could access KidsQuest. An important component of the KidsQuest mission is a commitment to access, including monthly low-sensory nights with dimmer lights, quieter sounds, and less people for autistic children and children with mobility issues. These accommodations have been enthusiastically received by the community.   

The Museums for All program, which offers deeply discounted admission for anyone receiving government subsidies such as EBT or WIC, allows the freedom for families to attend at a time that works for their schedule.  KidsQuest offers free and low cost scholarships for memberships, classes, camps and educational outreach. Outreach creates access by taking early learning and science programs out into the community. KidsQuest will be providing weekly programming at BSD and BGC sites for this Place-Based Partnership.

With the BSK OST investment, KidsQuest is able to provide more access to the museum through the membership program. In 2017 KidsQuest provided 35 scholarships. In 2018, through June KidsQuest provided over 100 scholarships. Education outreach has expanded by 30%, and consistent providers are able to go to the same location repeatedly over the course of the year, fostering deeper relationship building.  

SOWA offers valuable training around SEL practices and assessment processes, which support KidsQuest’s efforts to promote SEL skills in all of their programs. The goal is to enable youth to go to school and interact with all of their environments in a more positive way. SOWA’s guidance also aids in the productivity of cross-organization collaboration. The Place-Based funding model allows KidsQuest to utilize external community spaces, creating convenience and access by serving children in their environments.   KidsQuest is proud to collaborate with their partners to serve a diverse group of students and families.

LIFE ENRICHMENT GROUP

Life Enrichment Group (LEG) serves African American youth and youth of color in Seattle. They were formed a decade ago to respond specifically to the need for culturally relevant programs, and have been operating multiple academic and enrichment programs on a shoestring budget. While things have been continuously tight for LEG and have often required sacrifices from staff, they never compromised the quality of their programs and have a passion for serving their youth which fuels them and their work.  

LEG has run the Young Queens Seattle/King County program for 10 years, the Black College Tour (which takes high school students to East Coast HBCUs) for 8 years, the Scholars Project for middle school youth for 3 years, and the entrepreneurship program Youth In Business for 2 years. They have often worried about sustaining their services. They have historically always had a waiting list, and the work has seemed never-ending—there is always a young person in need, always a parent reaching out, and ultimately LEG wasn’t able to serve everyone.

With the BSK OST investment, organizational capacity has tripled. Staff capacity was the primary barrier and challenge, and this funding allows LEG to deploy staff in different schools, which frees up administrative staff to secure additional funding. They are able to navigate with more ease and to look at gaps in service, streamlining their programs and engaging in dedicated YPQ interventions. LEG also received BSK Education and Employment funds, which enables them to serve more kids with college and career prep.  

The stability of multi-year investments enables them to be 3 years ahead and plan for the future and support staff holistically, ensuring the maximum impact on their youth. They’re able to strengthen what they’ve already created, and are able to expand. LEG is cultivating strategic partnerships with new schools and are now able to serve elementary school students for the first time, which creates a “pipeline of services” that feeds them through their middle and high school programs.

Within the Rainier Beach community, there aren’t currently a lot of options for families seeking out of school time programming. After school care programs  haven’t served the area for the last couple of years, and LEG is now able to fill that gap. Kids can come to programs after school in a safe, culturally relevant environment which grows their skills and strengths. This means that opportunity gaps that impact youth, families and the South Seattle community are actually mitigated. This investment benefits partnerships with schools not only because of the funding, but because of the high caliber programming that is strengthened by SOWA’s supports.  

SOWA’s professional development services are priceless for LEG, as small grassroots organizations don’t have the budget to make trainings available for staff. Now, they are able to receive training and coaching within the YPQ framework, all of which makes them more competitive in their quest for additional resources. They regard SOWA as the premier provider of youth development support services, which will help staff grow personally and professionally. LEG has also experienced SOWA as being patient and attuned to the dynamics of smaller POC-Led organizations with limited capacity, doing vital community work without the robust infrastructure of larger mainstream organizations. This expansion of funding and of their services, coupled with SOWA’s partnership, helps LEG feel supported into transitioning into a new, elevated era as an organization.  

Historically, POC-Led organization have been overlooked. They are often sought out to contract with larger organizations because of their unique structures and value, they do the work and get the desired programmatic outcomes, but do not receive the same credit or resources as the mainstream organization. The POC-Led funding model provides support to smaller grassroots organizations and recognizes their strengths as leaders in the field, with numbers and outcomes that rival those larger organizations with stronger infrastructure. LEG is grateful to be validated as experts in the community and population they serve, which they have been embedded in from the start.

Ultimately, LEG is thrilled to have vital support in infrastructure and capacity building, which provides a stable and sustainable foundation to their work. They are no longer in “survival mode” and can focus on achieving their goals to create a legacy of building up future leaders. This funding enables them to hire people for more than just a job, but rather to ensure that there are role models who can be a part of a child’s life from elementary to high school and beyond. They’re creating family, which is in an investment in their entire community’s future.  

LIVING WELL KENT

Living Well Kent (LWK) “is a community-driven collaborative dedicated to the vision of public spaces and initiatives that encourage healthier lifestyles and better living. It is focused on creating a healthier, more equitable, and more sustainable city.” Formed to address health disparities experienced by People of Color (particularly immigrant communities), LWK takes a multi-pronged approach to their work. Their youth programming initially consisted of supporting a youth advisory committee who advocated to city-wide policy changes to promote health equity. With the BSK OST investment, LWK is expanding their youth services to engage 7th and 8th grade youth in leadership development. They also provide access to art, music, and cultural spaces like museums that would otherwise be challenging to experience for immigrant youth. LWK’s culturally responsive model includes conflict resolution education and strategies like peace circles and Gracious Space.

NEIGHBORHOOD HOUSE

Neighborhood House (NH) is the lead organization in a Place-Based Partnership in Auburn with Dick Scobee Elementary School and Cascade Middle School. They are also part of SOWA’s HELO network. They run out-of-school time programs, including three tutoring programs, for 170 to 200 K-12 students in low-income housing communities. Beyond homework help, they have a project-based structure to their academic enrichment programs. NH has a history of involvement with YPQ work, which informs these programs. Coordinators connect with families and build relationship with them individually, as in turn work with schools in order to develop effective strategies to support students. As NH offers birth to senior care, with lots of programming happening all the time, their youth development work is rooted in engaging whole families.

With the BSK OST investment NH is able to increase engagement with the outside community and create more robust programming, including getting materials for more and more exciting programming, and inviting other housing community members as well as youth outside of the housing communities involved in their offerings. They have been able to hire dedicated summer staff, which was previously challenging, which makes for more robust programming. The funds also support a stronger relationship and understanding with NH’s partner schools—instead of just a general sense of what the other entities are doing, there is now deep knowledge and collaboration.

NH now has more focus on intentionally engaging youth they’re trying to bring into their centers, made possible through their partnership with schools—their name goes out into Auburn schools and the general community. Dedicated summer staff members increase youth’s access to more positive adult role models, and young people are flourishing because of those relationships as a result of this one summer alone. BSK OST funds are strengthening the programs already in place, as well as expanding offerings. With transportation no longer a costly barrier, there are more opportunities to take field trips (which is especially important for low-income youth) which increases buy-in and engagement from youth.  

SOWA’s supports provide an opportunity to be creative and figure out how best support young people in new and exciting ways, bringing more voices to the table. Some of those voices include other grantees, who share their thoughts and ideas and provide valuable perspective. SOWA convenings promote a sense of closeness in a very spread out county location, and remind NH that they’re not alone in this work. The region of the county another cohort member is serving may be different, but there’s a common language in YPQ and the focus on SEL skills. Our centering of SEL skills bring youth programs in line with what schools are doing, creating a streamlined cross-system intervention.  

Place-Based funding model has been crucial in bolstering the partnership that NH has developed with Auburn schools. This initial year of the BSK OST grant is about launching a partnership, and NH is excited to see what it’ll grow into once everyone is aligned at the start of the school year. This collaboration promotes buy-in of the partners, and NH feels like there’s more equal representation in their work—each entity brings a different expertise and values learning from the others, ultimately benefiting the youth being served. The partnership is able to develop shared goals and the SEL PQA provides common language and techniques so there will as broad an impact as possible on the entire community.  

NH programs have always been engaging for young people, and they’re now working to engage their broader community. Summer showcases have been more interactive, including a gaming expo at Burndale where kids created games and played them with attendees, and a community field day at Firwood Circle. So many kids playing outside was engaging for housing community members, who got curious and joined in on the fun. By strengthening their youth programs, NH is able to promote intergenerational relationships with everyone they serve.

SEATTLE PARKS AND RECREATION

Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) is the lead organization in a Place-Based Partnership at Northgate Elementary School with STEMPaths Innovation Network. At their Northgate site, they’re the recipient of 21st Century Community Learning Center’s OSPI grant and have run programs for 60 kids, focusing on math and reading intervention two days a week and enrichment two days a week. They also run a 4-day, 6-week summer school program.

With the BSK OST investment, SPR has been able to expand their out of school time programming. Prior to receiving these funds, SPR programs were specifically serving kids who needed academic support. Northgate Elementary School has a large number of low-income, high-need students and the SPR program did not offer opportunities for students at-level. Now, all students in 2nd through 5th grade can attend the program, which includes increased enrichment offerings. Programs will now run for 32 weeks in the school year (previously 30 weeks), and will run 5 days a week in the summer (previously 4 days a week). SPR was also able to purchase a second bus to reduce transportation time for students, which could sometimes take as long as 90 minutes to get home. Additionally, the BSK OST investment strengthened partnerships with existing partners such as SPIN.

SPR has been able to hire more staff members, and build not only program capacity but also staff capacity through regular meetings to discuss program improvement processes and workshop problems, as well as increased access to professional development. During the summer program, SPR staff had an hour-long meeting to discuss how to support SEL skills with reflection circles focusing on leadership and mindfulness practices. Funding for staff meetings enables deeper engagement with the PQA tool.  

Similarly, paid professional development opportunities strengthen staff’s youth development skills. Trainings include interrupting racism and microaggressions and trauma-informed behavioral guidance. Staff buy-in has increased now that they’ve been empowered with tangible strategies to positively impact the youth they serve. SOWA’s professional development trainings provide vital learning opportunities for site-level staff, ad it is sometimes challenging for site coordinators to address staff training needs within the time and cost constraints present in many youth programs. With new capacity supports the program is now accessible to all students, including students in the bilingual newcomer orientation program and students with behavioral challenges.  

Being part of a Place-Based Partnership allows SPR to continue to work very closely with SPIN, an organization that has shared goals about how to serve the specific students at Northgate. The partnership model supports collaboration on a deeper level than had been done previously, and enables the shifting of “cultural goals” due to shared SEL language. Both organizations have been working through the spring and summer to create a cohesive cultural environment, and are hopeful that this fall that culture shift will be realized.

SOUTHWEST YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES

Southwest Youth and Family Services (SWYFS) is the lead organization in a Place-Based Partnership in White Center, Burien and SeaTac with Geeking Out Kids of Color (GOKiC) and Arts Corps, serving the Arbor Heights, Woodridge Park, and Windsor Heights housing communities.  They are also involved in SOWA’s HELO network. Their New Futures programs provide after-school academic and enrichment offerings for over 170, 1st-12th graders during the academic year, as well as summer programming, in addition, they also offer early learning programming for 0-5 year old kids and their parents. SWYFS serves low-income students in the Highline Public Schools system, in which two thirds are struggling to meet their English Language Arts and Math benchmarks—so New Futures’ tutoring program is critical in supporting students after-school. They have a collaborative relationship with the school district, which provides New Futures with quarterly grades and monthly attendance reports. Being embedded within a housing community promotes deep connection with their community—SWYFS not only works with students individually but family advocates at every site ensure that the whole family is meeting basic needs, are supported in times of crisis, and are connected with other families through annually cultural events.

The BSK OST investment has left a profound impact on the retention of staff. All youth and elementary coordinators have been increased from part time to full time positions. This enables consistent one-on-one mentoring, particularly with middle and high school students. Youth and elementary coordinators have more availability to connect with teachers, students, and parents/guardians to develop a plan so each student thrive. This means dedicated, consistent staff form authentic relationships with individuals and are able to identify and address challenges.

At SWYFS, as with much of the youth development field, there is a high attrition rate (about 30%). In the last 18 months, no staff have left New Futures—people stay because they have the combination of passion and expertise to make a difference in kids’ lives. 70% of staff are People of Color, and most are members of the communities that are served by SWYFS. All program coordinators are degree-holders, and increased funding enables the organization to retain these talented staff members.

Retention of staff is critical both for the health of the overall program, and also more specifically for the youth themselves. Consistency is so impactful for youth, especially those who have a hard time relating to adults or have had traumatic transitions. By maintaining a committed and sustainable presence in kids’ lives, staff can develop trust as youth are no longer constantly creating new relationships. This in turn enables staff to move from crisis mode to strategic program development, streamlining what to do and how to do it.

This increase in staff capacity means SWYFS is now able to develop curriculum that is specifically tailored to meet student needs at each individual site. The BSK OST investment has also benefited partnership. GOKiC had an incubator program at one site, and has now expanded to offer tech programs at all 3 sites. Similarly, SWYFS prior to the BSK OST investment, approached Arts Corps to help incorporate arts programming to one of the site—now Arts Corps can dedicate one teaching artist for a full year to all 3 sites. This partnership coalesces in a robust curriculum that meets the need for both tech and arts programming (which promote confidence, sense of self, and leadership).  With the fast-changing Seattle landscape, this partnership offers an avenue where our students are building not only socio-emotional intelligence but the hard and practical skills to develop into leaders.

SOWA offers a roadmap for embedding SEL practices in youth programs, which dovetail with the trauma-informed training SWYFS has near the beginning of the year. The community of students they work with, primarily Black and Latinx youth, receive the most punitive consequences both within school and in the wider world, as well as face stark economic and societal barriers. SEL practices enable the integration of a trauma-informed lens into every aspect of their work. Beyond SEL practices within their programs, SWYFS hopes to provide families the access to trauma-informed parenting that they have requested. A Place-Based funding model supports working not only with students but also with their whole family and the community at large.

STEMPATHS INNOVATION NETWORK

STEMPaths Innovation Network (SPIN) is a member of a Place-Based Partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation at Northgate Elementary School. With a mission of “closing the opportunity gap for girls and students of color in STEM” they provide K-8 out-of-school time and summer enrichment and academic interventions at Title 1 schools and in partnership with community based organizations across King County. Because they know that access to high-quality STEM programming should be available to every student, tuition is not a barrier to participation in their programs.  

SPIN has been partnering with Northgate Elementary and Seattle Parks and Recreation since 2017. The BSK OST investment has allowed SPIN’s programming at Northgate to grow from 1 day a week to 4, and is to provide STEM programming in the summer. They were able to purchase equipment including robots, laptops, and a laptop cart which will all be dedicated to the Northgate site for 3 years, freeing up equipment to be used at other sites. The investment also contributes to hiring SPIN’s 3rd full-time staff person, who is dedicated to the Northgate program as well as their other BSK-funded program, SPIN Girls. This ensures that youth can build relationships with a consistent lead instructor and allows SPIN to develop curricula that is responsive to ongoing youth interests and desire, and that is increasingly culturally relevant. They ask families to define success, and then develop offerings in partnership with Northgate Elementary, SPR, and the kids and families that attend. Ultimately, quadruple the number of students are being served at Northgate with this program expansion.

SOWA’s support, infused with our deep commitment to quality improvement, creates an opportunity for SPIN to engage in broader strategic thinking about evaluation and how they think about success in a program. A lot of the time small nonprofits have their heads down, serving kids and their families, so SPIN is excited to have SOWA’s aid in getting them to lift their heads a bit and think about longer-term program strategy.  

Being in a Place-Based partnership creates a cohesive, robust program with sustained funding—enabling strategic planning for a specific place; a specific group of youth. SPIN always works in partnerships, so this joint funding allows them to work cohesively with SPR as opposed to both organizations independently scrambling for funding. Perpetual competition for funding can pits potential partners against eachother, but the BSK OST investment promotes cooperation. This means exponentially increasing positive impacts on kids.

TECHBRIDGE GIRLS

Techbridge Girls is a member of two Place-Based Partnerships. They serve the Creston Point housing community in unincorporated Skyway with Somali Youth and Family Club and Urban Family Center, as well as the Highlands Neighborhood Center with the City of Renton and Centro Rendu. They are a national nonprofit that has been operating for 18 years in Oakland, 4 in Seattle, and 3 in Washington, D.C. They work to “excite, educate, and equips girls from low-income communities by delivering high-quality STEM programming that empowers a girl to achieve economic mobility and better life chances.” 

Techbridge runs programs at the elementary, middle, and high school level at 9 schools in the Highline School System, providing after-school hands-on STEM programming for girls. Elementary school programs are run by elementary teachers in 5th and 6th grade for 12 weeks, while middle and high school programs run all year with teachers and Techbridge staff.

Integral Techbridge offerings are field trips, role model visits, and professional development support. They also offer family engagement workshops, previously partnering with Somali Youth and Family Club and Para Los Niños.  

With the BSK OST Investment, Techbridge is able to experiment with delivering services outside of a school ground. They’re excited to see if this model works, then hopefully expand into other community centers, housing complexes, and out-of-school/non-traditional spaces. They’ve also been able to expand professional development services for educators who are not school teachers, including training City of Renton staff to provide high caliber STEM programming to boys. Entering Renton for the first time, Techbridge is also expanding their geographic service area.  

All of this means that ultimately, they’re able to serve more girls. They are in 2 additional elementary schools, and 2 additional middle schools. These funds are building staff capacity to work with different partners as well as providing staff valuable experience with contracts and grants management. All of this allows their executive director to devote more attention to fundraising.  

While starting new partnerships can be challenging, SOWA provides structure and resources to aid in this process. By providing two different roll-out timelines (Phase 1 and Phase 2) as well as targeted SEL training and YPQ coaches, we ensure that all grantees have the time they need to prepare for delivering high quality services. Techbridge is grateful that SOWA is playing a support role, such as overseeing contracting, which things easier to manage on sites so they can focus on programming. 

The Place-Based model increases access to high quality programming! The targeted investments provide an opportunity for underserved youth who may not otherwise be involved in after-school programs to participate as these services are now being delivered in neighborhood centers or within housing communities. Techbridge is excited to be able to further their mission to increase access to STEM for low-income girls through the BSK OST investment.

URBAN FAMILY CENTER

Urban Family Center (UFC) is in a Place-Based Partnership with Somali Youth and Family Club (SYFC) and Techbridge Girls at the Creston Point housing community in unincorporated Skyway. They also work in southeast Seattle. UFC provides out-of-school time programming, teen mentoring, school-to-prison pipeline interruption, and gang prevention services.  

With the BSK OST investment UFC is partnering with SYFC to jointly serve youth in their community for the first time despite having offices right next to eachother at Creston Point for many years. While they were previously connecting with a limited number of youth largely involved in the program because their parents made them come, new offerings like fencing and swim lessons are engaging more youth who are excited to come to the program and work with contract instructors. The restructuring of the age groups also promotes more bonding experiences and opportunities to address self-esteem. For example, yoga was previously for K-5 and is now K-2, and 3-5 are with 6-8 for “all swim”. Techbridge Girls is also providing consistent programming to ensure that young girls have access to high quality STEM learning.

This investment has already tripled the capacity for UFC’s summer programming—last year they could only serve 30 to 40 kids, and saw 80-100 every day this year with 140 registered. This means there’s an enormous difference in their ability to serve kids. It also frees up staff capacity to support SYFC’s interns. This year, the high school interns were provided with a robust experience in which they received coaching and job skill development as opposed to previous summers when they were largely delegated tasks.  

UFC is grateful for SOWA’s guidance in YPQ work including the internal and external assessment process, as it’s hard to measure strengths and growth areas without an intentional focus on observing programs. The YPQ process and SOWA more broadly ensures that organizations don’t have to start from square one and provides ongoing support, including providing a cohort of youth development peers to discuss challenges with and learn from.

The Place-Based model enables rich, collaborative work. UFC no longer feels they’re on an island at Creston Point, and are working with SYFC instead of independently attempting to maintain successful programs. Kids are benefitting because there are more staff working with them, creating more opportunities for mentorship. Ultimately, this partnership is working to bridge the divide between African American youth and youth who are the children of African immigrants, and provide access to high quality programming situated within their housing community.

VIETNAMESE FRIENDSHIP ASSOCIATION

Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA) is an organization based at the Seattle World School (SWS) that has been doing refugee resettlement work for over 40 years, with a focus on youth development for the last decade. They serve newly arrived immigrant and refugee students ages 11 to 21, providing English classes, homework help, and Saturday school for reading, writing, math, and career support. VFA is also now able to offer summer school, and athletics programming on site and near-site. They’re also expanding their creative programming and job readiness services. Another exciting development is expanding their family programming—informally, family group accessed tech classes and English classes, and VFA is working with community partners to make these more formalized as well as introduce parenting classes.

With the BSK OST investment, VFA is able to make intentional space for 6th-8th grade students. Previously, any middle schools students that came to programs were welcomed, but the hiring of a dedicated middle school coordinator ensures that programs are specifically geared towards this age group, including middle school girls’ and boys’ groups. Much of the new program development is informed by a survey students took about what offerings they wanted, and that data was disaggregated to examine the middle school age specifically. The new coordinator is also being proactive about navigating transportation barriers, as getting home safely is often a challenge for youth. VFA is looking into partnerships with SWS and the school district, as well as 3rd party drivers, regarding transportation options, as otherwise students would have to take the metro bus or hope that a guardian was available to pick them up. The reworking of transportation options has also allowed VFA to extend program hours.

VFA is receiving BSK OST funds for one year, which will allow them to assess this intentional push for middle school services and regard it as a testing ground. With the hire of a dedicated middle school coordinator, their program staff team is the largest it’s ever been. The position also stabilizes relationships with SWS and the school district, and VFA is creating a model for engagement with middle school English language learners which they can then take to other schools to try and implement for similar populations. They have seen students leave SWS and go to their neighbourhood schools, only to wind up returning to SWS to finish high school—so they’re aiming to provide services continuously.  Strategizing around transportation to the degree they are now is also laying the foundation for future systems and structures. The data VFA collects on these new efforts will support them in securing longer-term funding. 

Working with SOWA as a grant-maker has been refreshing in the transparency and relatability that we bring to the table. VFA doesn’t feel like they have to re-package their work in order to “impress” us, but rather they are able to collaborate with us in their programmatic experimentation. They see us as true allies and partners, not simply an opaque funder. The trainings and convenings that SOWA provide are exciting for VFA as they’re able to see new programs get the support that they deserve, and examine what strategies are common across longer-standing organizations. Being part of the POC-Led funding model allows them to navigate partner, mentor, and collaborator relationships with other similar organizations in the BSK OST cohort. This intentional incubator of POC-Led organizations strengthens the entire youth development field by amplifying work done in “by-us-for-us” programs. 

WALK AWAY CITY COLLABORATIVE

Walk Away City Collaborative is a Seattle-based organization which runs multiple youth development programs, including using the Hip-Hop 2 Prevent Substance Abuse and HIV. The BSK OST investment supports the growth of partnership with City Fruit and environmental justice organization to educate youth about urban agriculture and water and land stewardship, and the implementation of Walk Away’s Summer Youth Employment Program which pays young people $15 an hour to participate in prevention and leadership development programming.

WAPI COMMUNITY SERVICES

WAPI Community Services serves “Asian Pacific Islander Youth and all Youth of Color, ages 10-20, in the greater Seattle area. Their goal is to help youth deal with substance abuse/dependency issues and to provide youth with healthy alternatives to substance use. They provide services that meet the cultural needs and expectations of the community they serve.” WAPI runs music and arts programming for at-risk students which weave in pregnancy prevention, drug and alcohol prevention, suicide prevention, and programming for commercially sexually exploited children. Their model includes “alternative therapies” such as urban arts graffiti and music production, which provides youth access to professional recording studios and producer mentorship 5 days a week. The BSK OST investment has allowed WAPI to hire additional teaching artists to support the expansion of these services.

YMCA OF GREATER SEATTLE

The YMCA of Greater Seattle is a member of two Place-Based Partnerships. In Bellevue, they collaborate with the Bellevue School District, Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue, and KidsQuest Children’s Museums to serve McKinney-Vento students. The Y offers free memberships to homeless students and their families, providing access to health and wellness facilities. They also collaborate with Kent Youth and Family Services, Somali Youth and Family Club, and Coalition for Refugees from Burma to serve youth at the Birch Creek housing community. The Y provides after-school programming including athletics and enrichment. Their housing community-based programs are also a member of SOWA’s HELO network.