Life Enrichment Group: Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time Grantee Profile
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! 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.
Learn more about Life Enrichment Group, funded as part of a People of Color-Led Organization grant.
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.