Creating opportunities for young people who face systemic barriers to success

Best Starts for Kids today launched new investments that will create opportunities and provide resources to youth and young adults who face systemic barriers to pursuing their educational, career, and life goals.

Best Starts for Kids will partner with 10 community-based organizations that reflect the communities, cultural backgrounds, and lived experiences of the youth they serve. The partnerships increase community-based supports to link youth and young adults to education, job training, mentoring, and other crucial resources and opportunities, focusing on culturally relevant programs that connect youth to their communities and build a strong sense of self.

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Creative Justice will expand their program build relationships between community allies, mentor artists, and youth who are directly involved in the juvenile justice system through provide twice-weekly classes and other public art projects. Photo credit: Creative Justice/Tim Aguero.

“Support from Best Starts for Kids will allow us to deepen our work with the young people most directly impacted by the school to prison pipeline,” said  Aaron Counts, Lead Engagement Artist at Creative Justice. “Instead of removing youth from the community through incarceration, Creative Justice rallies around them with supportive mentors who help them identify and highlight their power and potential. Together we can redefine what justice is and what it can be.”

Ten partner organizations successfully competed for $4 million in Best Starts for Kids funding to provide relationships, guidance, and resources to young people ages 12 to 24 who face systemic inequities and barriers to accessing opportunities and pursuing their goals. A panel that included parents, community members, youth and young adults helped evaluate and select partners to ensure the organizations’ program proposals reflect and honor the cultural backgrounds and life experiences of those most impacted.

Click here and scroll to the bottom to see a full list of partners.

Removing barriers to success

The partnerships are part of Best Starts for Kids’ work to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. Partners will play a key role in addressing the circumstances and systemic inequities that create barriers to success for young people, primarily youth of color. These life experiences include inadequate career opportunities and disproportionate school disciplinary measures, and other systemic inequities in the justice system, schools, and communities that prevent youth and young adults from achieving their full potential.

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Partners will create a community-based support system to link youth and young adults to education, job training, mentoring, and other crucial resources and opportunities. Photo credit: Creative Justice/Tim Aguero.

“This funding puts us in a better position to pull our youth and young adults out of the school-to-prison pipeline and empower a generation of powerful, positive leaders,” said Dominique Davis, CEO and Co-Founder of Community Passageways. Programs focus on creating a support system that provides youth and young adults with the resources, relationships, and guidance they need to pursue their goals with the support of their communities.

By focusing on engaging and culturally relevant programs, the initiative will not only provide opportunities and resources, but also support youth and young adults in healing from trauma and feeling supported within their communities. Example programs include:

  • Good Shepherd Youth Outreach will expand their Standing Tall Mentorship Program, which will bring mentoring, educational resources, family support, and opportunities to young people in Seattle, Tukwila, and Federal Way.
  • Community Passageway’s community-based mentors will deliver culturally relevant programming for young people who have been involved or may become involved in the juvenile justice system. Community Passageways will collaborate with the University of Washington to provide weekly support to young people and their families in their communities and in their homes.
  • Creative Justice will expand their program to build relationships between community allies, mentor artists, and youth who are directly involved in the juvenile justice system. Creative Justice will provide twice-weekly classes and other public art projects to build leadership skills, amplify youth voices, and articulate the values that define us as individuals and as a community.

Funds range between $300,000 and $400,000 to support programming for 18 months. King County’s Department of Community and Human Services will work closely with partners to measure the performance of each program.

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