Summer learning: Building capacity across communities

In partnership with School’s Out Washington and 31 community-based organizations, Best Starts for Kids is expanding after-school and summer programs in communities who face financial and geographic barriers to access. In 2018, our partners provided over 23,000 hours of out-of-school programming. From hands-on opportunities to master a new skill to field trips that expose kids to a new career path, these programs do more than enhance academic skills. The high-quality programs Best Starts for Kids supports give young people the opportunity to learn about themselves, explore the world around them, and build confidence in their abilities.

We joined School’s Out Washington, several of our Out-of-School Time strategy partners, and Executive Constantine on a tour to of two programs to see how they’re making a difference for kids and families this summer. In part one of this series, we shared how the City of Renton used Best Starts for Kids funds to add new partnerships and expand programming. Read part one here.

“Look, I’m in Chicago!” exclaimed a young person standing in front of a green screen as Hal Raines, a local video producer, showed students how to use a computer program to replace the green background with an image—in this case, a city skyline. Two young people reported in front of the screen, mimicking a TV newscast, while several others directed the cameras.

They’re part of Walk Away City Collaborative’s program Middle School University, an education, enrichment, and career exploration program in Seattle’s Othello neighborhood. The summer program introduces young people to professionals in fields such as photography, videography, environmental science, and music production along with more standard youth programming like kayaking or field trips to urban fruit orchards to learn about trees. Students who participate and engage receive a stipend—and learn how to save or spend what they earn through financial literacy education provided in partnership with Key Bank.

Best Starts for Kids funding provided Walk Away with the resources and capacity to launch Middle School University. During the summer, the organizations provides 4-weeks of daily programming at no cost to families. Walk Away received funding through a People of Color-led funding strategy, which focuses on strengthening program capacity and reach for programs for and by communities of color. As part of a holistic approach to supporting after school and summer programming, Best Starts for Kids funds allowed Walk Away to purchase a van to make sure young people can easily and safely get to the program and back home at the end of the day.

King County Executive Dow Constantine joined the students for Raines’ videography demonstration to see how the program is making an impact for kids and families. One young person in the program aspires to be a Senator one day. Each day, he wears a button up shirt to the program to start embracing his goal. During the visit, he was able to talk one-on-one with Executive Constantine about a career in politics and how he can start making his dream a reality.

“I think this program is successful,” another participant shared while in front of the green screen. “Some kids are just sitting at home when they could be getting educated. Without this program, I probably would be at home on my X-Box too.” He continued that thanks to the leadership and business skills he learned during Walk Away’s after school program, he was able to start his own successful lawn and tree care business. “Before I worked with City Fruit, I didn’t know anything about pruning. Now my neighbors are paying me for my time.”

Throughout Raines’ video demonstration, Walk Away’s program founders Michael & Cedtricia Passian occasionally ask the students trivia questions related to previous lessons. Michael Passian asks the group, “Can anyone tell me how many species of bees there are?” Students recently took a field trip with City Fruit to an urban orchard to learn about urban agriculture and land stewardship. Several students know the answer: there are over 30,000 species of bees.

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