Best Starts for Kids sees early impact in King County

The Best Starts for Kids (BSK) Expanded Learning initiative is underway! School’s Out Washington has received our first round of data from grantees. We’re excited to share the impact of this investment so far, alongside what we’re hearing from their perspectives in the field.  

After contracts were signed in July and August 2022, the 56 Expanded Learning grantees focused on launching programming, navigating new partnerships, new sites, and/or new curriculum in addition to diving into the Youth Program Quality Initiative.  

Despite the busy start to the school year, the BSK Expanded Learning cohort reached 3,848 youth from July-December 2022, with nearly 2,000 youth attending programming on an average day. 

Note: Youth can be counted in multiple race/ethnicity categories. The total number of youth served is 3,848

Who came to programs 

35% of youth reached are middle school age (11-13), and 64% are elementary school age. 89% of the youth served are Black, Indigenous and youth of color (BIPOC). The largest groups served are Black/African American youth, Hispanic/Latino youth, and Asian youth, as well as youth identifying as another race.   

Expanded Learning Programs 

The BSK Expanded Learning Initiative serves youth ages 5-13 and offers a wide variety of afterschool and summer program opportunities to youth across King County. Some programs are already established, while others are building their programs or launching new programming at different sites. A quarter of grantees reported expanding to serve more youth in their communities.  

Expanded learning programming includes: 

  • Academic supports, such as math and reading 
  • Creative opportunities such as dance, music, or writing 
  • STEM and technology exploration 
  • Cultural enrichment 
  • Physical activity and healthy living 

“This program is very important for our children because it helps us to reinforce our culture and language making them feel proud of their roots.” Parent, Para Los Niños 

“We have had several parents share their life skills, careers, and experiences of working and living in the United States. The students were very interested in interviewing the parents and asking them various questions. The students were proud to see their parents sharing their knowledge…this kind of activity is very meaningful for students to understand the life of immigrants and for students to have a closer relationship with their parents.” – Chinese Information & Service Center 

Children play at BSK Grantee site. (Photo by Jenjira Milan)

A common thread throughout is a focus on social emotional learning, particularly fostering a sense of belonging and building strong peer and adult relationships. Even though many programs are just getting started, many partners report building strong connections with young people and seeing positive growth already. 

“Scholars’ interest in STEAM learning is also sparked as they explore various forms of technology with the help of professional instructors and mentors. Scholars learned how to collaborate, work as a team, and leadership skills…In addition, the program has given the scholars a safe space to come and learn as well as make new friends.” – Multimedia Resource and Training Institute 

“The youth enjoy the ability to play sports, while socializing with their peers and discussing mental health topics in a group setting to reduce the negative cultural stigma. The youth feel a sense of belonging because they are around peers that speak the same language, from similar marginalized groups and socioeconomic status.” – Diaspora Family Healing Network 

Successes and Challenges 

In their reports, BSK grantees shared successes and challenges as they launched programming and kicked off this initiative. 

Early successes include: 

  • Reaching more youth 
  • New partnerships with school sites and other community partners 
  • Staff development through training, coaching and assessment 
  • Increased data collection and evaluation capacity 

The most common challenges reported across BSK Expanded Learning partners were:  

  • Staff shortages and staff transition 
  • Transportation, especially for programs shifting back to in-person programming 
  • Illness 
  • Funding shortfalls, and  
  • Need for training & support for working with neurodivergent youth and youth with special needs 

It’s exciting to see big impacts happening after only a few short months.  Our staff at SOWA is grateful to be partnering with and learning from all our BSK Expanded Learning grantees, working together to make a difference for youth across King County. We’re excited to see where the next few years lead! 

Learn more about the thirty BIPOC-led organizations and nine place-based collaboratives that were funded through the BSK Expanded Learning Initiative by reviewing their program information in Elevate Washington.