Strengthening Youth Empowerment through Community

The School’s Out Washington (SOWA) office was full of discussion, laughter, and the sounds of Beyonce’s latest hit, “Texas Hold ‘Em,” on Thursday, March 7, for the Best Starts for Kids (BSK) Initiative’s first initiative-wide Learning Community Meeting (LCM).   “The LCM was a fun and great opportunity to connect with peers who are passionate about youth work and are willing to discover and talk about ways to advocate and uplift our youth,” shared Yesenia Beltran, Targeted Academic and Behavior Support for BSK grantees Dick Scobee Elementary and Cascade Middle School.   LCMs are cohort-based peer learning opportunities where all members of … [ ]

One woman’s journey to connection, impact, and service 

Mila Doroshchuk, the Program Coordinator with B5, a current School’s Out Washington (SOWA) Refugee School Impact Program (RSIP) grantee is leading the organization’s Ukrainian After School Program. Immigrating to the United States at six, Mila still remembers how intimidating it felt to be in a new country. Born in a village in the Ukraine, Mila lived with her parents and six siblings. Her life would change forever when her parents announced they were moving to the US. “I had just turned six, so I hadn’t even gone to school yet. I was always only with my mom,” said Mila. Stuffing … [ ]

Kids and Paper: a legacy built on family traditions, love and creativity

Kids and Paper was born out of the experience of love, change, and a mother noticing her child’s irrepressible self-expression through drawing. Now, Kids and Paper have provided 200 children with a program where they are encouraged to safely and freely express themselves through art, play, academics, and more in a warm, creative, family-oriented environment.     Azadeh Eslamy, Executive Director of Kids and Paper, was running youth programming in Lebanon when the country experienced economic collapse, leading to her family’s evacuation to the United States, where they settled in Seattle. As they adjusted to the city, one of Azadeh’s children became … [ ]

SOWA grantees partner to empower families in and out of school  

School’s Out Washington (SOWA), an intermediary youth development organization, supports direct service youth providers in many ways. One of SOWA’s primary programs is granting funds to providers across Washington State. Some funds are specifically issued to Washington’s Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, which contracts with SOWA to administer the Refugee School Impact Program (RSIP). There are two RSIP program goals: to ensure refugee students’ academic support and successful school integration and to strengthen the skills, knowledge, and competence of parents, schools, and community-based organizations to support refugee students.  An organization can have the best intentions and the most robust … [ ]

For Bridging Cultural Gaps, coding is only the start of the journey

Looking at the Expedia headquarters, one word came to mind: stark. Expedia’s vast green fields contrasted with the vast amounts of glass and steel that made up the building. Students in Bridging Cultural Gaps’ Hidden Genius program aren’t here to study architecture and spacing, though – they’re here to learn more about what Expedia is and what it has to do with coding.  For Bridging Cultural Gaps program manager Abdi Haro, he hopes the students can connect the dots between this field trip and the real world. In an interview after the trip, Abdi said the benefit of the trip … [ ]

BSK-funded programs had fun in the sun this summer with learning that shared common themes

Best Starts for Kids Expanded Learning grantees provided incredible summer learning opportunities to youth across King County through a variety of engaging programs and activities. Highlights from this summer included field trips across the region, celebrations of food and culture, exploring health and well-being, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) activities, academic supports, and so much more.   Field trips Youth especially loved heading outside to explore and enjoy the local nature that the Northwest has to offer. For example, Living Well Kent’s summer program went on a field trip to the Soos Botanical Garden. The youth enjoyed the diverse, … [ ]