Celebrating and reflecting on the 2024 legislative session

zoom photo of a group of people smiling
YDST 2024 Advocacy Rally

The 2024 legislative session was fast and furious. Let’s take a moment to highlight and celebrate the work that went into a great session. 

Our School’s Out Washington (SOWA) policy and advocacy team started preparing for the session in 2023. The Youth Development Strategy Table (YDST) is led by two committees. The Leadership Committee approves the legislative agenda and oversees the strategic activities of the coalition. The Legislative Committee sets the legislative priorities and strategies. During the summer of 2023, the two committees decided to put forward a $5 million youth development grant proviso. After meeting with key policymakers and advisers, it was advised that we submit the $5 million grant proviso to the House Appropriations Committee, which Representative Alicia Rule sponsored, and a $100 thousand youth development capacity building proviso to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, sponsored by Senator Yasmin Trudeau. 

We engaged with the community in the fall through our YDST Regional Meetings. These meetings brought us to different areas of the state to hear directly from providers about the issues at the forefront of their communities. We spent time in Spokane, Franklin/Benton, King, and Pierce Counties. We met with nearly 100 providers and invested community members and received hundreds of responses to the following five prompts: gaps in resources for youth in their community, professional development needs, insight on how to structure a statewide grant program, to what extent youth voice impacts their decision making, and what they need from the YDST. The feedback these meetings provided enabled us to intentionally paint an accurate picture for legislators in various districts and advocate for the needs of our youth development community. For example, feedback was similar in all four counties and helped us as we drafted the proviso language. We learned that youth ages 11-19 were especially facing gaps in available resources and programs. Wraparound services such as basic needs, housing, and mental health supports continue to be a priority, and there is a strong desire to build connections and share resources among organizations. 

LaQuan Smith, University of Washington,
Seeds of Peace Projects

We kicked off the 2024 legislative session with our YDST Advocacy Rally. We heard from two remarkable young people about the impact of expanded learning programs and a plea for our elected officials to take action. LaQuan Smith and Sirena Jove are shining examples of what it means to engage in youth development and its lasting effects on our young people as they finish high school and enter their college and career years. 

Sirena Jove, YMCA Youth and
Government Participant

During advocacy week, we prioritized meeting with members of the legislative budget committees. Fahren Johnson, SOWA’s strategy and partnership director, Jessica Winston, SOWA’s policy and advocacy manager, and members of the YDST met with over 14 legislators. They received positive responses on both sides of the aisle. Issues impacting our children and youth were definitely at the top of many policymakers’ minds. 

Throughout the legislative session, our community showed up big time! Collectively, we sent hundreds of letters to legislators, specifically members of the budget committees. You amplified the need for funding in the youth development field. This year was a conservative budget year. We were disappointed to learn that the $5 million grant proviso was not approved in the House. However, we were excited that the $100,000 capacity-building program was included in the final operating budget.

We want to extend a huge shout-out of gratitude to our legislative champions, Representative Rule and Senator Trudeau, for the work they put into the budget provisos. We also want to thank the YDST Legislative and Leadership Committees, including partner organization lobbyists and SOWA’s lobbyist, Alex Alston. A special shout-out goes to the YDST Legislative Committee Co-Chairs, Katya Miltemore and Claire Bruncke! 

In the coming months, we will work directly with the Office of Superintendent and Public Instruction on implementing the budgeted capacity-building program. We are also strategizing for the next legislative session and will continue our push for state funding for the vital youth development sector. We have some exciting, action-oriented plans that involve showing off programs to legislators this summer. Stay tuned for more ways to engage and take action this summer, and if you haven’t, JOIN the YDST!