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 … [ ]

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 … [ ]

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, … [ ]

Why BSK and the Quality Improvement Pathways Model just makes sense

School’s Out Washington (SOWA) works hard as an intermediary organization to support youth development both at the institutional and local level. A large part of our work is focused in supporting youth-serving organizations across Washington state in moving through cycles of continuous program quality improvement, using the Forum for Youth Investment’s Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI) model. In this research-backed model, programs move through a high-touch experience of assessing their programs, setting goals, and then making intentional improvements before starting the cycle again with another assessment, which we refer to as the Assess-Plan-Improve (API) cycle.    Knowing that the needs … [ ]

Best Starts for Kids’ deep dive into training series

Best Starts for Kids (BSK) grantees had the opportunity to attend four different Youth Work Methods “Deep Dive” trainings over the past few months. The Youth Work Methods trainings are designed to give direct service staff practical skills that can be immediately implemented into programming and are directly connected to practices addressed in the Program Quality Assessment. The BSK team took the Methods training a step further by giving folks extra time to work through the content and materials and ask more questions in a more “deep dive” approach.   The four trainings offered during the series were specifically chosen to … [ ]

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 … [ ]