Best starts and best practices—how 2020 highlighted the importance of out-of-school time

In February 2020, the Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time Initiative (BSK OST) was heading into its final year of implementation. Then COVID hit, and communities across King County (and the world) were left scrambling to support each other through unimaginable challenges. Youth development workers navigated alarming funding cuts, rapidly changing safety protocols, school closures and the creation of virtual learning strategies, and the profound trauma their youth, families, and staff teams experience. A spotlight is now on the unique and vital role our field plays within the landscape of our communities—it’s never been more apparent how much our work … [ ]

Creating a new ecosystem of support for children and families

Launch “leads the charge to brilliant outcomes for the children of our community by ensuring equitable access to the highest quality learning and care. Their twelve locations have deep, committed relationships with school districts, including Seattle Public Schools.” Their collaboration with the school district allows staff to communicate and partner with teachers, “ensuring what children learn in our before and after-school programs complement and support what they’re learning in the classroom, readying them for kindergarten.” Launch remained open throughout the COVID-19  pandemic with only a short closure of two weeks in March 2020. Since then they have shifted their work … [ ]

Beyond Babysitting — Why child care providers matter in communities

Since 1987, TenderCare Children’s Center has been a place of discovery and family for infants to 12 year-olds in Clarkston, Washington, in the SE corner of the state. Their programs allow for youth to explore and be part of the world around them, from trips to the aquatic center to craft time in senior living facilities. TenderCare supports its youth with a holistic and heartfelt approach. They make educational and enriching programs a priority. Recently, they’ve grown their literacy programs in engaging ways that include book contests and games. “We want to give kids all kinds of experiences. We always … [ ]

Learning outside the box of an indoor classroom

Tucked in the heart of the Methow Valley is a 1.5-acre classroom. For over 17 years, Classroom in Bloom has taught youth to grow healthy and fresh food, get outdoors and be mindful of the world around them. As a SOWA  Feed Your Brain grantee, Classroom in Bloom is one of several projects that run summer learning programs in rural areas of Washington state.  “Everything is interconnected—math, science, nutrition, and even art—when you’re outdoors.” —Executive Director Kim Romain-Bondi Classroom in Bloom’s community garden in the Methow Valley and smaller gardens throughout Okanogan County inspire youth to connect to the land … [ ]

A journey of compassion and reconciliation

Cup of Cool Water is a nonprofit ministry in downtown Spokane that “walks alongside youth who are homeless on their journey of reconciliation with themselves, God, and society.”  For almost 25 years they have kept their doors open to youth, ages 14-24,  from a wide range of backgrounds and personal beliefs. The organization operates from the standpoint of “come as you are,” and be welcomed into a supportive community. They emphasize that their work is not dependent on a  specific faith, but exists to support youth in loving themselves, continuing to grow, and finding and embracing the spiritual element of … [ ]

When caring about your community is a lifestyle

For 75 years, the Boys and Girls Club of Snohomish County  (BGSC) has been an open door for young people in many communities. With 25 locations across the region, their participants are a diverse blend of Latinx, Native American, and rurally located youth.  Their mission is  “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.” It drives their day-to-day work as staff enables kids to be all that they can be.  When kids start coming to any BGSC location, they are encouraged to try everything, be bold and … [ ]