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Best Start for Kids Out-of-School Time Updates

by School's Out Washington |

by Lex Gavin, BSK Program Quality Coordinator

It’s hard to believe, but the first year of the Best Starts for Kids (BSK) Out-of-School Time (OST) Initiative is drawing to a close!

This has been a groundbreaking year for School’s Out Washington (SOWA) and for all of our grantees, as we worked together to increase quality OST programming and manifest positive outcomes for King County’s young people.

In Year One, we hit the ground running. Many grantee organizations began to offer programming by April, while others prepared for a fall program start, taking time to roll out new programming or getting up to speed with program quality training. As of October, all of our grant partners have rolled out their BSK-funded youth programming!

Through site visits, program observations, and community events, we’ve been able to see young people engaged in exciting activities – like constructing robots, exploring Seattle’s urban fruit forests, cooking, or learning new languages – all while building their academic skills, developing strong relationships with peers and adults, and learning new social and emotional skills.

The grantees submitted their initial grant reports this summer, and the findings of the evaluations were shared back to grantees at a Data Placemat session held during SOWA’s Bridge Conference. Through June of 2018, BSK OST programs:

Stay tuned for updated data on youth served once the second round of reports come in later this month!

SOWA’s role as an intermediary grant maker is to strengthen these programs by offering supports, including training, program quality assessment, and individualized coaching services. This year, we offered 14 trainings and events, focusing on program quality and on equity. Training topics included Structural Racism, Cultural Responsiveness, and Trans Inclusiveness. All BSK OST programs are paired with Program Quality Coaches, SOWA staff who provide individualized supports to strengthen programming.

For our BSK Initiative, this year SOWA was able to:

As we do this work, we have been grounded in several questions that have directed our learning: How do we meaningfully weave equity work into our program quality improvement efforts? What specific support strategies are needed for our specific funding strategies: People of Color-Led Organizations and Place-Based Partnerships? And how can we deepen collaboration not just within the place-based partnerships but within our entire cohort and with organizations outside of the OST initiative?

A highlight of our first year’s work is collaboration and shared learning with and between grantees – numerous BSK OST organizations presented at SOWA’s Bridge Conference, and several grantees have come together to collaboratively seek funding in new ways. SOWA staff are also excited to be partnering with other organizations in our region to share best practices and learn together, including BSK’s School-based Partnerships Initiative, Puget Sound Educational Service District, and the Renton Innovation Zone (RIZ) Partnership.

We’ve also been excited to see the creative ways that organizations have focused on equity and social emotional learning, especially culturally-specific organizations. In year two of this initiative, we’re committed to finding creative ways to support capacity, sustainability, and partnership for BSK OST grant partners, so that they can continue to offer invaluable opportunities for youth.

Here at SOWA, our BSK team is honored to support the incredible work of each one of our grantees. Many thanks to the BSK King County team, who have been supportive of SOWA in our role as a grant-making intermediary. They have been flexible with how we have rolled out the initiative and have empowered us to use our expertise and best judgement when working with our grantees. We are proud to receive feedback from our grant partners that we are accessible, responsive, and accountable. It has been deeply rewarding to work in service of and learn from program providers who are on the cutting edge of the youth development field.

The next chapter of our work is quickly approaching, and our team is celebrating a dynamic inaugural year of the BSK OST work. Congratulations, everyone! Here’s to continuing our learning journey together.

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