Home City of Renton: Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time Grantee Profile

City of Renton: Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time Grantee Profile

SOWA is excited to work with the many amazing organizations funded through the King County Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time (BSK OST) investment! These organizations, funded either as stand alone People of Color-Led organizations or Place-Based Partnerships, are all working hard to maximize their positive impact on King County youth. 

Learn more about the City of Renton, funded as the lead organization of a Place-Based Partnership Grant.


The City of Renton Recreation and Neighborhood Division is the lead organization in a Place-Based Partnership with Centro Rendu and Techbirdge Girls, serving youth at the Highlands Neighborhood Center. Before the BSK OST investment, The City of Renton was been running drop-in programming at the Center for 6 to 18 year olds, from 3 to 7 pm after school.  They have also maintained a relationship with Food Lifeline, who provides after-school lunches and snacks for youth, for the last two and a half years. It was a noncustodial program model, meaning youth could come and go as they please. Fee-based programs ran in the building, and the no-cost options were limited to the gym, game room, and lobby. Homework help happen informally as-needed, rather than as a structured program. While the Neighborhood Center provided a much needed space for young people (it’s situated very close to Highlands Elementary School), it was often a challenge to keep kids engaged in the limited programming—they often wouldn’t want to focus on homework, and opted to instead play dodgeball and then walk to a nearby grocery school.  

With the BSK OST investment, the City of Renton is able to strengthen their academic supports. There will be a focus on homework help, and The City is currently in conversations with local principals to explore if Renton teachers can receive out-of-school-time hours to tutor students at the Neighborhood Center. There will also be opportunities for members of the Renton Youth Council to tutor students. The Environmental Science Center and independent contractors (such as a gymnastics instructor and taekwondo instructor) will offer classes and the City will provide additional programming such as goal-setting curriculum and varied STEM offerings for all ages and for boys (to serve youth not eligible for Techbridge Girls’ and the Environmental Science Center’s programming). The vision is to develop a full, robust enrichment program aligned with youth quality indicators instead of just a drop-in program.

The City of Renton’s programming at the Neighborhood Center has always been high quality and well-received by the community. This investment now offers an opportunity to elevate the programs into YPQ-aligned, evidence-based ones. A former Neighborhood Center youth, who has gone on to work at the Center, has been hired as a full-time, dedicated program coordinator to oversee these changes. The evolution of the program into and evidence-based YPQ-backed model has aided in the development of a partnership with the school district, including the district doing outreach to connect with families not yet involved in the Neighborhood Center and the initiation of a data sharing agreement with schools. This evolution has also already elicited positive feedback in unofficial parent polls.  

This program redesign was itself informed by a survey of elementary school parents, in which a desire for STEM programming and structured sports programming was made clear. The BSK OST funds enable the City of Renton to respond to the needs of their community, and provides even more than what parents asked for—including providing transportation from McKnight Middle School, which is across a major road from the Neighborhood Center. This funding also supports the City in maintaining a relationship with Food Lifeline so they can continue serving a higher volume of youth that will be engaged in this new programming.

SOWA’s supports have been meaningful for City staff. They’re able to connect with other grantees who are their peers in the field, exchange ideas and strategies, and develop partnerships with other agencies who have otherwise seemed siloed. Developing a network of other youth development professionals, all of whom are receiving SOWA trainings grounded in YPQ, strengthens the programs of our entire county. Additionally, being affiliated with SOWA is exciting for both the City and for other entities they work with, such at the school district as we are seen as leaders in this field.  

The Place-Based funding model is very exciting for the City of Renton—they’re thrilled to be working with Centro Rendu and Techbridge Girls! They’d like to expand this BSK OST-funded partnership to other community centers in Renton, and are also motivated to organically develop additional partnerships. Their experience in this cohort of grantees will hopefully be a jumping-off point for robust multi-organization programs.