Vietnamese Friendship Association: 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 Vietnamese Friendship Association, funded as part of a People of Color-Led Organization grant.
VIETNAMESE FRIENDSHIP ASSOCIATION
Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA) is an organization based at the Seattle World School (SWS) that has been doing refugee resettlement work for over 40 years, with a focus on youth development for the last decade. They serve newly arrived immigrant and refugee students ages 11 to 21, providing English classes, homework help, and Saturday school for reading, writing, math, and career support. VFA is also now able to offer summer school, and athletics programming on site and near-site. They’re also expanding their creative programming and job readiness services. Another exciting development is expanding their family programming—informally, family group accessed tech classes and English classes, and VFA is working with community partners to make these more formalized as well as introduce parenting classes.
With the BSK OST investment, VFA is able to make intentional space for 6th-8th grade students. Previously, any middle schools students that came to programs were welcomed, but the hiring of a dedicated middle school coordinator ensures that programs are specifically geared towards this age group, including middle school girls’ and boys’ groups. Much of the new program development is informed by a survey students took about what offerings they wanted, and that data was disaggregated to examine the middle school age specifically. The new coordinator is also being proactive about navigating transportation barriers, as getting home safely is often a challenge for youth. VFA is looking into partnerships with SWS and the school district, as well as 3rd party drivers, regarding transportation options, as otherwise students would have to take the metro bus or hope that a guardian was available to pick them up. The reworking of transportation options has also allowed VFA to extend program hours.
VFA is receiving BSK OST funds for one year, which will allow them to assess this intentional push for middle school services and regard it as a testing ground. With the hire of a dedicated middle school coordinator, their program staff team is the largest it’s ever been. The position also stabilizes relationships with SWS and the school district, and VFA is creating a model for engagement with middle school English language learners which they can then take to other schools to try and implement for similar populations. They have seen students leave SWS and go to their neighbourhood schools, only to wind up returning to SWS to finish high school—so they’re aiming to provide services continuously. Strategizing around transportation to the degree they are now is also laying the foundation for future systems and structures. The data VFA collects on these new efforts will support them in securing longer-term funding.
Working with SOWA as a grant-maker has been refreshing in the transparency and relatability that we bring to the table. VFA doesn’t feel like they have to re-package their work in order to “impress” us, but rather they are able to collaborate with us in their programmatic experimentation. They see us as true allies and partners, not simply an opaque funder. The trainings and convenings that SOWA provide are exciting for VFA as they’re able to see new programs get the support that they deserve, and examine what strategies are common across longer-standing organizations. Being part of the POC-Led funding model allows them to navigate partner, mentor, and collaborator relationships with other similar organizations in the BSK OST cohort. This intentional incubator of POC-Led organizations strengthens the entire youth development field by amplifying work done in “by-us-for-us” programs.