What Local Election Results Mean for the Expanded Learning Field in 2017

The federal election for president and Congress took a lot of attention this year, but we also had many races at the state level that will impact our ability to get more and better expanded learning opportunities (ELOs) for children and youth in Washington State. Below is an overview of what happened and what it means:



Governor Jay Inslee

Governor Jay Inslee

Governor Jay Inslee (D) comfortably won reelection. He has not given many specifics on his approach to education or revenue, so we will have to see where his priorities lie in his budget which will be released this month. Most of his appointees, including department heads and staff, will likely stay the same.


State Superintendent:

Superintendent Chris Reykdal

Superintendent Chris Reykdal

Chris Reykdal (Non-partisan) will be the new State Superintendent of Public Instruction. He has been a state legislator (D) and is a former teacher. SOWA met with him a few months ago and we are optimistic he will support and amplify expanded learning at the department.


State Senate:

Click to enlarge map

Click to enlarge map

The only loss came from Sen. Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island), who worked on ELOs and was the chair of the Early Learning and K12 Committee. He was a moderate Republican and lost to Lisa Wellman (D). The Democrats needed to hold all of their seats (which they did) and get at least two new seats to win control, which did not happen. The Republicans (who caucus with Democratic Senator Tim Sheldon) will control the Senate 25-24. There are many open leadership positions for both Democrats and Republicans including on the Senate Ways and Means and Early Learning and K12 committees.


State House:

Click to Enlarge Map

Click to Enlarge Map. Each district has two seats. Blue and red districts have two representatives from the same party, and purple districts have one of each.

The Democrats hold an identical majority going into 2017 as they did last year, 50-48. There is not expected to be many changes to party or committee leadership. One interesting note, Monica Stonier, a former legislator who lost reelection two years ago and now won a different seat this year, worked on ELOs in her previous term and will hopefully work on those issues again.


What does this mean for ELOs?

Basically, not much changed in our state government. The two parties will have to find compromise on the budget and McCleary, which will be no easy feat as two moderate Republicans and key negotiators will no longer be there (Sen. Litzow lost reelection, and Ways and Means Chair Sen. Andy Hill (R-Kirkland) passed away from cancer last month).

Also, several new senators are being appointed due to several senators’ departures. Former Republican gubernatorial candidate and state senator Dino Rossi will fill Sen. Hill’s seat during 2017, and we are still waiting to see who will take Sen. Pramila Jayapal’s (D-Seattle) seat after her election to Congress and Sen. Pam Roach’s (R-SE King/NE Pierce Counties) seat after her election to Pierce County Council. Whoever fills those seats will be from the same party as their predecessor.

Additionally, a very fiscally conservative Congress and an unknown federal executive administration may cause changes to federal funding and regulations that could also throw a wrench into the state budget mid-session.


Please join SOWA in fighting for ELOs this session by signing up for our Action Alerts. With your help we can get more high-quality expanded learning opportunities!

Mari Offenbecher, School’s Out Washington’s CEO, will retire after 26 Years Serving Washington Youth

MariOffenbecher has led the organization since 1990, building a network of community systems across the state ensuring quality afterschool and youth development programs.

SEATTLE – November 7, 2016 – School’s Out Washington (SOWA) announced today that Mari Offenbecher will retire from her role as Chief Executive Officer in the Spring of 2017.

Since 1990, Mari has served as the leader for SOWA, advancing quality, equity and innovation in building the field of afterschool and youth development across Washington State. Mari has spent her career dedicated to bringing quality educational opportunities and supports to children and youth. Under her leadership, SOWA has made great strides in increasing access to high-quality expanded learning programs offered during the hours that children and youth are not in school.

Mari has worked to build local and statewide coalitions and initiatives to move the needle when it comes to understanding and supporting the need for learning opportunities outside the traditional school day. She has especially focused these efforts on reaching low-income youth and youth of color, understanding the critical role of these programs in developing 21st century skills, discovering new passions and forming meaningful relationships with mentors and peers.

“Building School’s Out Washington from a staff of one – myself – to now over 32 dedicated professionals committed to helping all youth reach their fullest potential is my life’s work,” said Mari about her tenure at the organization.

“I’m so proud of all the accomplishments I’ve been a part of and have been honored to lead this effort to build community systems to support quality expanded learning opportunities across our state,” Mari continued. “With growing recognition of the importance of these programs in supporting young people’s school and life success, I leave School’s Out Washington in its strongest place yet with a team of dedicated staff and a Board or Directors ready to take our work to the next level.”

Under Mari’s leadership, what started as an organization focused on supporting Seattle afterschool programs has expanded to reach all corners of Washington State, and is seen as a national leader when it comes to creating systems to support program quality improvement.

Each year, SOWA provides training and coaching to over 1,500 afterschool and youth development providers to improve the quality of services delivered, impacting over 55,000 young people. Over the course of Mari’s tenure, she has overseen administration of over $10 million dollars in grants to schools and community organizations to increase access to afterschool and summer programs to some of our most vulnerable youth populations.

“Mari has left a strong legacy as the leader of SOWA, building the organization and strengthening the field of afterschool and summer learning,” explained Ceil Erickson, SOWA Board President. “There is widespread recognition now that schools can’t do it alone. We need programs during the 80% of time kids are not in school to close the achievement gap and help all youth to succeed. SOWA has a profound impact as the only statewide organization working to increase access to quality expanded learning programs.”

Over the course of her career, Mari has worked with hundreds of educators and youth development professionals, mentoring and professionalizing the field. Dr. Lisa Chin, President/CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of King County, a long-time partner of SOWA explains the impact of the organization under Mari’s leadership.

“SOWA has been an integral part of our professional development program at Boys and Girls Clubs of King County for many years,” stated Dr. Chin. “Mari’s leadership of SOWA has been critical to helping to establish quality programs and career and professional development opportunities for Boys and Girls club staff, and our colleagues across the state. She will be missed by all of us in this field, but her commitment to Washington State youth will leave a lasting legacy.”

Another long-time professional in the field of afterschool and youth development, Brianna Jackson, Executive Director at Launch, explains how SOWA helped her see this work as a career. “Mari and SOWA helped me see that I could have a career in afterschool and summer programming,” explained Brianna. “I started as a front-line staff member in an afterschool program and by attending trainings and receiving coaching through SOWA, began to see this as a career.” Brianna continued, “As Executive Director of a community organization, I value SOWA in helping to build our capacity to deliver high-quality services that positively impact the kids in our programs.”

The School’s Out Washington Board of Directors has formed a committee to support and guide Mari’s transition process, the executive search for SOWA’s next leader, and to ensure a successful transition in the months ahead. The committee expects to announce the search process and issue a call for applications in December 2016.

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About SOWA
School’s Out Washington provides services and guidance for organizations to ensure all young people have safe places to learn and grow when not in school. SOWA is dedicated to building community systems to support quality afterschool, youth development and summer programs for Washington’s children and youth ages five through young adulthood.

Over our 29-year history, SOWA has spearheaded and led efforts to ensure systems and practices are in place to promote quality in afterschool and summer learning settings so that youth reach their full potential and reap benefits programs are proven to yield in academic and social/emotional gains.

Download this press release as a PDF.

Meet Bill Wells, Statewide Training Manager

billUsually, when SOWA hires a new staff person, we like to have them write a quick blog post to introduce them to our community. So it might have been a surprise to close followers of SOWA, who might have noticed that we hired Bill Wells back in July and never mentioned him on the blog.

Well, he jumped heads first into his new role as Statewide Training Manager, planning out our Workshops for the fall, getting trained up to offer our Structural Racism and Youth Work Methods workshops, and developing his own trainings, such as Fundamentals of Supervision coming in early December. With all that going on, the blog post got a little… delayed.

Wait no more! Let’s meet Bill Wells, our new Statewide Training Manager.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in the mid-west where I graduated with a degree in secondary education.  After several years working and living overseas, I returned to the United States and chose to plant myself firmly in Seattle, because of the natural beauty of the region, the ready access to the great outdoors, and the abundance of open minds.  I have been here (happy and healthy) ever since.

What do you like to do in your own time?

I enjoy skiing, hiking, and camping. I love visiting our country’s national parks and traveling internationally whenever I can.  During the long rainy Seattle winters, I enjoy learning, playing my guitar, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

What brought you to SOWA?

When I first moved to Seattle, I had the opportunity to manage a youth re-engagement program called Digital Bridge that worked with “at-risk,” out-of-school youth.  Later, my career path led me to training, employee development and adult learning in local government.  The opportunity to work with SOWA in this capacity is the perfect blend of my past experiences.

Tell us one thing you are proud of.

I am proud of the great work for the community that I have been privileged to be a part of while working on some amazing teams over the course of my career.  I love working on high functioning teams and being a part of the synergy that is created when everyone is focused on the same goal and each person’s efforts and creativity are exponentially magnified through the effects of collaborative teamwork.

Apply Now to Join the King County Youth Program Quality Initiative (YPQI)!

School’s Out Washington and the Raikes Foundation are excited to invite new programs to join the Youth Program Quality Initiative (YPQI) in King County!

The YPQI supports Expanded Learning Opportunity programs serving youth ages 5-21. The Initiative engages organizations in a focused professional development process that reflects best practices in the youth development field. The YPQI was developed based off the work and approach of the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality.

The Initiative is a 12-month process for organizations that have never participated in the YPQI before. Grants of $3,000 will be awarded by School’s Out Washington to selected organizations for participation in the YPQI process, and the costs for all services below will be covered by School’s Out Washington.

The process includes: participation in a peer learning community, completion of a program quality assessment using both a self-assessment and external assessors, staff training in youth development best practices from the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, and onsite coaching and technical assistance (based on individual site priorities) provided by SOWA.

The deadline for receiving proposals is 5:00pm on Nov 9th, 2016. Please review the dates in the RFP to ensure that you are able to meet the participation requirements. For more information, please contact James Lovell at jlovell@schoolsoutwashington.org.

Download Application Now

National Conference is SOLD OUT!


The National Conference on Afterschool and Summer Learning is SOLD OUT.

With 900 people registered, we can’t fit any more people into this conference if we wanted to. This will be the largest conference that either School’s Out Washington or our partners at the National Summer Learning Association have ever put on.

If you wanted to go but missed it, be sure to save the date for next year’s Bridge Conference: October 16-17, 2017!

If you registered, we’re excited to see all 900 of you next week at the Westin Hotel!

2016 Feed Your Brain a Success!

School’s Out Washingtoimg_1137n has wrapped up another successful Feed Your Brain season! This past summer, we awarded 10 grants totaling $41,000, impacting more than 2,400 young people through summer literacy and meal programs (list of funded programs here).

Feed Your Brain works to end summer learning loss and summertime hunger by providing funding and support for summer literacy programs in rural Washington. As part of Feed Your Brain, participating children get at least two free meals during each day that their program meets and also receive four brand-new books for free to add to their home library!

We require all of our Feed Your Brain programs to administer an evaluation to measure change in reading skill level over the course of the summer. What these results show us is that summer programs make a difference in keeping kids on track and ready for school in the fall!  More than 95% of partcipating children either maintained or improved their reading skill level over the course of the summer.img_0765

Our partners at the Jefferson County YMCA, which has received Feed Your Brain funding for 4 years, wrote us, “One student was so excited to work through the alphabet that he would arrive each day and proudly and excitedly announce what letter the group was on that day.”

We again partnered with Page Ahead, a Washington State non-profit organization that provides new books and develops reading activities that empower at-risk children. Page Ahead provided all of the books our grantees distributed to their kids, more than 4,000 books all told, including books in Spanish if the program requested them.

The programs were grateful for the books, to which they attributed much of the academic success and enjoyment of reading experienced by students. As the staff at the summer program in Grand Coulee, WA, wrote, talking-about-books“A big change I noticed is how into books our kids got. Receiving the books from Page Ahead really helped to change some of the kids from readers to book lovers. Books were going home and being brought back and the kids were really enjoying reading at school and at home.”

In addition to funding, SOWA provides Feed Your Brain grantees training and technical assistance to support them in providing quality services that positively impact youth.  This year, we focused on providing best practices in active learning so that youth are engaged in hands-on and experiential activities that look different than the school year. These summer programs are about supporting children with their academic growth, while having fun and creating lasting memories!

A special thanks to our generous funders who made Feed Your Brain possible this year: Discuren Charitable Foundation, Norcliffe Foundation, Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund, Umpqua Bank Foundation, Pitney Bowes Foundation, BNSF Railway Foundation and many individual supporters!

Gov. Inslee Proclaims “Light’s On Afterschool Day.” Will you celebrate?


Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed October 20th, 2016 as Light’s On Afterschool Day across Washington State! This is the second time Governor Inslee has lent his support to this important national celebration of afterschool programs spearheaded by our national partner, the Afterschool Alliance. School’s Out Washington is thrilled that Governor Inslee has chosen to highlight the critical importance of afterschool and expanded learning in Washington once again.

Across our country and our state, funding shortfalls lead to afterschool programs having to turn out their lights and shut down, meaning less kids are getting access to high-quality expanded learning opportunities that make a real difference in their lives. First started in 2000, more than 7,500 Lights On Afterschool rallies are held annually, attracting more than 1 million Americans. By highlighting quality expanded learning programs across our state and nation, policymakers can see for themselves the impact afterschool can have.

For Light’s On Afterschool 2016, School’s Out Washington will celebrate afterschool STEM in Snohomish County! SOWA has partnered with Washington State University Extension 4-H, Lockheed Martin,  4-H National Youth Science Day and the Flying Heritage Collection highlighting the importance of afterschool STEM programming through Drone Discovery!

Host your own event and show off YOUR great afterschool program!

Help us show policymakers, parents, and the public how afterschool programs give children and youth across out state the opportunity to keep learning all day and all year! Visit our Light’s On webpage (and don’t forget to register your event!) for tips and tools on how to host your own Light’s On event and be part of the movement to keep the lights on afterschool, because learning doesn’t stop at 3pm!

Bringing Quality to Rural Communities: The Funhouse Commons on Orcas Island


Krista Bouchey, Executive Director, The Funhouse Commons

When we imagine Orcas Island, many think of vacation, natural beauty, and often wealth, but as Krista Bouchey, Executive Director at The Funhouse Commons explains, “The majority of  families who call the island home are working-class and struggle with issues faced by communities whose economy revolves around tourism.”

The Funhouse Commons is a non-profit organization that serves a critical niche in this island community, providing afterschool and summer programming to around 54% of the youth population.  Located near the only schools on the island, The Funhouse Commons provides afterschool programming to 25-60 kids a day in first through sixth grades and runs a full-day program during the summer.

Krista knew that her program was vital to the community as one of the few options for out-of-school time activities. Like many of us, she sought a process to show the program’s impact on kids through data in order to make the case to funders, schools, and families.

A few years ago, Krista attended SOWA’s Bridge Conference and discovered the Youth Program Quality Assessment. She secured funding to work with SOWA through our quality improvement services, and is now a firm believer that assessment, coaching, and training is a game-changing process, leading to staff buy-in and engaging youth in a more authentic way.


“When you’re in a rural community, it often feels like nobody understands your issues because a lot of research comes from urban areas”, Krista explains. “Problems are different in rural areas, but we still have problems. What I value about the YPQA tool and intervention process is that it translates across different community types and is more about how we interact with and support youth in our programs no matter what the content of our program focuses on or where we provide services.”

Krista has especially gained a great deal from the follow-up coaching part of the process.  She usually guides the coaching session based on the program needs, and then SOWA’s Sheely Mauck provides concrete supports and ideas.

As Sheely explains, “It’s exciting to meet with Krista and her team as they brainstorm ideas, discuss challenges, and think critically about what they can do to create more opportunities for their youth to learn and grow.”

For example, as a program serving younger kids, some of the activities in the training curriculum are geared more towards older youth. Krista and her staff were able to work with Sheely to simplify activities and make them age-appropriate while still staying true to the core value around youth voice and youth leadership.

She has also been trained in providing the Youth Work Methods Series trainings herself, making the quality of her program more sustainable.

“It’s just not realistic to have a budget where we can send staff to trainings considering the cost of ferries and other transportation.”  Krista has even been able to open up her trainings and offer them to staff at San Juan Islands Parks & Recreation.

Krista has seen a change in the youth as well as they develop more ownership of the program because they have been engaged in the planning, which staff value and encourage.  “As Halloween approaches, we see the youth taking the lead with planning our annual Halloween party and involving community in the process,” Krista explains. As the youth take leadership, they become invested in the outcomes and want to create events and activities that are meaningful to them and their peers.

As to Krista’s advice to other rural providers, she truly believes that the investment in quality reaps benefits for the program, staff, and youth. Engaging in the quality process has also connected Krista to School’s Out Washington’s broader network and initiatives.

“I can’t say enough that I really like being a part of what SOWA is doing in terms of other trainings and legislative efforts. I’m trying harder now to keep my foot in the bigger picture. Even though we are all so strapped doing the work at our individual programs, it’s really important to see what’s going on elsewhere and to connect as a field to reach some of our broader goals.”

The Funhouse Commons recently produced video about their program. Check it out here. If you’re interested in learning more about the Youth program Quality practices that improved Krista’s program, send us a message here.

Keep Kids Learning, Keep Kids Fed

Originally published in Washington Apple Press, Fallnatalie-300 2016 Issue
By Natalie Kahn, School’s Out Washington Americorps Member

Keep Kids Learning, Keep Kids Fed: An interview with Nutrition Services Director Lisa Johnson

One out of every five children faces hunger every day in the United States. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) meets many school day meal needs through free and reduced price lunches, but according to a 2013 survey conducted by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International (APCO) in partnership with No Kid Hungry, 25% of low-income parents worry that their child is not getting enough to eat outside of school[1]. Across Washington State there is a growing need for meals and snacks outside of the school day.  School districts statewide are rising to meet this need in partnership with community based organizations and non-profits.

Lisa Johnson, the Nutrition Services Director for the Highline School District in South King County is one example of a leader who has significantly increased access to afterschool and summer meals in her district. Highline’s rate of over 50% of students qualifying for free or reduced price meals through the NSLP makes the district eligible to provide free afterschool and summer meals through the USDA. Lisa notes that not only does serving afterschool and summer meals benefit the child, but also provides a “nice option for families because the students are already at the school – it takes the burden off of some families.” Children and youth spend only 20% of their waking hours in school, and providing access to meals during that remaining 80% of time is a critical component in supporting children’s health and overall well-being[2].

Highline serves hot afterschool meals four days a week and is reimbursed by the USDA at a fixed rate of $3.16 per supper. Johnson says this is only one model, and she continues to look into others – some of which can even mean revenue for the school that can then be reinvested to grow meals services for students. In order to access these funds, Lisa went through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), a statewide nutrition program under the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

Lisa has done a great deal to increase access to afterschool meals in her district and continues to spread the word about the resources available. She has worked with United Way of King County to convert multiple afterschool snack programs into full meal programs. She explains that each school or district should look at its own needs and capacity. One tip Lisa offered was that once afterschool meals are approved for one program at your site, look to expand initially by getting approval for other programs operating in the same building, including athletics and afterschool programs offered by the school or a community partner.

Highline afterschool meals programs have had success, but Lisa is still looking for ways to improve. She has considered switching from serving hot meals to something called a super-snack, which is a pre-packaged transportable meal. Hot meals require staff and space that can be difficult to obtain. Identifying local non-profits, library systems, faith-based and community-based organizations is one great way to find like-minded partners who can provide this space or other resources in-kind. Leveraging resources to benefit the broader community can stretch your budget and your service area.

For those new to providing afterschool meals or snacks, Lisa’s advice is to start small and to make sure your district meets all of the eligibility requirements.  Reaching out to staff at OSPI to check on your eligibility is a great place to start. While the requirements can be intimidating at first glance, the variety of options in the meal programs allow for flexibility to make them work for your program and/or community.  Connecting to other organizations can also be a way to navigate any roadblocks.

Once your school community has established an afterschool and summer meal program, help us spread the word! Creating awareness and examples of best practices when it comes to increasing access to afterschool and summer meals is key to expanding the meal programs to more communities across the state. Pairing meals with existing afterschool or summer programming can be a big draw for children and families. The more interest and participation in these meal programs the better, as more children go to bed with full stomachs and wake up ready to learn.

Interested in learning more? Please visit www.k12.wa.us/ChildNutrition or contact School’s Out Washington for more information at nkahn@schoolsoutwashington.org

[1] https://bestpractices.nokidhungry.org/events/2016/august/9/start-school-year-right-innovative-approaches-afterschool-meals

[2] http://www.schoolsoutwashington.org

Bridge Favorites Coming to National Conference

By now you’ve probably heard that our annual Bridge Conference is joining forces this year with the National Summer Learning Association’s annual conference to form the National Conference on Afterschool and Summer Learning.

You might have wondered: With this conference bringing the top minds in afterschool and summer from around the nation to Seattle, will the engaging presenters you may remember from past Bridge Conferences be there? Don’t worry: the northwest is representing! Here are five presenters you might remember from past Bridge conferences that will be bringing their knowledge and experience to a national audience.

(Oh, and if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to register!)

‘bob’ McNeil: working with transgender youth and making rural programs successful!

bob-275‘bob’ McNeil has been one of SOWA’s coaches in the Spokane area for years, and a veteran of our Bridge Conference. ‘bob’ will bring two decades of experience in youth development and an eye for equity to two different sessions:

Understanding Gender: Working with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Children and Youth

Wednesday, Oct 26, 10:15 AM

Transgender and gender nonconforming children and youth are becoming increasingly visible in our schools and programs. Because staff members are unsure of how to be respectful and affirming of transgender and gender nonconforming children and youth, they may unintentionally subject them to situations that are discriminatory and harmful.

This interactive training offers youth providers with information and best practice tools to provide transgender and gender-nonconforming youth with appropriate and informed support and includes: terminology, clear understanding of the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, best practice in addressing common issues that come up including bathroom use and use of preferred names and pronouns.

Rural Communities Rock!

Wednesday, Oct 26, 12:00 PM

Rural communities know what it takes to run high quality programs with little resources and without access to big city solutions. So how do they sustain their energy and resources? Connections & Relationships! Join this session for rich conversations, networking and sharing of how to move through challenges like transportation, changing demographics and messaging to families- the importance of your program.

Brent Cummings: Bringing the STEM

Brent CummingsIn 2014, Brent Cummings was named Washington’s Afterschool Ambassador by the Afterschool Alliance, and he became a partner in SOWA’s work building public will and raising awareness around the importance of afterschool programming in supporting young people future success in school and in life. Brent and his crew of STEM-crazed Walla Wallans have presented at Bridge before, including this session on drones and quadcopters in 2014. Expect to be making something with your hands (or if the abstract is to be believed, maybe blowing something up).

The Hard and Soft of STEM: Imagine It! Create It!

Tuesday, Oct 25, 10:15 AM

Dynamically engage all youth by appealing to their innate curiosity and innovative tendencies. Session presenters will model and actively engage attendees in a highly effective, student-centered learning methodology through hands-on activities utilizing 3D Printing, Drones, Pyrotechnics (sort of), and more!

Jimena Quiroga Hopkins and Jhumpa Bhattacharya


Jhumpa and Jimena’s Bridge conference repertoire includes these 2015 sessions on afterschool programs for refugee youth, and engaging with the families of English language learners. Their workshop at the National Conference is an encore of a session they had at the 2014 Bridge Conference.

Supporting the Socio-Emotional Needs of English Learners

Tuesday, Oct 25, 3:00 PM

Through interactive activities, this workshop will help expand the definition of English Learner success to go beyond English acquisition, deepen understanding of the English Learner experience, and will share research-based strategies to address the socio-emotional needs of English Learners.

Brian Brandt and Social Emotional Learning


In addition to once being a SOWA coach and trainer, Brian is a Associate Professor with the WSU Extension 4-H program in Tacoma. He’s been deeply involved in youth development in Puget Sound for years. He will give an encore of a session from Bridge 2015 at this year’s conference.

Turning Games into Social Emotional Skill Builders: A Take Home Toolkit

Wednesday, Oct 26, 10:15 AM

Sometimes a game is just a game. Other times it is a great opportunity to support youth developing social emotional skills while they are having fun! Take the boring out of social emotional and make it fun. The more youth practice these skills the more success your program will have. This for many is the why of what we do. Preparing youth for tomorrow by building social emotional skills today.