Let’s Meet Lauren Leary, Statewide External Assessment Coordinator

lauren-300We at SOWA are happy to introduce Lauren Leary to our community. Lauren is our Statewide External Assessment Coordinator, handling our small army of assessors who go to afterschool and summer providers across Washington to help them figure out what aspects of their programs need improvement.

Let’s hear from her how she found her way to SOWA, a circuitous route that started in Colorado but took her to Seattle, two countries overseas, the nation’s capital, and back to Seattle.

Where are you from?

That’s a hard question to answer. I am most recently from Washington DC and before that I lived in Armenia, Seattle, Colorado, and Singapore. Colorado is where I grew up though!

What do you like to do in your own time?

I try to get out to the mountains or be in nature as often as I possibly can. I like to backpack, hike, climb, ski, kayak, bike, and do anything and everything outside. I am also a photographer and am most passionate about wildlife and landscape photography. I have enjoyed photographing many events, but feel the most alive and inspired when I am in nature with my camera and can slow down and see the world from unique perspectives. I enjoy gardening, try to practice yoga on a regular basis, and like to go to concerts or watch live concerts from my couch with a glass of wine in hand.

What brought you to SOWA?

I had lived in Seattle for a couple of years right after college before I joined the Peace Corps. After completing my service in Armenia, I was accepted into graduate school in Washington DC where I focused on program monitoring and evaluation and worked at the National Science Foundation. After a while I got an itch to move out West again as I have always been drawn to the mountains and nature of the Pacific Northwest.

I wanted to find an organization to work with that shared my values around education, evaluation, community relations, and equity. I had worked as an after school program manager and volunteer coordinator at Horn of Africa Services here in Seattle and the experience could not have aligned better with my current position at SOWA, which was created to strengthen afterschool and summer program quality assessment systems. My interest is in non-profit management, data collection, ICT4D, and evaluation, and my new position allows me to come full circle and acquire a holistic perspective on the field of monitoring and evaluation around education programming. It’s nice to work somewhere that places a high value on relationships and community building. SOWA already feels like home!

Tell us one thing you are proud of.

I am proud of my little host sister in Armenia for placing high in the national poetry contest this year. When I first met her, she knew little English and was very shy to speak. She has improved significantly, feels more confident with her speaking skills, and has gotten involved with various volunteer opportunities that have allowed her to travel outside of the country for the first time ever. Her world has expanded because of hard work and persistence and I am grateful and proud to be a part of her journey.

Let’s Meet Teresa Rende, Statewide Training Coordinator

teresa-300Supporting SOWA’s statewide Community Workshops requires one to be a Jack/Jane of Many Trades. You have to do everything from event management to working with databases, and then you have to know a thing or two about working with youth on top of that. SOWA found a Jane of Many Trades in Teresa Rende, who’s worked in such diverse settings as a youth theater and a cruise ship. Let’s get to know her!

Where are you from?

I was born, raised and spent most of my life in Chicago, though I’ve also lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and internationally, working on board MS Norwegian Gem in the west Mediterranean and Caribbean. I relocated to the Seattle area in June 2016 and as I’m staying with family, I still don’t know where my home here will be, though the south side is looking pretty good!

What do you like to do in your own time?

I love to be outdoors; I enjoy sporting activities like canoeing, hiking and running, but I also love the outdoors for more leisurely experiences like relaxing with my family by Lost Lake (in Shelton, WA), attending music festivals and concerts, and visiting local fairs to try new food and drink. I especially enjoy doing any of the aforementioned activities with a camera in hand! On a quiet night in, I love to color Johanna Basford books while listening to new album releases or NPR.

What brought you to SOWA?

Though we met in Chicago, my fiancé is from Burien and I fell in love with Washington within a few visits. After nearly six years working as the Education and Community Engagement Coordinator at the Goodman Theatre, I relocated to Washington to join the team at SOWA. I miss the theatre and working directly with youth and Chicago teachers, but I’m so excited to bring my skills in facilitation and administration to the statewide training team.

Tell us one thing you are proud of.

Completing my first Chicago Marathon last year. It may not be a unique achievement, but as someone who was never athletic growing up, it’s something I thought myself incapable of just a few years ago (and this year I’m going out for my second).

Three Free Workshops in Tacoma this Friday

It may be short notice, but our friends in Tacoma shouldn’t miss these three free workshops, happening concurrently with the Early Acheivers Institute conference at the Tacoma Convention Center this Friday.

Youth Voice, 9 AM – 11 AM

Research shows that quality programs incorporate youth input at both activity and organizational levels. This workshop will emphasize the importance of offering real choices and meaningful participation to youth, and nurturing youth leadership.

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For Youth, By Youth, 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM

In this workshop, we will introduce Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) and its importance in youth development work. YPAR is a growing field that offers us an opportunity to re-imagine what teaching, mentorship and learning can look like within and outside of schools.

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Structural Racism, 2 PM – 5 PM

In this session we will explain structural racism, provide examples of and data on structural racism, and discuss implications for youth.

Learn More

Governor Jay Inslee Proclaims July 14th, 2016 as Summer Learning Day!


Click to view proclamation

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed July 14th, 2016 as Summer Learning Day across Washington State. This is the second time Governor Inslee has lent his support to this celebration of high quality summer programming, highlighting the need for engaging and fun programs across Washington State that are accessible to all of Washington’s children and youth.

According to poll conducted by America After 3pm, only 21% of school-age children in Washington State participate in summer learning programs. This is despite the fact that 49% of parents polled would enroll their children in one, if a program were available to them – an indication of the considerable unmet demand for summer learning programs in the state. Summer learning programs can help close the opportunity gap that has been attributed, at least in part, to cumulative learning loss during the summers and that has been shown to be steeper for low-income youth and youth of color than for others. By highlighting quality summer programs across our state and nation, policymakers can see for themselves the impact summer learning can have.

First Lady Michelle Obama joined the National Summer Learning Association earlier this year in promoting July 14th as National Summer Learning Day, and School’s Out Washington is thrilled that Governor Inslee has chosen to highlight the critical importance of summer learning in Washington as well.

Help us show policymakers, parents, and the public how summer programs prevent the summer slide and give kids the opportunity to have lasting learning moments that ignite passions! Visit our Summer Learning Day webpage for tips and tools on how to host your own Summer Learning Day event and be part of the movement to give all children and youth the opportunity to benefit from summer all year round!

Youth Program Directory is *SO* Close to 1000 Programs Listed

YPD_LOGO_RED-300x212We’re getting the confetti and party favors ready here as we wait for the Youth Program Directory to reach the milestone number of 1000 programs listed.

Until last year, there was no easy way for parents and youth in King County to find a youth development program to attend. They might talk to friends or check posts on a bulletin board, but there was no central searchable online listing where they could search by zip code or program content area (eg. Arts, or STEM). A collaboration between Crisis Clinic 211, SOAR, Community Center for Education Results (CCER), and Youth Development Executives of King County (YDEKC) led to the creation of the Directory last year.

At time of writing (the morning of June 16th), 993 youth programs in King County have been added to the Directory. Any day now, they expect that to reach 1000!

Will your youth program be the 1000th program listed? You can try by adding your program to the directory. There’s no prize or anything, but it will be easier for young people to find your program!

If you’re already listed, you might also consider updating your offerings for summer by contacting Crisis Clinic 211 at YouthProgramDirectory [at] crisisclinic.org with your changes so more young people can find and join your program this summer.

5 Ways KUOW’s RadioActive Benefitted from SOWA’s Youth Program Quality Initiative


RadioActive’s most recent intro workshop participants, posing in front of their shared checklist on the last day of their workshop

Just three years ago, Chris Otey was not in the best of places. He’d dropped out of high school, and only just reenrolled. It was around then that he joined KUOW’s RadioActive, a program that introduces young people to the art of radio and audio storytelling.

“RadioActive helped me develop a new work ethic and a way to be more of an adult,” Chris said. “How to deal with multiple stresses at the same time. How to plan better for the future.” He said it also gave him a safe place to make mistakes and learn from them.

Participants in RadioActive’s 12 to 14 week-long workshops and 6 week summer programs are tasked with producing a radio feature story. These stories have ranged from award-winning portraits of teens who decided to stop hiding their parent’s abuse, to an exploration of what colorism looks like in Seattle. Aside from the technical skills of audio editing and production, participants learn essential life skills such as planning and prioritization.

Chris said the skills he gained at RadioActive were essential for him to be able to finish high school, and continue to be important as he works at KUOW as an employee and goes to college full time.

But that leaves the staff of RadioActive with a question: What were the specific qualities of their program that made it so impactful? More importantly, were there other things they could be doing that would make it better?

With funding from the Raikes Foundation, in 2014, RadioActive joined School’s Out Washington’s Youth Program Quality Initiative (YPQI), a continuous quality improvement process. Through YPQI, programs are assessed based on the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA), a research-proven tool from the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, and receive training and coaching from SOWA to use that data to identify goals and action plans to improve the quality of their work with youth.

We sat down with RadioActive Program Producer Lila Kitaeff, who has co-led the YPQI effort at RadioActive alongside Program Producer Jenny Asarnow, to learn what two years of YPQI has done for their program and the youth they serve. Here’s five things she told us.

1. Making Youth Partners in Each Other’s Success

We know that some of the attributes of a quality youth program is that they give their participants opportunities to learn leadership skills and to serve as mentors for one another. Lila said RadioActive’s early PQA assessments showed this was an opportunity for their program to improve.

They restructured their program to include “workshop partners.” Instead of students working on their feature story individually, they now get a chance to receive feedback from a partner, and also learn from each other. Lila said this seemingly small alteration has changed the culture of their program.

“Instead of it being ‘Each of you are working on your own thing,’ it’s like, ‘We are all working to create six feature stories, and we all want to help each other succeed,’ ” Lila said.

2. Learning to Prioritize what’s Important

YPQI not only showed RadioActive what to change, it also provided them with guidance on what not to change, the seemingly small aspects of their program that were actually essential, even if it wasn’t immediately obvious.

One thing that RadioActive always tried to do was include a check-in as part of their lesson plans, a chance to go around and hear how the participants were doing.

“We learned from YPQI that not only is that a fun start to the day, but it allows us to build community,” Lila said. “It’s about creating that supportive environment.” A safe and supportive environment is a key ingredient of a high-quality youth development program.

Lila said she and the rest of the RadioActive staff is conscious of this when building curriculum. They know that even with the limited time they have with these youth, they can’t skip the check-in.

Another part of creating a safe and supportive environment is food. If youth aren’t hungry, they can focus on the task at hand. This means when it comes time to set a budget, Lila knows they can’t cut the snacks.

3. Having a Community of Fellow Providers

Programs in YPQI benefit not just from School’s Out Washington’s guidance, but also by being a part of a cohort of other programs going through the same learning process. These cohorts meet together regularly to share successes and challenges, practice new skills, and foster collaboration. For Lila and RadioActive, that community was especially important.

“We’re a part of a larger organization—KUOW—that is not a youth-focused organization,” she said. Having a community of fellow youth providers to learn from was important to her.

Even though RadioActive was the only youth media program in a diverse cohort that also included a STEM program and a youth council, Lila said that didn’t matter.

“It felt like we had more in common than we had different, even though we all were doing really different work,” Lila said. “(We’re all) looking through the same tools, all trying to figure out how to use program quality work for our specific fields.”

4. Having a Coach

RadioActive had a challenge: it was taking them a long time to put together their curricula and daily agenda.

“Every time we moved something around, we ended up having to adjust the whole thing,” Lila said.

They turned to April Miller, their YPQI Coach, for advice.

“She sent us a template that just had a slightly different way of thinking about it, basically in blocks. So it’s like ‘Now we’re going to have 40 minutes of script writing,’ and then you break it down into the 10 or 5 minute things. Instead of what we were doing, which was like ‘5 minutes of this, ten minutes of this,’ and it became so difficult to move stuff around.” Just that small adjustment in how they thought about lesson planning made the process much smoother.

Programs that go through YPQI are assigned a coach, someone with years of experience working with children and youth that serves as a mentor. Having been through the YPQI process themselves, they guide new participants through the process. They get to know the programs they serve well enough that they can show direct-service staff how to apply high-level concepts to the specific group of children and youth they work with, even down to providing advice for working with an individual child.

“My goal isn’t to tell them what to do,” April Miller said of her work with programs, “I’m really there to help them process how to move forward with their goals.”

5. Being Able to Prove Their Impact

“We know that quality youth programs allow youth to succeed in all parts of their life,” Lila said. Having the backing of research-proven tools helps RadioActive when they communicate their impact with the rest of KUOW.

Lila remembered the first meeting when RadioActive got their first set of PQA scores back, a meeting that their boss—himself not a youth development worker—attended. He was able to look through their scores and see how RadioActive did on each item. Their scores were pretty good, Lila said, but more important was that these scores explained to him why RadioActive operated the way it did.

“For him, that was like, ‘Oh now I get why you’re doing all these things!’ ” she said.

If you’re interested in learning what the YPQI can do for your program, you can contact our Program Quality Director, James Lovell at jlovell (at) schoolsoutwashington.org.

Lila thinks you should! “I think that YPQI, if you invest in it as an organization, it has the potential to really transform the work that you’re doing, and the way you think about it.”

Washington State Takes on Washington, DC – 2016 Afterschool for All Challenge


Congressman Dan Newhouse with Beth Wyant from the Northwest Community Action Center/Yakima Valley 21st CCLCs and David Beard from SOWA at the Afterschool for All Challenge in Washington, DC.

An afterschool and summer team from Washington State stormed Capitol Hill in the other Washington on May 24th for the 2016 National Afterschool for All Challenge. Advocates from around the country met with key congressional leaders to discuss the critical role afterschool and summer programs play and the need for additional funds for programs like the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers. SOWA’s Policy & Advocacy Director David Beard was joined by Patrick D’Amelio, the Chief Executive Officer of Washington STEM, and Beth Wyant, the Program Coordinator of 21st CCLC programs at the Northwest Community Action Center.

The Washington State Team was able to meet with 21st CCLC champion U.S. Senator Patty Murray as well as Congressman Dan Newhouse from the 4th Congressional District (Central Washington). In addition, we had great conversations with staff from U.S. Sen. Cantwell’s office as well as U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, and other senate staff. The conversations are critical to bringing the message of afterschool and summer to Congress, especially as threats to non-military federal funding is very real and very scary.

In order to protect federal funding for youth including 21st CCLC and other education funding, we must continue to show members of Congress the great work happening in programs all over the state. To help support these efforts, please sign up here for our Action Alerts and please let David Beard know if you have a program you’d love to show off to federal or state policymakers!

Connected STEM Learning Roundtable with Senator Patty Murray

Senator Patty Murray

Senator Patty Murray

School’s Out Washington was thrilled to be included at U.S. Senator Patty Murray’s Connected STEM Roundtable on May 31st at the Pacific Science Center. The roundtable focused on the critical need to include quality, accessible STEM programming to children and youth across our state and nationally in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation process. ESSA is the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind and includes key provisions that allow for federal funding to be used for out-of-school time. For questions about ESSA, contact David Beard at dbeard [at] schoolsoutwashington.org.

While STEM is not mentioned in the new laws specifically, Senator Murray and the roundtable participants unanimously agreed that STEM is a critical way to engage students not only in science, technology, engineering, and math, but also gives them transferable skills such as the ability to perform analysis and ask questions that can be used for writing an English paper or working on a team.

We were thrilled to be part of the group, which included State Representative Noel Frame, high school students, business representatives, community organizations, educators, and our partners at the Pacific Northwest Girls Collaborative Project, Washington STEM, the Pacific Science Center, and more.

It was exciting to see that one of the best practices highlighted at the roundtable was our own Youth Program Quality Assessment work, and will continue to work collaboratively with this amazing group and Senator Murray’s office in the coming months and years.

The group will continue to meet to ensure that recommendations are made regarding STEM in ESSA, but also that we continue to have a united voice as a state and as communities to ensure STEM programming is accessible to all children of youth, particularly girls, low income youth, and youth of color. This also is reflected in SOWA’s ongoing STEM policy and advocacy work that is relaunching this summer. For more information on our STEM efforts, contact Stephanie Lennon at slennon [at] schoolsoutwashington.org

New Data and Administrative Coordinator: Jarrod Hamerly


There’s a lot of work that goes into running an organization like School’s Out Washington. For example, when your YPQI coach goes to your program, someone needs to keep track of how many hours they’ve spent there. Or when you attend one of our workshops, someone needs to keep track that you actually attended.

With SOWA taking on a new Out of School Time Quality Initiative, we need someone to handle all of those administrative tasks. That’s why we hired experienced administrator Jarrod Hamerly to handle it! Let’s spend a moment getting to know this “man behind the curtain” who will make so much of our work possible!

Where are you from?

I was born in Wausau, Wisconsin and stayed in the area for most of my early life. After a short time spent in living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I moved to Seattle in early 2013, both to attend grad school and to escape the bitter winters of the Midwest.

What do you like to do in your own time?

I like to spend time outdoors when I can, usually hiking or fishing when the weather is nice. Otherwise I enjoy cooking and reading at home. I also spend a lot of time at local gaming shops and cafes playing card games and board games.

What brought you to SOWA?

Most of my childhood was spent in after school programs, and the clubs and activities that I was a part of had a big impact on my life. I had a great time and learned so much from them, and I made a lot of friends there that I still am close with today. I was really excited to bring my background in administration and database management to SOWA and help to bring some of those positive experiences that I had to other children.

Tell us one thing you are proud of.

I am proud of many things, but what comes to mind first is my persistence in obtaining my education. During my undergraduate studies I was a triple major while working over 40 hours a week, and I also worked full time while I pursued my Master’s Degree. I was able to learn time management skills as well as prepare myself for whatever challenges I would need to meet in the future.

Take a Survey to Inform State Policy Towards Summer and Afterschool

Washington State’s Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Council is looking for input from providers, parents, and anyone connected to programs to inform policy decisions regarding Expanded Learning Opportunities in Washington state, including before and after school opportunities for students and school year calendar modifications.

The Council will use data from this survey to inform their recommendations to the Governor, the Legislature, and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Please allow about 10-20 minutes for this survey; this survey will close at 5:00 PM on June 30. Your responses are valuable and will help inform policy decisions in Washington state.

Take Survey ⇒

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