We have a new look!

Today, we are truly excited to share with all of you the next step in our organizational journey.

Strengthening Programs. Empowering Youth.

Strengthening Programs. Empowering Youth.

Thanks to a positive partnership with local branding and design firm, United Creations, we have a new logo, messaging and identity system that bring the focus and energy we had long been seeking to better communicate what we stand for. As a “creative change agency” inspired by our commitment to making a positive impact on Washington’s children and youth, United Creations provided their services on a pro-bono basis after selecting SOWA as the winner of their THIS BRAND IS YOUR BRAND contest. Receiving $30,000 worth of donated brand power has enabled us to apply 100% of our resources toward expanding access to high-quality afterschool and youth development programs.

Over the past few years, School’s Out Washington (SOWA) has undergone many organizational transitions, becoming a stand-alone non-profit organization and forming our first governing Board of Directors. With nearly three decades of active leadership in providing a rich foundation of quality standards, professional development, advocacy and support to bring empowering learning opportunities within reach of every young person, the time was ripe to launch on this new path.

SOWA may be referred to as an “intermediary,” but we truly see ourselves as a “bridge” that connects schools, government agencies and the public with the afterschool youth development field to create greater impact on the lives of more young people. Guided by the core values of quality, equity, connection and innovation, the SOWA mission is to foster productive partnerships that create inspiring opportunities for Washington’s youth to learn, grow and thrive, because what’s good for our youth is good for our future.

SOWA continues with our mission-focused work to:

  • Promote & Support Programs in Implementing Quality Improvement Processes and Accessing Professional Development Opportunities.
  • Advocate for Policies to Elevate Afterschool & Expanded Learning Opportunities as a Key Strategy to Close the Opportunity Gap.
  • Champion policies and strategies to address structural racism through trainings, curriculum and incorporating a racial equity lens into our programming and initiatives.
  • Disseminate Grants to Programs Along with Technical Assistance to Support High-Quality Programming.

What happens after school has a tremendous impact on what happens during school. It is one of our best early opportunities to identify and nurture unique talents and interests that can open the door to productive, prosperous lives. As we launch a new SOWA brand, we celebrate all our collective efforts to support children and youth across Washington State and look forward to many more years of continuing to build and strengthen our field to continue working toward our vision of a state where all kids have opportunities to reach their full potential.

STEM Updates and Announcements for April

Apply for Women’s Funding Alliance Grant for Girls’ STEM Programming

These grants will fund out of school STEM programming for middle and high school-aged girls. For more details on this grant, please refer to the Girls in STEM RFP. Funding requests will be considered for both female-only and coed programs operating through a strong gender lens. Grant amounts range from $5,000 to $20,000. Applications are due on May 1, 2015.

Apply Now

Nature Explore Hosting Two Workshops on Reconnecting Children with Nature

Using Your Outdoor Classroom and Choosing Effective Indoor and Outdoor Materials

When:  Wednesday, April 8, 2015
12:30 – 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where:  Bright Horizons at Center Point, Kent, WA

Learn More and Register

Connecting with Community Partners Webinar

When: April 23, 2015; 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST

The National Girls Collaborative Project is partnering with Click2SciencePD for the “Connecting with Community Partners” webinar. This webinar will introduce Click2SciencePD’s collection of training resources that support educators with building community partnerships. Attendees will also learn how to use The Connectory, a new online collaboration tool, to find and connect with local STEM partners easily.


Engaging Youth in STEM with SciGirls! A PNWGCP Professional Development Forum

When: April 25, 2015, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Where: Seattle, WA

Participants will learn the latest research for exciting and engaging girls (and boys) in STEM; experience hands-on STEM activities; and gain access to free materials for hands-on, video-enhanced activities that put a creative twist on teaching STEM.


50 Green Activities for Earth Day

Earth Day is April 22! If you are looking for Earth Day activities that won’t actually increase your carbon footprint, check out the 50 Earth Day Activities for Kids. The activities use recycled and natural materials!

New Student Assessments Set to Begin – Helpful Information for Afterschool Programs

Last year, Washington State implemented new state learning standards in Math and English Language Arts known as the Common Core State Standards. This year, Washington schools are rolling out a new student achievement assessment aligned to these standards. The goal of the new assessment is to provide an accurate measure of growth for all students and improve assessments for students with disabilities and English language learners.

Washington is a part of the Smarter Balanced Student Assessment Consortium. This consortium of states worked together to create an assessment that is aligned to individual state learning standards and can more accurately pinpoint a student’s ability in a given subject area. This assessment is taken on a computer and can adjust the difficultly of questions based on student’s response. A student who answers a question correctly will receive a more challenging question, while an incorrect answer generates an easier question. This goal of this method is to produce more accurate results than previous assessments.

Student assessments have been controversial over the years and this one is no different. Challenges remain, such as ensuring appropriate technology to administer the assessment is available. Additionally, first year scores are expected to be lower than normal, which is common for a new test. The goal of Smarter Balanced Student Assessment is to understand a student’s progress versus their ability to memorize facts. Having a standardized student assessment is one component of knowing the progress of an individual student as well as a cohort of students on a given subject. Assessments, however, should by no means be the only tool used to measure progress and areas for improvement.

Afterschool programs may get many questions from parents about the new assessment process. While no provider should feel the need to be an expert, we should all know some of the basics. The Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has a host of information on the new assessments including this Parent Info Sheet (PDF) as well as this overview (PDF) from the PTA. We also recommend asking your partners in the district offices you work with on their strategy and messaging of the new assessments and where parents can access more information locally.  For more information about the new state learning standards (PDF) and its significance to afterschool programs, take moment to read School’s Out’s Issue Brief (PDF) on this subject.

Please feel free to contact SOWA’s Education Policy and Advocacy Director David Beard at dbeard@schoolsoutwashington.org if you have any questions about the assessments. He will be able to answer your question or guide you to the right answers.

Legislature Moves into the Budget Battle


Democratic and Republican proposed budgets differ in how they pay for McCleary and 1351

The 2015 Washington State Legislative Session is slated to end April 26th. However, the state budget is about to take center stage in negotiations that could mean an extended special session into the summer if agreement is not reached. The House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, and the Senate, controlled by Republicans, have released their budget proposals which include different plans to fund educational items such as the Supreme Court McCleary ruling and some components of Initiative 1351 passed by Washington voters to reduce class size. Negotiations will center on how to fund all of the state’s needs with either program cuts, new revenue, closing of tax loopholes, or a mix of all of these approaches.

While we had several opportunities to raise awareness around the importance of Expanded Learning, with a focus on K-12 education funding, it was a tough year to move forward legislation in support of ELOs at the state level. Only two bills remain that would positively impact afterschool and summer programs, although we are carefully watching the budget process for other opportunities. Two identical bills, known as the Early Start Act (House Bill 1491/Senate Bill 5452) aim to enhance the state’s early learning quality rating improvement system known as Early Achievers. There is language in the bill that calls on the Department of Early Learning to develop an Early Achievers pilot for school-age programs. The pilot will require funding, so we are paying close attention to budget negotiations.

Watch out for action alerts regarding state issues over the next few weeks.

STEM Updates and Announcements for March

Complete STEM Survey, You Could Win Bridge Conference Registration

Do you bring STEM into everything you do with youth, or avoid all things STEM? Maybe you love the “T”, but fear the “M”? We want to hear from you about current practices, future hopes, and / or persistent challenges around Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in your program. Please take a few minutes to complete our STEM survey. Complete the survey by March 31 to be entered into a drawing for a FREE REGISTRATION to the Bridge Conference.

Take Survey

Pi Day – How are you celebrating?


Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159. This year’s Pi Day will be EπC  (EPIC) because the date will be 3/14/15. Celebrate at 9:26:53 for bonus points! Traditional celebrations include fun math games with circles, eating all kinds of pies (including pizza pie), and Einstein lookalike contests (Einstein’s birthday also happens to be March 14th).

For lots of activity ideas, links to videos, and to order pi day t-shirts, visit http://www.nationalpiday.org/

If you have a celebration planned, we would love to hear about it / see photos! Send those, or any questions about the day to Krista at kgalloway@schoolsoutwashington.org

Partner Workshops

Using Your Outdoor Classroom and Choosing Effective Indoor and Outdoor Materials workshops

When:  Wednesday, April 8, 2015 | 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where:  Bright Horizons at Center Point | Kent, WA
How to Register:  Sign up by April 1
STARS: 3 Hours

Space is limited, so we invite you to register today—and, please feel free to forward this email to any friends, colleagues, or family members who would benefit from our workshop! Thank you, The Nature Explore Team

Engaging Youth in STEM with SciGirls! A PNWGCP Professional Development Forum

Seattle, WA; April 25, 2015; 9:00 AM-4:00 PM

Participants will learn the latest research for exciting and engaging girls (and boys) in STEM; experience hands-on STEM activities; and gain access to free materials for hands-on, video-enhanced activities that put a creative twist on teaching STEM.


State Legislative Session Starts to Get Interesting

The 2015 Washington State Legislative Session is past its half way point. Now that many bills have either died or are making their way through the legislative process, the budget will become the major focus. The House should be releasing its budget the week of March 23rd and the Senate shortly thereafter. Negotiations between the House, Senate, and Governor’s Office will then begin with the main debates focusing on how to fund education in light of the Supreme Court McCleary decision, the need for additional revenue, and/or what programs to cut if there is not enough revenue to balance the budget.

While most of the debate will focus on the regular school day, there are some pieces of legislation affecting ELOs at the state level:

  • The first two bills are almost identical and are known as the Early Start Act (House Bill 1491/Senate Bill 5452). While these bills mostly affect the state’s early learning quality rating improvement system known as Early Achievers, there is also language in the bill that calls on the Department of Early Learning to develop an Early Achievers pilot for school-age programs. Should this bill pass, many opportunities and benefits available to early learning (birth to age 5) providers such as consistent funding and professional development will be available for school-age programs as well.
  • The third bill is the Academic, Innovation, and Mentoring Program (AIM) (House Bill 5303). This bill would provide funding to expanded learning programs to help them find mentors in many high-demand professions, such as health care and technology. These mentors can show youth a pathway to a career that they may not have thought was possible for them. We are working on tweaking the language to make sure that both small and large programs can benefit from AIM.

Write your legislators now to let them know you support these bills. Action only happens when you raise your voice to be heard!

One World Now! Get Global Conference Coming April 25

On April 25, 2015, OneWorld Now! is hosting their 10th Annual Get Global Conference for high school youth in Seattle. Student-planned and student-led, Get Global is designed to empower youth to take action on important global issues. Students will present dynamic workshops and inspiring speeches to foster meaningful and intentional dialogue about the intersection of social justice issues, global issues, and the role of youth. For more information, visit OneWorldNow.org.

At the heart of international education is the goal of meaningfully engaging students in global issues, a daunting task when faced with the competing interests on high school students’ minds: SATs, college applications, and who to ask to homecoming. For well over a decade, OneWorld Now! has used world languages, experiential leadership workshops, and study abroad to bring the world to Seattle high-school students, draw their attention to global issues, and inspire them to take action for positive change.

How you can engage youth in global issues

Connect with Peers Abroad

Online learning and social media have exponentially increased our ability to connect at a moment’s notice with people around the world. Building online peer-to-peer exchanges with schools and programs around the world is a sure way to peak youths’ interest in global issues.

Tie the Personal to the Global

While OneWorld Now! mentors students for the annual youth-led Get Global Conference, students are asked to consider “what matters to you and why” before settling on a workshop or speech topic. The most compelling workshops and youth speeches are delivered by students who deeply care and are somehow connected to the issue at hand.

Make it Experiential

Experiential learning has a powerful tie to developing empathy. In the context of global issues, the closer a student can be drawn into the reality of a current event, the more compelled they become to seek further understanding and options for action.

Cultivate a Sense of Interdependence

American youth need the support of Chinese youth, just as youth in China need the support of youth in the Middle East. Youth are more inclined to follow global issues and step up to act in favor of their peers around the world when they understand the interconnectedness of our globalized world.

As educators and youth workers, we want young people to establish the knowledge and skills necessary to act responsibly when dealing with complex international issues. Engaging them in global issues today is the first step towards mentoring our youth to become the global leaders of tomorrow.

For more information about the conference, contact Kirstin Rogers by email or at (206) 499-9636.

“Goodbye” from SOWA’s Retiring Janet Schmidt

Please join all of us at School’s Out in wishing Janet Schmidt, our Chief Program & Policy Officer, a happy retirement! While we are so sad to see Janet go after lending us her passion for twenty-two years, she promises to continue supporting the work of School’s Out and the important work of afterschool and youth development programs across the state. We may be bidding farewell for now, but we know that Janet will stay connected to School’s Out and our statewide community for years to come.

Here are some words from Janet to all of you across Washington who have been a part of her journey here at School’s Out.


Janet Schmidt

After twenty-two years of service to children and youth at School’s Out Washington, I have decided to retire. As all of you know, School’s Out Washington is a very special organization with a great mission delivering critical services in communities across the state. School’s Out has been the very fabric of my being for the past twenty-two years. I am proud of the role that I was able to play in establishing School’s Out as a leading advocacy organization, resulting in significant policy, funding opportunities, and greater public awareness around the important role that afterschool and youth development programs play in supporting student success. Through the Washington Afterschool Network, School’s Out is recognized as a leader across the country in both the policy and quality arenas. School’s Out has always led the way in innovation and I am honored to have been a part of this effort.

I have been truly blessed to support School’s Out as it transitioned to a strong and vibrant nonprofit organization. These past few years in particular have been an amazing learning experience for me and I am proud of my role in creating some strong foundational systems as we became a 501c3. The organization is well positioned to grow within the field of afterschool and youth development in Washington and the nation. There is a strong team of competent professionals ready to tackle new challenges and strong systems in place to support the sustainability of the organization.

I will work tirelessly through my final day on April 30th to ensure a smooth and seamless transition. It has been an honor and pleasure working with you over the years. I hope that all of you will continue as champions of afterschool and youth development programs.

Voices from the Field: Reflections on Summer Program Planning

With summer approaching fast, now is the time to start planning for summer programs.  With this in mind, SOWA’s Clifford Armstrong III sat down with Siobhan Whalen, Youth Program Manager at the Coalition for Refugees from Burma, to learn about what inspires her as a youth worker, her thoughts on summer planning, and working with a diverse group of youth and families.

Siobhan with her youth

Siobhan (center, front) with the youth of the Coalition for Refugees from Burma

What did Coalition for Refugees from Burma (CRB) do for Summer Programming last summer?

Last summer, we had two summer programs.  One was in partnership with East African Community Services in Seattle.  We helped them with some of the organizing.  They had a curriculum that they used the year prior, and we were able to help with outreach, connecting them with youth in Seattle Public Schools who were not able to access SPS’ summer programs.  That program with EACS was for K-5.

In Kent, we partnered with Kent-Meridian High School to put on, we called it GOAL (Global awareness and local Outreach for Academic Learning).  That program was focused on secondary school-aged youth.  Kent-Meridian has their own secondary school program for students that are new to the US or low English language learner level.  So they would go to school in the morning, then in the afternoon we would provide an enrichment component for about two hours after they finished their summer school day.


When did you start planning for summer?

That’s a great question!  Planning for summer is kind of always in the back of your mind as a youth program manager or coordinator.  And if you’re working with youth you’re always looking forward to summer.  One thing I really like about summer programming is that students, especially high school students, are much less stressed.  During the school year, you’re competing with homework and high school projects, tests and standardized testing and there’s just so much white noise out there in their lives that you have to work with.  In summer, there’s just so much more freedom to really push students in things they might not have otherwise had access to and you can be a little more creative.  So I love summer programming and I think about it all the time.  I would say for last year, we really began mapping out the logistics of things around this time (the beginning of March).  This is when we really kick it into high gear.


So, from last year’s summer program, and you kind of have two to pick from, what are you most proud of?

So most proud of…our Kent program, I really have a soft spot for.  It’s something that I’ve created and it’s my baby and I love it very much and I love our students there a lot.  So I think the thing I’m most proud, well I have two.  The first was we went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last year.  It was a part of our unit on social entrepreneurship.  Our students got to look at some of the inventions that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are funding and some of the innovative things that people their age are doing, and other social entrepreneurs are doing all over the world.  So that was really cool.  They were also charged to create a solution for a global or local problem and they came up with some really creative ideas.  One was to match older students that are refugees or immigrants with newly arrived students and have a mentorship program.  That was really smart.  Another they had, their problem was access to medical information in native languages.  So they came up with this idea of having people in the library who could interpret and help people understand their prescriptions and doctor forms and things.  And I thought that was really smart too.

Then the second thing I’m proud of, at the very end of the program, the students organized a showcase.  Each week of the summer program covers a different topic and at the end, they worked in groups to highlight what they learned in each of the different weeks.  They did a whole range of things, but one group of students wrote some haikus and then put music to the haikus.  So they sang these beautiful haiku songs and it was so cool because they did everything.  They designed the menus, they came up with who was going to say what and when.  I was really proud of how hard they worked and it came out really beautiful.


What was the most challenging aspect?

I think the most challenging aspect with any summer program is logistical.  It’s making sure that you do outreach and making sure that everything is running smoothly and on-time.  The logistical things you might otherwise not think of.


What was the feedback you received from the youth and their families?

They really liked the week with the haikus.  We had an assistant instructor from Highline Community College come and talk to students about different forms of expression.  He’s a theater instructor, so he brought some improv games that the students did. The second day he taught the haikus.  All of the students enjoyed his kind of teaching style and have since asked me “Where is that guy?  Is he ever coming back?”  So I think they really enjoyed his portion.  The students (from Kent) always love the opportunity to go to Seattle.  I think the trip to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was really profound for a lot of the students because they got to see, there were some exhibits in the visitor’s center that students recognized as things that they had experienced in either their home countries or in the camps or areas they came from before.  So that was something that a lot of students were chatting about on the way home and throughout the rest of the program.  Like, “Hey remember that thing that we saw…”  That kind of thing.


What impact, has professional development of staff had on the summer program?

It’s definitely had an impact.  I’ve attended a couple of different professional development opportunities about global competency and also around 21st century skills and project-based learning.  Professional development provided by Seattle University, I believe they partnered with Facing the Future, they did a couple trainings a year ago that I attended.  And then the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did one on Global Competency and Project Based Learning, which was really incredible.  And School’s Out Washington’s Bridge Conference, as always. I love going to the Bridge Conference because it always gives me great ideas and people to get back in touch with later on.  Shout out to Bridge!


What is something about CRB’s youth that I, and anyone who listens to or reads this should know?

I think that our youth are incredible human beings, and a lot of times there are assumptions made about their backgrounds or their intelligence or their commitment to education because of biases and more often than not they are entirely incorrect. I think I work with some of the brightest young people and I really enjoy working with them.  They teach me more things than I could ever teach them.


Being a refugee-oriented CBO, what suggestions would you have for the field when working with communities of color?  You kind of just alluded to some of the issues that they face….

I think we’ve been branching out to newer communities, not just from Burma, which has really been enlightening I think.  It happened organically that we saw this need, there were students that were coming to our afterschool programming and our summer programming that weren’t from Burma, and we just felt like it’s important for those students to have access to information and access to help and support.  We aren’t going to bar them from being participants.  And so, I think, in working with these newer communities we’ve learned a lot of discrimination in different communities about the hijab or assumptions made about peoples’ background.  I think there’s so much more work to be done both within the school and outside of the school.  I think more conversations need to be had.  There should be also a focus on professional development and cultural competency training.  There is a lot of work being done both in Seattle Public Schools and Kent Public Schools, and they’re trying to incorporate more trainings, but there needs to be even more.


As a white woman, what has been most helpful for you working with the Burmese community and communities of color in-general?

Yeah, it’s not an easy thing.  It shouldn’t be easy.  It’s not supposed to be easy.  It’s supposed to be a constant reflection.  There is no one simple way to make a person empathetic.  Its hard work and you have to do it all the time.  You have to be constantly questioning, “Am I coming into this situation with a bias?  Am I seeing this situation differently because of my position?  Am I asking something unfair of my family or of my students?  Am I putting them in a position that is unfair by asking them to do something?”  So it’s like I appreciate that question because I think it’s important for anyone working in a non-profit or in a school or working in the frontlines, whether they’re white or a person of color, to constantly be questioning where their biases lie.  And it could be because my race, my ethnicity, my religion, my social position, or my privilege, you just constantly have to be questioning, “Is this coloring how I’m interacting in this situation?”

Time to Save 21st Century Community Learning Centers

The 21st Century Community Learning Center Program (21st CCLC’s) supports over 150 programs in Washington that provide more than 18,000 children and youth with expanded learning opportunities afterschool and in the summer (particularly in rural areas). These programs provide enriching Expanded Learning Opportunities including everything from Lego Robotics, to reading, to website development, to creative writing and the arts.

Congress is considering a proposal that would eliminate several educational funding streams and combine them into a few large block grants for general education including the only dedicated federal funding source for afterschool and summer programs; 21st CCLCs. The ability of quality programs to leverage state and local resources, professional development and training, to achieve desired outcomes around student success will be lost given the broadening of the funding stream and competing provisions. Our national partners at the Afterschool Alliance have a complete synopsis of the proposed legislation being considered. The U.S. House Education and Commerce Committee has already passed out a bill that eliminates 21st CCLC’s. The U.S. Senate – Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee may have a vote on this bill in early March, so your voice is needed now.

If you haven’t already, please make your voice heard by sending an email to your U.S. Senators and Representative!

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