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 or contact School’s Out Washington for more information at



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.

Learn How Partnerships Can Strengthen Communities at National Conference

Dare to Disrupt!Partnerships are critical to the success of afterschool and summer programs, whether it’s with a school, community organization, funder, or policymaker. Despite the need for and benefit of partnerships, navigating the process of identifying and deepening partnerships can be challenging, especially with the demands we may face in our day to day roles working with youth.

Bringing diverse groups of stakeholders together may seem like a daunting task. How do you do it?

These five sessions at the National Conference on Afterschool and Summer Learning, coming to Seattle October 24-26, will share the real stories of communities that have come together in support of summer and afterschool. Register today so you won’t miss them!

Incorporating Youth Development into School District Summer Programs

Tuesday, 1:00 PM

Holy Chea, Program Officer, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, Tacoma, WA
Christine Brandt, Principal, Jason Lee Middle School, Tacoma, WA
Fahren Johnson, Youth Programs Director, YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties, Tacoma, WA
James Lovell, Program Quality Director, School’s Out Washington, Seattle, WA
John Hughes, Summer Program Coordinator, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle, WA

Abstract: In this session, hear how school districts, and youth development providers partnered to train certificated teachers and provider staff together on implementing youth development principles in summer programs. While youth development professionals are often trained to incorporate academic components, this model builds common language and youth engagement practices to strengthen both academic and enrichment elements during summer. Lessons from the Summer Learning Program Quality Initiative will also be shared.

Federal Opportunities for Summer Learning

Tuesday, 10:00 AM

Rachel Gwaltney, Director of Policy and Partnerships, National Summer Learning Association, Baltimore, MD

Abstract: Come learn all of the opportunities for summer learning in the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and what summer learning advocates need to know as states and districts are planning for ESSA implementation. We will also share examples and resources for funding summer learning through other federal programs.

Summer Learning as a Citywide Priority: Boston’s Story of Scale

Tuesday, 1:00 PM

Chris Smith, Executive Director and President, Boston After School & Beyond, Boston, MA
Donna Muncey, Deputy Superintendent of Strategy, Boston Public Schools, Boston, MA
Rahn Dorsey, Chief of Education, Mayor’s Office, City of Boston, Boston, MA

Abstract: What happens when the Mayor, Superintendent, and intermediary join forces to make summer learning a citywide priority? This panel will describe why Boston set a Mayoral goal for summer learning — and how the community exceeded the goal a year ahead of schedule. Lessons will focus on how to make measurable progress and secure broad stakeholder engagement.

Breach the Silos: Impact Built on Common Ground

Wednesday, 12:00 PM

Erin Offord, Senior Director of Programs, Big Thought, Dallas, TX
Gigi Antoni, President & CEO, Big Thought, Dallas, TX

Abstract: Aligning cross-sector partners around a big idea is a key element to scale and sustainability. Big Thought leaders will use case studies from Dallas, work in collective impact to highlight successes, “hiccups”, and in-progress efforts to disrupt systemic barriers to student success.

Rural Communities Rock!

Wednesday, 12:00 PM

Bob McNeil, Leadership Development Coach, Coaching Leaders, Spokane, WA
Christy Rather, Manager of Technical Assistance, National Summer Learning Association, Baltimore, MD

Abstract: 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.

Summer Meals Season Over… See You Next Year!

orange-300Although the heat persists, last week marked the last day of summer for hundreds of free meal sites in public parks, schools and other Seattle spaces. The sites have served free and nutritious lunches to Seattle children and youth since July and will continue to offer these services next summer.

SOWA staff visited Othello Park in Beacon Hill on the last day of the free summer meal program, and watched as kids took a break from playing to pick out their preferred foods with excitement. Throughout the summer, board games, basketballs and art supplies lined the adjoining tables, and hip hop and tap classes met at the park each week.

Many families rely on free or reduced priced lunches during the school year but the need for accessible food options does not stop when school is out. Summer meal sites provide kids with sustenance to develop into healthy young adults, and when combined with engaging summer activities, youth are more likely to attend programs to eat and learn.

The City of Seattle sponsors meal sites like Othello Park in collaboration with United Way of King County, Seattle Parks and Recreation and Seattle Public Schools.

With the start of the school year, providers are now looking for ways to distribute evening snacks and suppers so that low-income youth are able to eat healthy meals all year. Many afterschool meals are offered as part of high quality expanded learning programs that are of little or no cost.

The need for more sites to meet increasing demand is great, and providers are encouraged to spread the word that nutritious meals are needed year round to support children and their families.

Interested in learning more about afterschool and summer meals across Washington State? Emil Natalie at

Meet SOWA Board Member John Cassleman

John CasslemanWith a Board of Directors passionate about improving opportunities for Washington’s youth, we wanted to share with all of you what inspires and drives our Board of Directors to volunteer and serve as advocates and spokespeople on behalf of SOWA’s mission.

This month, we’re introducing you to John Cassleman, a former high school teacher in the “remote rural” city of Bridgeport, Washington who recently relocated to Olympia. His past teaching experience includes English, History, and Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID), as well as a “College in the Classroom” English course in partnership with Wenatchee Valley College. While at Bridgeport, he served as the head coach of the school’s first cross country team and as an assistant track and field coach in the spring. John loves to eat pie, read books, and go on adventures with his wife Shanell and their daughter Aster. Take a moment to get to know John and what brought him to SOWA.

What inspired you to join the Board at SOWA?

SOWA offered me an opportunity to make an impact in the education of our youth on a statewide level. I had to take advantage. I also felt that I could offer SOWA my perspective as an educator who works with school-age students in rural Washington. And then, on a personal level, it has always been my desire to help deepen the connection between eastern Washington and western Washington.

As a teacher, why do you believe our work is so important when it comes to supporting youth?

Youth need as many places, formats, and settings to learn as possible. They need to find something that works for them. School, in the traditional sense, is not enough. Students need ownership of their learning and something they can call their own. That said, it’s not enough just to have programs available. In order to be successful and safe for our youth, those programs must meet certain quality standards.

Can you give us some of your perspective coming from a rural community?  What are some of the biggest challenges, and how do afterschool and summer help address needs?

The biggest challenges in rural districts are challenges of access and opportunity. For example, computer models tend to be older, connection speeds are slower. People don’t go to see plays, or have community centers. Compounding this, transportation is especially difficult, especially with afterschool programs. Variety is another challenge.  People (educators, usually) are already wearing many hats just to provide the basics for their students – engaging lessons, clubs, sports, afterschool tutoring – and don’t have time or the expertise to run additional programs. In rural communities, too, many families sustain themselves through agricultural work. That makes for long days, especially in the summer. Unfortunately, that is the time children need the most support.

I say all this without much pessimism. Last year the Bridgeport High School Senior Class put on a Haunted House for Halloween. It was as if every child in the city was there. Rural communities come together when opportunities are provided. Programs like Feed Your Brain give people a reason to participate.

How have you grown in your professional and personal life since joining the Board?

I have furthered my knowledge about the power of afterschool and summer programming, for one.

Working with well-organized, knowledgeable, and passionate people has also helped me improve my ability to approach problems holistically. As a board member, I am also a spokesperson for a cause and so I must address a variety of audiences in a way that is commensurate with their own wants and needs.

Any fun memories from afterschool or summer programs you can share with us?

One memory that stands out is from a summer camp call Palouse Pioneer Day Camp. At this camp we identified flora and fauna, created crafts from gathered materials and we made skits. One year, our groups’ skit involved teasing the other groups’ counselors. For one of the jokes, they picked me to grab hold of a counselors two braids and make a crack about water-skiing. I don’t remember the specifics of the joke or the punch line, so it can’t have been that good. What I do remember, however, is the feeling of empowerment by being the center of attention and the feeling of joy at being allowed to be silly.

Let’s Meet Natalie Kahn, Our New Americorps VISTA

natalie-300One of the many ways SOWA supports children and youth across Washington is to advocate for children who do not have access to adequate nutrition both after school and during the summer months. Our support ranges from guidance for programs on how to get funding for snacks, to our annual Feed Your Brain grant.

We’re happy to bring on Natalie Kahn, our latest AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, whose work will be directly related to advocating for summer and afterschool meals. Let’s get to know her!

Where are you from?

I grew up in Seattle and in LaCenter, Washington, a small town in the southern part of the state. The last four years I lived in Ohio in another small town called Wooster, where I attended the College of Wooster. After graduation I moved back to Seattle and it feels great to be home.

What do you like to do in your own time?

I grew up riding horses and I do endurance riding, which is long distance racing on horseback, as well as horse backpacking and trail riding. I love the outdoors, especially the Pacific Northwest. I like to backpack, bike, swim, kayak, and so on! My mother is a ceramics teacher, so I work with clay and other art forms, like jewelry and printmaking; I also like to write poetry. I play soccer and have more recently become interested in salsa dancing.

What brought you to SOWA?

At the College of Wooster I worked closely with a local food cooperative called Local Roots. I discovered how important it is for communities to be able to access nutritious food, not only for health but for social development and engagement among community members. I became passionate about environmental and food justice during this time and decided to take a stand on these issues. When I learned about School’s Out Washington and the opportunity to work on the Afterschool and Summer Meals Expansion Program I was hooked. I now work as an AmeriCorps VISTA at SOWA.

Tell us one thing you are proud of.

I graduated from the College of Wooster this last May with a major in anthropology and a minor in environmental studies! I am proud of myself for finishing but I am also grateful for the support that I have had. I now want to support others in making education a reality.

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