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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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.