Marching Towards Racial Equity

School’s Out Washington’s commitment to racial equity has evolved into much more than just a statement. It has become a deliberate effort in the organization’s internal and external practice to work toward our mission of helping all youth reach their full potential through increased access to high-quality afterschool and summer programs.

To this end, SOWA’s Director of Policy and Advocacy David Beard, Chief Program Quality Officer Jackie Jainga-Hyllseth, and MSW Intern Franci Davila recently engaged in a multi-pronged approach to further our racial equity focus by.  In recent months, we evaluated the trainings we currently offer to professionals working in afterschool, youth development, and summer programs, and also developed a Racial Equity Policy Screen to analyze and vet policies relevant to the field and their impacts on communities of color.

SOWA collected information from the field to inform our objectives through an online survey sent out to afterschool, youth development and summer providers throughout the state, and a targeted series of focus groups only for providers of color in Spokane, Yakima, Pierce, and King Counties. Key concepts that were addressed in both the focus groups and survey were:

  1. Barriers and Solutions to Funding;
  2. Challenges and Solutions to Partnership Building; and
  3. Challenges and Solutions to acquiring Professional Development.

Findings from the survey and focus groups will inform SOWA as we finalize a Training of the Trainers module on Structural Racism and Cultural Competency & Responsiveness, which we hope to make available later this year, as well as in developing our Racial Equity Policy Screen.  We will continue to share the findings with key stakeholders and the field at large as well as how we plan to use the findings moving forward.  SOWA’s Board of Directors will also be engaging in developing and implementing a Racial Equity plan.

For more information about our racial equity work and this most recent effort, please contact Franci Davila, MSW Intern at School’s Out Washington, at fdavila [at]

Zero Robotics – Launching Across Washington State and Into Space This Summer!

First Robatics participants get a chance to write code to run robots on the ISS. Image courtesy of MIT.

First Robotics participants get a chance to write code for robots on the International Space Station. Image courtesy of MIT.

School’s Out Washington is thrilled to be partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA, the Museum of Flight, and other partners as the Washington State coordinator of Zero Robotics!

Zero Robotics is a new kind of robotics competition for middle school students in ten states aimed at getting youth interested in STEM early – particularly groups not typically represented in STEM careers, such as girls, low-income youth, and youth of color.

Zero Robotics participants write code for three robots aboard the International Space Station – satellites! Rather than coding one satellite to do a single task, NASA is interested in what three satellites can do when they work together. The final competition is refereed live from the International Space Station by astronauts, and the winning code is then tested aboard the ISS. Each student also works on a Washington State code to be sent to and tested aboard the ISS.

By engaging in STEM activities in middle school, we hope to encourage students to continue their STEM interests in high school, college, and in their careers, eventually increasing the diversity of the field. In Washington State, 45,000 STEM jobs will go unfilled by 2017 due to a lack of qualified applicants – by giving Washington youth the ability to engage in exciting and fun STEM activities, we can work to create a future STEM workforce that is qualified, passionate, and diverse.

To learn more, visit

Research Shows Summer Matters

With funding from the Raikes Foundation, SOWA, Seattle Public Schools & the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality worked in partnership on a research study with groundbreaking results showing a clear link between the quality of summer learning programs and the academic outcomes they produce.  This study was conducted in 30 summer learning programs based in Seattle schools which provided academic support and a focus on quality utilizing the Summer Learning Program Quality Assessment. Key findings include:

  • Quality Matters! Higher quality programs produce better academic outcomes.
  • Quality Programs Combat Summer Learning Loss: Most youth who participated in programs showed improved math and literacy skills during the summer.
  • There is Demand for Quality Summer Programs in Seattle: Youth and families speak with their feet and these programs were well attended.

Looking Forward: SOWA expects to expand the number of summer programs engaged in the Summer Learning Program Quality Assessment in 2016, both in Seattle and other regions of the state.  We also anticipate further partnership on the research study to deepen our learning around summer and positive youth outcomes.

Download the complete study (PDF)

55,000 Reasons to GiveBIG to SOWA

Why should your GiveBIG donation go to School’s Out Washington? Well…


In 2015, SOWA trained 1,567 adults…


…from 580 youth-serving organizations across Washington State…



…in more than 441 hours of trainings!



We engaged 457 afterschool and summer programs in our Youth Program Quality Initiative…



…and provided $536,000 to schools that serve refugee youth and summer learning programs.



All told, our work impacted the lives of

more than 55,000 kids

in Washington State

(Only 5 of the cutest shown)


That’s our impact.

You can make it bigger!


Pledge Your Gift

For the last 5 years, the Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG event has celebrated non-profits and the work they do by engaging donors around the region, raising more than $56 million. Each gift made to SOWA from now to May 3rd give us a share of the GiveBIG Stretch Pool, expanding the impact of your donation!

Make your pledge to School’s Out Washington today!

“Crazy 8s” clubs bring energy and playfulness to math

Crazy 8scrazy8slogoR is a new nationwide after-school club designed to get kids fired up about math. Kids get to build stuff, run and jump, make music, make a mess… and make friendships at the same time.

Crazy 8s is like no other math club before it. Unlike the competitive, test-oriented clubs out there, Crazy 8s has an energy and playfulness that can appeal to any kid – not just those who already love math.  Activities like Toilet Paper Olympics and Bouncy Dice Explosion show kids that math is approachable, tangible and fun.

Bedtime Math provides a free kit containing full directions and most of the materials needed to run the 8 week club. Each kit is designed for 12-16 kids in grades K-2 and 3-5. The afterschool program finds a coach, Bedtime Math sends the kit – it’s that simple. So far the response has been overwhelming. With more than 6,000 clubs serving over 80,000 kids nationwide, it may already be America’s biggest math club for elementary school kids.

Crazy 8s is the latest offering from Bedtime Math Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to get kids to love math as much as playtime or dessert. Bedtime Math serves up fun, wacky math problems every day for parents and kids aged 3-9 – by email, on its website, and on its free app. More than 70,000 loyal fans have joined the movement.

Visit to learn more about Bedtime Math and Crazy 8s.

Join us for a beer! Brews and Bites Fundraiser May 25


Please join School’s Out Washington for a refreshing brew and delicious bite to support our work, helping kids reach their fullest potential!

Brews & Bites is a fundraiser supporting SOWA’s work strengthening programs and empowering youth. All kids deserve the opportunity to cultivate passions and develop 21st century skills that prepare them for a successful future.

School’s Out’s mission focuses on strengthening the afterschool and summer programs that nurtures these skills and interests so kids can reap the most benefits and positive outcomes.

Come have fun, mingle, and drink beer to support our work!

Admission includes: 1 drink ticket (beer from our host, Seapine Brewing Company) & 1 food ticket (food from Anchor End Pretzel Shoppe). Don’t forget, there will also be a raffle with exciting prizes!

When: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (PDT)

Where: Seapine Brewing Company – 2959 Utah Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98134 – View Map

2016 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

legislativewrapupThe 2016 Washington State Legislative Session wrapped up March 29th with the legislature’s passage of a supplemental budget, two weeks into a special legislative session. After being unable to reach a compromise on the budget during the regular 60-day session, Governor Jay Inslee called the special session and vetoed a record 27 bills in an attempt to force the legislature to work together on the budget. After fifteen days the legislature was able to come together on a budget deal which fully funds state activities but leaves much on the education front until 2017, and worked together to overturn the vetoes in record numbers – the first time a Governor’s veto has been overturned since the mid-1990s.

There were a few bills relating to summer and afterschool as well as school-age child care. Even though some of these bills did not become law, SOWA is excited about the progress that was made to raise the profile of this importance of afterschool and summer as critical pieces of education. Some of these bills included:

  1. SB 6371/HB 2671 – This bill exempts school-age child care programs run and funded directly by public and private schools from licensing. Any of these programs that accept subsidy are not exempt. (Senate Bill passed, awaits governor’s signature).
  1. SB 6368/HB 2690 – This bill was to create a pilot project to expand a mentoring and tutoring program in Snohomish County. (Bill did not pass).
  1. SB 6370/HB 2621 – This bill, which was controversial, would have sped up background check timelines by allowing DEL records to all CPS records. This includes unfounded allegations, however, background check staff would know those allegations were unfounded and very few individuals have access to these records. (Bill did not pass).

As we move forward into the 2017 legislative session, SOWA will continue to work at the local, state, and federal levels to continue to increase funding and awareness about the crucial role afterschool and summer play in children’s lives.  Stay up to date by signing up for our take action emails.

Unmet Demand for Afterschool Programs Is High in Rural Communities

Graphic Courtesy of Afterschool Alliance

Graphic Courtesy of Afterschool Alliance

Last month, the Afterschool Alliance released a special report, The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities (PDF link), which finds that just 13 percent of rural students in the United States (1.2 million) participate in an afterschool program – up from 11 percent in 2009, but considerably below the 18 percent of students who participate in these programs nationwide. Yet, according to a household survey commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance, for every rural child in an afterschool program, the parents of three more say their child would be enrolled, if an afterschool program were available. That puts unmet demand for afterschool programs in rural communities at 39 percent of those not currently enrolled (3.1 million children).

The new report finds the unmet demand is especially high among Hispanic, African-American and low-income rural families. Findings are based on responses collected for America After 3PM from 30,000 U.S. households, including in-depth interviews with more than 13,000 parents and guardians.

“Rural America is as rich and diverse as the country as a whole,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “There are rural communities in all 50 states and many are characterized by strong and enduring social networks and community ties. But persistent poverty, food insecurity, and low education levels also are more common in rural than urban and suburban communities. In fact, in 2014, one in four rural children was living in poverty. Quality afterschool programs keep students safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. They are a valuable gateway to a more secure and successful future, but there aren’t nearly enough afterschool programs to meet the need in rural America. It should be a high priority for our leaders to change that.”

The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities offers recommendations to help give children in rural communities the ability to participate in quality afterschool programs. They include:

  • Make information about afterschool programs more readily available to parents in rural communities;
  • Increase national attention to the essential role afterschool programs play in rural communities;
  • Provide opportunities to share promising practices and resources for rural afterschool programs, through conferences, symposia and/or an online resource or hub geared to rural communities;
  • Increase STEM programming in rural afterschool programs; and
  • Increase the investment in afterschool programs serving rural communities.

Get more background and learn more about the methodology for The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities, underwritten by John Deere, here.

America After 3PM is funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, with additional support from the Heinz Endowments, The Robert Bowne Foundation and the Samueli Foundation.

Meet Stephanie Lennon

Stephanie LennonThese are exciting times at School’s Out Washington, with new projects meaning new staff coming on board. The first new hire of this wave was Stephanie Lennon, who started at SOWA in late February. Her work centers around our statewide advocacy and STEM efforts, as well as joining our communications team.

She’s a fascinating person with a rich background. As we do all of our new staff, let’s spend a moment to get to know her.

Where are you from?

I am originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan (Go Blue!) and moved to Seattle in 2009 from New York City. I also spent time studying internationally both before coming to Washington and after, in England, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, and Guatemala.

What do you like to do in your own time?

I fell in love with the amazing natural landscape of Washington as soon as I moved here, and got involved in mountaineering and rock climbing, and love remote backpacking trips. I love trying new outdoor activities, and am also training to run a couple of half marathons this year.

I love houseplants and have amassed quite the jungle in my apartment – I like finding unique or rare plants and learning about where they came from. I am big on cooking and like trying new recipes, and working on my ever growing tolerance for eating incredibly spicy food. I’m lucky to have a wonderful support system of friends and family and love spending time with them.

The ability to travel has been a huge influence on my life and worldviews, and I am always trying to figure out where I can go next! South America and Asia are the two major areas of the world I’m missing, so those are high on my to-do list.

What brought you to SOWA?    

My background is in working with refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants in several arenas, including direct refugee resettlement, workforce development, and communications and advocacy work. In working in both the non-profit and government worlds, I became very interested in working to improve the public policies that create or support all of those systems and which can often, even inadvertently, contribute to inequities. Some of my most recent work was with unaccompanied refugee and immigrant minors, which really opened my eyes to the importance of early opportunities for youth in order for them to succeed, and more broadly how creating an equitable playing field for youth and creating support systems early on leads to greater success and diversity.

I went back to school in order to be able to work on these issues from a policy perspective, and will complete my Master of Public Administration degree from Seattle University this quarter, where I focused on government and public policy.

Tell us one thing that you are proud of.

I took a bit of a non-traditional path in college, where I not only changed majors and schools, but also dropped out for a time when I was unsure what career path I wanted to take. I’m proud not only that I was able to find support systems to get back to school and earn my Bachelor’s degree, but also that I was able to later complete graduate school while working full-time. I think it taught me a lot about persistence and resilience, as well as the importance of education. I was able not only to get back to school, but to go on to attend schools and programs in six countries over the course of my education.

White House Announces Summer Opportunity Project

Washington in Washington! From Left: SOWA's David Beard; Peace Community Center's Bill Hanawalt, Champion of Change for Summer Opportunity; Long Phan from Seattle Mayor Murray's office

Washington in Washington! From Left: SOWA’s David Beard; Peace Community Center’s Bill Hanawalt, Champion of Change for Summer Opportunity; Long Phan from Seattle Mayor Murray’s office

School’s Out Washington’s Education Policy and Advocacy Director, David Beard, traveled to the White House last week for the official launch of President Obama’s new Summer Opportunity Project. This initiative is a multi-pronged approach aimed at providing support and encouragement to grow the job skills and leadership abilities of youth by helping them to obtain summer jobs and providing additional support and enrichment over the critical summer months.

Also representing the partnership and Washington were Long Phan of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s Office and Bill Hanawalt, Executive Director of Tacoma’s Peace Community Center. Hanawalt was also honored during the launch as one of nine White House Champions of Change for Summer Opportunity for his work supporting youth who are underrepresented in college in growing their academic and leadership skills through in-school, after-school and summer programs.


One initiative highlighted by the President was the collaboration between the City of Seattle, Seattle Public Schools, and SOWA which will impact over 15,000 youth in the city to help stop the summer slide, provide enrichment and meals, and help students obtain their first summer job, and more.

In addition to the work of SOWA and its partners in Washington State, the Summer Opportunity Project will work nationally in collaboration with both the public and private sectors. Partnerships include those with the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) and LinkedIn, which will work organizations on the ground to support summer jobs for youth. NSLA’s work is focusing on closing the achievement gap by creating a Best Practices Network aimed at increasing the quality of summer programming for youth.

At the launch, Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett, highlighted additional initiatives including the President’s commitment to summer meals and the importance of summer learning. Acting U.S. Education Secretary John King, Jr discussed projects aimed at the opportunities summer brings and how they reduce summer slide. SOWA is honored to be a part of the President’s work on the local, state, and national level.

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