WILD empowers students through a youth-driven approach to project development. • Courtesy Photo
WILD empowers students through a youth-driven approach to project development. • Courtesy Photo

InterIm CDA was one of several organizations honored by the Raikes Foundation on October 28 for reaching the highest bar of quality on its out of school time programs for young people as part of the Youth Program Quality Initiative.

Interim CDA’s Wilderness Inner-City Leadership Development (WILD) program welcomes ninth through twelfth grade students into their offices throughout the year. Through this program, youth build leadership qualities like self-confidence and team building skills within the context of environmental education and civic involvement.

Each year, approximately 120 Seattle-area youth participate in WILD. The participants are primarily from Asian American/Pacific Islander immigrant or refugee households where English is the family’s second, or third, language spoken at home. Many of the youth are from low-income families who have limited resources to access exceptional after school programs, especially those that are culturally-framed like WILD.

The Youth Program Quality Initiative supports programs serving young people ages 10-18 and helps organizations and their staffs improve youth engagement, which in turn helps kids improve academic performance, develop social skills, and avoid risky behaviors.

“Thousands of kids in Washington state participate in out of school time programs every day, but the quality of the programs and their staffs varies widely,” said Erin Kahn, director of the Raikes Foundation, in a statement. “The Youth Program Quality Initiative raises the caliber of after school programs by improving the capacity of staff through data-driven professional development. When organizations understand what good looks like and have the tools to get there, quality rises and kids reap the benefits.”

Fourteen of the organizations were honored with a High Flier award for their programs reaching the highest bar of quality:

King County

Community for Youth
Reel Grrls
Renton Area Youth & Family Services
Seattle Art Museum
The Center for Wooden Boats
Woodland Park Zoo

Pierce County

Children’s Home Society
Oasis Youth Center
Safe Streets

Spokane County

City of Cheney Parks & Recreation
Communities in Schools of Spokane County
Odyssey Youth Board
YMCA of the Inland Northwest

“The Youth Program Quality Initiative provides thorough training that helps the Community for Youth staff do its job better,” said Peter Retzlaff, executive director of Community for Youth. “It teaches us how to make our interactions with young people more constructive and enjoyable and helps young people get more out of our program.”

The Youth Program Quality Initiative provides up to three years of support for organizations selected through a competitive manner. Grants of $5,000 are awarded to selected organizations for participation in the YPQI process that includes: participation in a peer learning community/cohort; completion of a program quality assessment using both a self-assessment and external assessors; staff training in youth development best practices; and onsite coaching and technical assistance.

The initiative also provides an important avenue for programs to meet the Washington State Quality Standards for Afterschool & Youth Development Programs, which were recently established as the common definition of quality statewide and are fully aligned to the initiative’s focus areas.

Three of the 15 organizations were given Pinnacle awards for their commitment to the continuous quality improvement of their after-school programs, and will receive $500 grants to support ongoing staff professional development. These organizations are:

Seattle Art Museum (King County)
Safe Streets (Pierce County)
Gonzaga University’s Center for Community Action & Service Learning (Spokane)

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