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Youth Program Advocates Make Their Case to WA Legislature

The Yakima Valley Farm Worker's Clinic provides a safe place for 1,400 young people in eastern Washington to go after school. (Yakima Valley Farm Worker's Clinic)
The Yakima Valley Farm Worker's Clinic provides a safe place for 1,400 young people in eastern Washington to go after school. (Yakima Valley Farm Worker's Clinic)
January 14, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Advocates for youth development and learning programs outside the classroom will be in Olympia on Tuesday.

One priority is to boost the role that after-school and summer programs play in preventing children from getting involved in crime and drug use.

Beth Monfils coordinates expanded learning programs for the Yakima Valley Farm Worker's Clinic, which serves 1,400 young people a day in rural eastern Washington.

Along with education and career exploration programs, Monfils says a major goal for staff is building relationships with children.

"We know that sometimes, for some of our kids, our program is the one safe place they have,” she states. “Sadly, home is not a safe place for them necessarily, and school may not be a very safe place for them, due to bullying and other issues."

Monfils says there are more than 200 children on the program's waiting list. She'll be bringing young people from the program to the Advocacy Day for Youth Development and Expanded Learning Opportunities at the State Capitol on Tuesday.

Supporters want lawmakers to create a workgroup to guide the newly created Department of Children, Youth and Families on crime prevention strategies.

The Tacoma Community Boat Builders is another group working outside the classroom, originally formed as an alternative to youth incarceration.

Its executive director, Shannon Shea, says children get one-on-one mentoring from volunteers, who range in age from 35 to 90.

She says many of the volunteers have gone through the same trials as the young people they mentor.

Most importantly, Shea says, the children get to spend time with a respectful adult who listens to them.

"In that sense, the youths are developing skills that are really important for healthy relationships,” she explains. “But we're also getting to know them and then, in that sense, it's preventative on both sides of it.

“We're getting to know things and finding out about unique vulnerabilities, and maybe coaching them around some of that."

Advocates also are hoping legislators invest in expanded learning programs to connect young people with careers, since the state faces a growing skilled workforce shortage.

Monday is the first day of the Washington legislative session.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA