FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - Today, leaders of cities and counties in Washington are making an effort to listen to the teens in their communities. At a statewide summit for municipal leaders in Federal Way, the topic is "Building Community by Helping Kids."
Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest says his city has a variety of after-school options for kids, which are working well, but in recent years they have been forced to run on fewer dollars and more heart. The goal of the gathering is to learn what is already working in other cities, he says, in order to support and expand Federal Way's programs.
"That's why these types of meetings, I believe, are very important: We learn what works and we don't always re-create the wheel when we really can't afford to do so. The dollars we spend today have to be used in a cost-effective way, and these meetings help achieve that goal."
In Shoreline, teens in the city's Youth Ambassadors program surveyed their peers to find out what they need from after-school activities, and they will share the results at the summit. Forrest Taylor is a Youth Ambassador from Shorewood High School. He says teens want more than something to do after school - they want a stronger connection to where they live.
"The most common thing people want from either after-school programs or teen participation in community at all is just knowing that they have a voice, because teens want to feel accepted, from their community as well as from their friends."
Speakers will also address ways to get kids ready for the workforce.
The meeting will be held today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ron Sandwith Teen Center, 31423 28th Ave. S., Federal Way. A similar gathering is planned for May 15 in Cheney. The Washington Afterschool Network is one of nine in the country to receive national grants for these summits on strengthening youth programs.