Enthusiasm was high among the 215 participants who gathered at Van Asselt Elementary School for the third Youth and Family Initiative Workshop. Maybe something can happen out of all this.

Following a music and rap prelude, Seattle Mayor McGinn opened the workshop, hearkening back twenty years to the Education Summit that transformed the city’s relationship to education and reviewing the statistics on educational outcomes that require a concerted effort by all of us. Norm Rice then followed as the former mayor who had convened the earlier summit and one of the initiative’s current co-chairs. Engagement, said Rice, is how people ultimately understand. Also adding their comments were the remaining co-chairs former deputy mayor Bob Watt and Estela Ortega, Executive Director at El Centro de la Raza. Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith set the stage for the practical flow of the workshop.

The bulk of the evening was then used by the participants, organized into groups of about 8-10 people each, to identify and prioritize issues and recommend solutions.  At Table 2, I joined three “regulars” from the Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition along with a teacher from Van Asselt, a city employee and the director of TeenLink. The workshop facilitators were volunteers from other neighborhoods, not city staff.  Each group selected a delegate and alternate to attend the Kids and Families Congress on June 5. I was also encouraged by the news that Seattle Councilman Mike O’Brien, Seattle School Board member Betty Patu, and representatives from the Seattle School District as well as the Alliance for Education were also participating as observers.

What’s next?

If you were not able to attend any of the workshop held to date, consider attending one of the two remaining ones (really, consider attending if you can):

March 15 (general public) – Denny Middle School 7-8:30 p.m.
March 22 (general public) – Garfield Community Center 7-8:30 p.m.

In addition to the neighborhood workshops, a special Mayor’s Youth Summit will take place in the Bertha Knight Landes Room at City Hall Thursday, April 8th from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. See this site for more information.

Neighborhood caucuses will take place March 22 to April 30 to further extend opportunities for people to participate. Watch for additional details.