By Vu Le
Special to Northwest Asian Weekly
With the rise of youth violence in Seattle, the increasing fear and struggle with the economy, and challenges with school closures, after-school programs play a critical role in keeping kids learning, safe, and engaged. Now more than ever, we need to work together to preserve after-school programs and identify opportunities to model collaboration for our kids.
At the Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA), one of our core services is our after-school program, which provides consistency and a safe “home away from home” for our kids. Our program has been enriched and strengthened over the years through involvement in collaborative projects such as the Pathway to Excellence (PTE) project led by School’s Out Washington.
Through PTE, we have received on-site coaching from trained professionals in implementing best practices to support students who are English Language Learners in our after-school program. While the coaching has been invaluable for our staff, what have been even more meaningful are the relationships we’ve developed with other after-school programs participating in this project.
One of the most exciting partnerships formed last year was with Van Asselt’s Community Learning Center program run by Tiny Tots Development Center. “Navigating Vietnam” runs once a month at Van Asselt’s after-school program.
About 90 percent of the kids who attend the program are bilingual and from immigrant or refugee family backgrounds. Through this program, we provide educational, cultural, and social opportunities for kids every week, focusing on different aspects of Vietnamese history and culture.
Kids enrolled in “Navigating Vietnam” come from Somali, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, and a mix of other ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Through this program, we help our students learn about their differences and discover commonalities.
We also encourage kids to see that celebrating and learning about a culture different from their own makes us more appreciative of diversity and more prepared for their role in the 21st century.
The mayor’s initiative to curb youth violence is an important step for helping our youth succeed. However, innovative programs that provide safe learning environments encourage cultural awareness, understanding, and foster positive interactions among kids. Effective after-school programs are critical to preventing youth violence and increasing the chances our kids have for successful futures. (end)
Vu Le is the executive director of the Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA). For more information about the VFA, visit www.seattlehousing.org/CommunitySites/newhollycommunity/DirectoryofServices/Vietnamese.
Vu Le can be reached at email@example.com.