City of Kalamazoo to Expand Summer Youth Programming in 2017

On April 3, the Kalamazoo City Commission unanimously approved $883,000 to fund the expansion of three youth development programs offered by the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation. The programs that will benefit are Supervised Playground, All Things Possible, and Summer Youth Employment programs.

The Supervised Playground Program and All Things Possible were offered as pilot programs in 2016, and the Summer Youth Employment program has been offered since 2005 in partnership with Youth Opportunities Unlimited. These programs support the goal of the City Commission and the Foundation for Excellence to promote youth development and shared prosperity by keeping youth engaged in the summer months through  learning, career exploration, work experience and employment. All three have proven successful and meet demonstrated needs in our community.

“We’re really excited to be able to expand these programs to more of Kalamazoo’s youth this year,” said Sean Fletcher, Director of Parks & Recreation for the City.  “We never want to have to turn kids away from opportunities to learn, explore their interests, or even just play in a safe environment. These types of programs cultivate skills and provide experience that helps create a path toward future success. “

About Supervised Playground

In 2016, the Supervised Playground program was offered at LaCrone Park. Approximately 40 youth ages 5 – 12 participated in activities each day at the park under the supervision of Parks & Recreation staff. The site was also a Michigan Department of Education “Meet Up and Eat Up” site, so participants were provided with breakfast and lunch. Beginning in 2017, the program will be expanded to four sites, each staffed by a site supervisor and program staff, creating 24 seasonal jobs. The program will return to LaCrone Park this year with the other three sites still being finalized. The program will begin on June 19. Advance registration is not necessary.

About All Things Possible

The All Things Possible program was designed to address the concern that as students progress from elementary to middle school and beyond, they become less engaged in school, resulting in increased absences, higher truancy and lower academic performance. The program takes an intergenerational approach, working with youth and their parents to identify their passions and interests, rediscover the joy of learning and plan for their futures together. The program emphasizes active learning and experiential-based activities such as field lessons, hands on math, science and literacy activities, a health, cooking, and nutrition class, empowerment groups, daily reflection, and physical fitness & outdoor learning.

The 2016 pilot was offered at Interfaith Homes and reached 52 youth and 15 parents. Program evaluation indicated that youth significantly increased social emotional learning skills, health and wellness knowledge and career/financial literacy. In 2017, Kalamazoo Parks & Recreation intend to expand the program to two sites and implement changes based on feedback from the pilot.

The All Things Possible program was created in partnership with the Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo Initiative and various community partners including the Kalamazoo Youth Development Network (KYD Network), Western Michigan University’s Lewis Walker Institute, the Kalamazoo Nature Center, PeaceJam, Van Buren Intermediate School District’s Vocational Education Center, and the City of Kalamazoo.

About Summer Youth Employment Program/MyCITY

Kalamazoo Parks & Recreation has been partnering with Youth Opportunities Unlimited since 2005 to offer the Summer Youth Employment program. The six-week program has historically provided summer employment and career exploration to 110 youth, often with applicants turned away due to funding constraints. With additional funding from the Foundation For Excellence this program will expand to serve approximately 350. The program will continue to connect youth with community job sites that provide on-the-job training, create neighborhood crews that focus on beautification projects in the City, and host work readiness workshops to improve skills such as resume development, conflict resolution, customer service, and safety training. Participants will also continue to be offered first hand talent tours with southwest Michigan employers in various industries, training institution tours to connect career pathways to training programs, and entrepreneurship speaker panels to hear stories of building and maintaining businesses.

New in 2017 will be an age-based tiered placement system to focus on certain skills. Younger participants will focus more on general soft skills with more specific training as they get older. Youth that are about to enter the workforce will focus on more specific training opportunities. The program will also have an increased focus on financial literacy and entrepreneurship in 2017, and an intergenerational career fair will be hosted as part of the program.

With these and additional elements beyond employment, the name of the program will be changed to better reflect its focus. Beginning in 2017, the name of the Summer Youth Employment Program will change to MyCITY (Career Introduction and Training for Youth). Both names will be used while the community is acclimated to the change.

Registration for the MyCITY/Summer Youth Employment program will be open from April 16 -23. Interested youth can apply at http://www.kresa.org/you.