TACOMA, Wash. — Councilmember Kiara Daniels presented a resolution during Tuesday’s City Council meeting that would set up youth programs in twelve sites across the city over the summer. The programs will include a range of activities and mentorship opportunities.
The resolution was unanimously approved. It sets aside $300,000 to be put into the summer programs.
Daniels grew up in Tacoma and said she remembers attending city-sponsored activities when she was younger, but consistent funding was a problem.
“I remember they used to have so many programs, and I used to do every kind of program, and then we’d have to focus on different issues, and sometimes funding gets short, and you kind of see programs disappear,” she recalled. “For me, this is really about redoubling our efforts to focus back on our young people to make sure they’re not only surviving but thriving.”
The city is partnering with Metro Parks Tacoma and Tacoma Public Schools to host this summer’s programs, which Daniels says will start as soon as school ends.
Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent Josh Garcia says the program builds on what the district's elementary and middle schools already have in place for students.
“Schools can’t do it alone, the city can’t do it alone, partners can’t do it alone,” Garcia said. “We have this approach called the Tacoma Whole Child approach where we recognize that we got to work together. It has a better business model, has better fidelity, and it has better effectiveness.”
Daniels went on to say that these programs are also effective tools to prevent violence.
The city has seen a rise in youth violence, and like in many parts of the country, gun violence is a rising cause of death for teens.
Vanessa Nelson, founder of Young, Black, and Brilliant (YB&B), says the importance of having programs to engage young people can’t be overstated.
Nelson started YB&B during the pandemic as a book club for Black boys. Since then, it’s expanded to become co-ed and hosts events to provide a space for young people to engage with each other in a positive way.
“Of course, they’re reading, but it’s more of a community,” Nelson said. “These kids now are coming and they’re being their authentic selves.”
YB&B’s President Amber Collins says Tacoma’s $300,000 investment is a good start, but the city shouldn’t stop there.
“It’s unfortunate that there has to be an increase in violence amongst the youth for there to be preventative measures put in place, but I will say for the amount that they’re investing in these programs, it’s a good start,” Collins said. “But we will definitely need more funding in the years to come.”
Nelson also hopes that as Tacoma moves forward on putting these programs together, the city can reach out to those with experience organizing these programs together and running them.
“If we had the means and the funding, there are so much more youth we can serve, and there are so many things we can do,” Nelson said.
In the meantime, a survey from Tacoma Public Schools says 10% of students say it would be easy to access a gun.
Daniels says statistics like that are why Tacoma can’t afford to wait any longer to get these programs started.
“This is the one thing I think we can do this summer, the easiest and quickest thing that I think we can do this summer to show our young people that we care about them and want them to have fun places to be,” she said.