With school out and the sun high in the sky, July marked the beginning of our annual Summer Youth Program (SYP). Typically, SYP is a lively 8 weeks of summer programs that include swimming, painting community murals, soccer tournaments, Family CampOuts, and more. It is something that West and South Seattle youth, families, and DNDA staff look forward to every year.
However, 2020 is not like every other year. Traditional means of connecting with community have been forced to change, and so too have our programs. We felt it vital and necessary to keep providing engaging arts and recreational programs for youth during the summer, and to make that happen this year, we had to be creative.
We are four weeks into the 2020 Summer Youth Program – virtual edition – and are so happy to say that as a community, we are figuring out how to connect in new spaces. And even though these spaces aren’t physically shared, you can still feel the playful and creative energy that kids exude. They bring our programs to life.
Since the youth of SYP carry our programs, we wanted to share and celebrate their contributions to our classes so far. Additionally, many of the words and perspectives you will read here are those of our five High Point SYP Youth Interns. We appreciate, respect, and cherish our interns for their commitment to community engagement, and willingness to join us in a journey full of unknowns.
Together as teachers, coordinators, interns, youth, families, and community members, we are creating a Summer Youth Program experience unlike any other that came before.
Spoken Word Night with Rajnii Eddins
Collectively, we are experiencing a worldwide mobilization against police brutality and the violence that has been systemically inflicted on Black lives for generations. Our youth are not removed from this movement – many have experienced these injustices personally while being asked to continue with their lives feeling the pain of the world.
On Juneteenth, we held a virtual art class for adults – WE the PEOPLE – led by artist Rae Akino. Following the success of this event, we wanted to provide a similar space for processing and healing through art for youth. We invited spoken word poet, emcee, and Teaching Artist Rajnii Eddins to host a Spoken Word Night during the kickoff week of the Summer Youth Program. During this night, Rajnii read excerpts from his book Their Names Are Mine, and then invited youth to voice their thoughts and emotions surrounding each poem. Following the event, we sent a copy of Rajnii’s book to the 26 youth participants.
Erika Bell, manager of DNDA’s Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, noted the significance of this event – “This is a historical night, and first-ever DNDA SYP spoken word event…”
When asked what about the poems stood out to her, our youth intern Nubiya reflected that “I learned that there were a lot of names of Black people who have died that I didn’t know. I knew some of the names, like Charleena Lyles, but I also learned about more, and their stories. There was a guy who jumped out of his car because he was scared of the police and ended up dying…we can’t keep telling the police to change, we need to create change.”
Please take a moment to view Rajnii’s readings from his book Their Names are Mine. To learn more about Rajnii and his work, visit https://www.rajniieddins.com/, follow @theirnamesaremine on Instagram, or purchase your own copy of his book, Their Names Are Mine.
More so than other years of SYP, our EcoArts classes have been a massive hit with the kids. Each week, we host virtual EcoArts classes on Mondays and Wednesdays taught by our Teaching Artists Amanda Jorgenson and Molly Duttry. So far, we have made creatures out of outlines of our hands, drawn our ideal world, learned how to paint orcas, sunsets, otters, and owls, and have made self-portraits.
Whenever Amanda or Molly teach these classes, they try to include ecological knowledge and art history in their lessons. “I’ve learned a lot about sea otters” said our intern, Mohamed, after drawing a cute sea otter in the waves. “This is my favorite class to attend. I love how relaxing the class is. I used to love art as a kid, and this class has sparked my passion for art again.”
Though we love having the kids create with us in a Zoom class, we understand that many of the kids feel Zoomed out! This is why we created the Art Challenge, which is a way for kids to create art on their own time. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we send art prompts illustrated by Madison Rose Bristol and Molly Duttry to families via text messages. The kids will then make art based on those prompts, and will send us back a picture of their work. Once they complete 5 art prompts, we send them a large pizza! Below are some highlights from the SYP Art Challenge so far, with one picture selected per prompt!
We are very lucky to have Joanne Factor of Strategic Living teaching the first ever SYP Girl’s Self-Defense class! In this program, the girls have been learning the essentials of how to take care of themselves in any tough situation. This includes:
- Recognizing red flags
- Fixing boundary violations,
- Learning physical skills and
- Prioritizing self-care
Some of our youth interns have been a part of this program from the start, and have expressed what they value most about the class. “I like that the self-defense class incorporates how to spot danger and avoid it, but also teaches you what to do when you are forced to face danger,” stated Urji. “I can even see using these skills when I am interacting with people on a day-to-day basis, and who to watch out for when building friendships.” Capturing the purpose of the class, Italia said that “I have learned how to stand up for myself. I now know how to use my voice when someone makes me feel uncomfortable.”
We are thankful to have Joanne as both a teacher and mentor for the girls, and look forward to hosting more classes in the future that are intentionally designed to empower young women.
We were skeptical that we could make soccer work over Zoom, but we know that the kids absolutely adore this program, and we wanted to give it a try! Assistant Coach Jhana of the Intercity Soccer League has done an incredible job with the kids over the past few weeks. Classes are chaotic, with lots of active kids doing soccer drills and exercises, but Jhana keeps them all engaged with ease.
Shifting soccer to Zoom has caused us all to see the sport from a new perspective. “Soccer looks like you are just kicking a ball around, but there is a lot more that goes into it. It is more complicated than it looks,” said our intern Urji. Another intern, Mohamed, misses certain aspects about in-person soccer, but has still made the most out of the situation – “The motivation to be competitive, which is one of my favorite parts of soccer, is lost when the class is virtual. However, I still really enjoy seeing everyone participating and having fun. Since we’ve focused on doing basic stretches and workouts, I’ve started to incorporate the stretches into my morning workout routine.”
Besides soccer, another way for the kids to get out their energy is through Dance. Every Friday afternoon, Teaching Artist and EcoArts Program Coordinator Madison Rose Bristol has introduced the kids to modern and ballet basics, and has helped them feel creative in their bodies through improvisational exercises. For example, last week Madison had the kids list off different animals that they would want to dance like, and then everyone pretended to be those animals! Together, we embodied the slow and steadfast movement of tortoises, the grace of birds, the ferocity of tigers, and more!
In this very special program, gardener Marcus Jacobs is not only teaching the kids how to start a home garden, he also has grown and given plants to all class participants! All the 22 (and counting!) families who are participating in this program have received a spearmint plant and bean seeds (see below). Marcus shared with us why he chose these plants to help the kids start their own gardens:
“The beans grow very fast, sprouting less than a week after being planted. This encourages people to keep taking care of their plants, because they can see that they are growing! The spearmint plant, on the other hand, is very resilient. This is important because while learning how to garden, there needs to be room for the kids to make mistakes. So even if they forget to water the mint, it will still be able to bounce back. The kids will learn over time how to best take care of their plants.”
Marcus is helping the kids grow as gardeners, while their plants grow, by checking in with them every week on Zoom and giving them pro-gardener tips. He also asks for the kids to observe their plants every day and send us pictures to document their growth. In not too long, if the kids keep at it, they will be able to harvest mint leaves for tea, cooking, and medicines, and cook up some green beans!
Last but not least – who doesn’t love a meal prepared by Chef Mulu? Mulgeta is a local chef and educator, who each year during SYP has offered his time to teach kids how to make simple, home-cooked, multi-cultural meals. However, with the challenges of 2020, Mulu adapted his teaching to YouTube videos! You can watch all of his cooking videos in the playlist below, and find the recipes in the YouTube descriptions:
So far, the kids have been able to make Spicy Chicken Pasta, Chicken with Rice, Beans, and Plantains, and Salmon Pasta. We ask the parents to be present during the cooking process, but the kids usually take the reins and are able to cook an entire meal by themselves!
This cooking program is possible because Mulu and his team prepare an ingredients kit for each and every family. All the ingredients are ready to go – even vegetables are chopped! So far, we have sent out dozens of kits, and will send out more every week!
Most of our programs could not run if it wasn’t for the fact that we have been able to send out supplies to all participating families. This includes as of now 47 cooking kits, 34 art kits – each of which includes books donated by King County Libraries, 30 soccer balls donated by the Rave Foundation/Seattle Sounders, 26 copies of Their Names are Mine by Rajnii Eddins, and 38 plants. These deliveries are made by our SYP coordinators Molly Duttry and Mabel Belai, and our interns! Furthermore, we want to thank our primary grantor – Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), for providing us with the support needed to run SYP in the first place.
We are so grateful to everyone who is making the 2020 Summer Youth Program an outstanding success. It is not easy to run youth programs at this time, but we are making it happen together, as a community. Thank you for creating something beautiful with us, this year and every year.
–Written by Madison Rose Bristol, DNDA’s EcoArts Program Coordinator
Want to get involved? Contact us at email@example.com or 206-397-9668!