SPOKANE, Wash. - Mayors from around the state are brainstorming today about how to create more learning opportunities for children in the hours they're not in school by expanding summer and after-school programs.
It isn't an easy goal to reach in light of most cities' budget cuts, says Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, but Spokane has been chosen as one of the "Hundred Best Communities for Young People" four years in a row. Verner says the city depends on a network of partners in the business and nonprofit sectors to keep youths active.
"It's simply too important for us to let go and not keep trying as a community, to form those partnerships and leverage our resources so that we can take care of our kids. And collectively, we all have a responsibility to help raise those kids."
In Spokane, that means everything from "First Tee," a new program to introduce children to golf, to a Youth Commission of teens who serve on city boards and commissions, and a nonprofit group which covers lower-income children's fees to use city swimming pools.
Part of the challenge, Verner says, is getting families to sign children up.
"Even though there may be programs, we have to make sure that every kid can access the programs - whether it's providing them a reduced fee, or providing them transportation, or achieving the support of the adults in their lives, for them to be able to participate."
There are never enough out-of-school programs and activities to meet the needs of the more than 110,000 children in the county, Verner says. Washington has been selected as one of nine states to host summits for city and state agencies next year about expanding and funding after-school programs.
The mayors' after-school workshop is scheduled for 2 p.m. today as part of the Association of Washington Cities conference, being held at the Spokane Convention Center.
The "100 Best" designation is from America's Promise Alliance, online at americaspromise.org.