To Make a Difference, Youth Initiative Starts With Immediate Neighborhood
Mentors, tutors and role models for neighborhood youth are among the elements of the Youth Initiative's long-term community commitment.
Start small, build a shared vision with the community and plan measurable objectives.
It sounds simple enough, yet the success of the Seattle University Youth Initiative (SUYI) involves
complex underlying issues. The university shares the community concern that too many children are falling behind in standardized test scores, not going to college or becoming victims of violence.
The guiding concept behind the initiative involves engaging, listening and working with youth and their families. It also means strengthening university-community partnerships in the neighborhood.
Now in its development phase, SUYI draws on university capabilities in service-learning, community-based research, clinical and internship experiences, community service, campus facilities and staff and faculty expertise. Kent Koth, special assistant to the provost and the driving force for this phase of SUYI, says the initiative could have sizable impact on the university's identity and eventually become a national model.
First, says Koth, who also directs SU's Center for Service and Community Engagement, it's crucial to define the boundaries of the Bailey Gatzert neighborhood, the initial focus of the initiative. Eventually, more areas could become part of the initiative, Koth notes, but only once it's clear no Bailey Gatzert youths have been overlooked.
"We want it to be a small enough neighborhood where we can make a difference," he says. "It's where we have our most significant community partnerships and resources and where we can have the greatest measurable impact."
Leading up to implementation, numerous outreach forums have engaged SU students, faculty, administrators and staff with city and school officials, parents, and civic and community organizations to collect feedback and strategize. A campus-community conference in May seeks greater youth involvement and SU students are key to that planning.
Koth anticipates refined objectives for the initiative by summer and a plan ready by fall. To learn more or watch the progress of SUYI, visit http://www.seattleu.edu/SUYI/.