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King County Executive
Dow Constantine

Helping more young people throughout King County reach adulthood healthy, empowered, and ready to thrive


The latest Best Starts for Kids initiative will provide funding to 32 partner organizations to provide leadership opportunities, mentoring, and other services that will help young people throughout King County achieve their full potential.


King County Executive Dow Constantine today launched the newest Best Starts for Kids initiative, one that will provide young people with the opportunities and tools they need to weather challenges during adolescence and be ready to flourish as adults.

Young people at the City of Shoreline Youth and Teen Development Program

Photo credit: City of Shoreline

Young people at the City of Shoreline Youth and Teen Development Program will lead work to improve programming to meet the needs of immigrant and refugee youth. Above, former program participants return to volunteer.

The Youth Development Initiative – a partnership between King County and 32 nonprofit organizations – will provide leadership opportunities, mentoring, and other services that help young people create the safe, healthy relationships they need to achieve their full potential.

“More young people throughout King County will reach adulthood healthy, connected, empowered, and ready to thrive as a result of the partnerships we are creating with Best Starts for Kids,” said Executive Constantine. “The initiative we are launching today will create leadership opportunities for the generation that will shape the future of our region.”

The partner organizations successfully competed for $12.2 million in Best Starts for Kids funding to provide programs that have been shown to support healthy development. They include mentoring programs, leadership and engagement opportunities, programs that allow young people from many backgrounds to explore their identities and connect to their communities, and programs to develop skills in building healthy and safe relationships.

King County received 171 applications for the initiative, demonstrating the need for dedicated public funding to support healthy youth development. This is one of several initiatives funded by the voter-approved Best Starts for Kids levy to support youth and young adults, including upcoming funding for after-school and summer learning opportunities, and programs to create a pipeline to success for young people impacted by the juvenile justice system.

Meeting needs across King County

The initiative will fund a wide range of activities to reach young people across King County’s urban, suburban, and rural communities. The goal is to create opportunities for young people from many backgrounds and communities to engage their strengths, unique identities, and life experiences in designing and accessing programs that meet their needs.

Here are a few examples of what the Youth Development Initiative will achieve:

  • Trail Youth will partner with young people experiencing homelessness in the Snoqualmie Valley to build a youth coffeehouse. The coffeehouse will create a safe place for young people to connect with opportunities and services. Trail Youth will use the space for a mentoring program to build connections between young people and their communities, and empower them to lead successful lives.
  • With youth leadership and guidance, API Chaya will create new social justice leadership and community-building opportunities for Pacific Islander, Asian, and South Asian immigrant youth. Youth will have the opportunity to work with community-based mentors to develop their ideas, facilitate peer education workshops, and plan community-building events by and for youth.
  • The funding will support Urban Native Education Alliance in their ongoing efforts to develop young leaders on their Clear Sky Native Youth Council. The program will pair adult mentors with Native youth to develop academic and leadership skills, with the goal of improving education outcomes.

Funding ranges between $123,060 and $543,355 to support programming for up to three years. King County will work closely with partners to set goals and closely measure the performance of each program.

Promoting healthy, resilient children, youth, families, and communities

Voters in 2015 approved a six-year levy proposed by Executive Constantine to fund Best Starts for Kids, an initiative to put every baby born and every child raised in King County on a path toward lifelong success.

It invests in promotion, prevention, and early intervention strategies that promote healthy, resilient children, youth, families, and communities. It is considered the most comprehensive approach to early childhood development in the United States, starting with prenatal support, sustaining the gain through teenage years, and investing in safe, healthy communities that reinforce progress.

Youth Development initiative partners

  • 1 = Mentoring
  • 2 = Youth leadership and engagement
  • 3 = Healthy and safe relationships
  • 4 = Positive identity development
Read more Organization Population Served Award Amount Outcomes Locations Project Description
API Chaya Pacific Islander, Asian, South Asian immigrant youth $500,000 1 2 3 4 East King County, Seattle, South King County API Chaya improves the quality of life and educational achievement for low-income, Pacific Islander, Asian, and South Asian immigrant youth by supporting them to gain leadership skills, discover their role in the movement for social justice andbuild healthy equitable communities. With youth leadership and guidance, API Chaya will design several API Freedom School pilot projects. Youth will have the opportunity towork with community-based mentors to develop their ideas, facilitate peer education workshops and plan community-building events by and for youth.
Arts Corps Low-income youth of color $520,000 2 Seattle, South King County Arts Corps’ Teen Artist Program will serve about 500 youth by integrating the arts with culturally responsive youth development practices that cultivate strong creative habits, artistic skills, and a leadership identity among program participants.
Atlantic Street Center African American and other youth of color $500,000 1 2 3 4 Seattle Atlantic Street Center will provide a comprehensive youth leadership primarily for at-risk African-Americans and other youth of color. The nonprofit will reach out to low-income youth -- ages 10 to 19 -- who live in South Seattle and surrounding neighborhoods. This program will provide opportunities for youth to develop and engage in leadership activities through an ongoing youth mentoring program, social-emotional and academic support, family engagement, mental health/case management support services, and related enrichment activities.
City of Shoreline and Center for Human Services Immigrant and refugee focus $543,355 1 2 North King County This program will be a partnership between the city of Shoreline’s Youth and Teen Development Program and Center for Human Services. It will provide much-needed resources and opportunities at Shoreline's Teen Center and the Ballinger Homes King County Housing Authority complex with a focus on youth-led outreach efforts via employment opportunities.
Coalition for Refugees for Burma Youth at Kent Meridian High School $470,403 1 South King County To expand and improve the Coalition's Kent Meridian High School After-School Academic Program, the nonrprofit will add the Experiential Learning Academy, an out-of-school time enrichment program. The goal is to close the opportunity gap for newcomer refugee youth by building their soft skills and leadership skills. The Academy will combine peer-to-peer mentoring, targeted academic enrichment opportunities, and leadership development in a supportive out-of-school time and space for newly arrived refugee and immigrant youth. The long-term goals of the program is to improve the healthy development and wellbeing of newcomer K9-12 refugee youth attending Kent Meridian High School, through the a) Increase of youth participation in and connection to community-wide resources, b) Improvement of cognitive and social-emotional growth through experiential learning, and c) Reduction of risk factors -- such as chronic absenteeism and school suspensions and explusions -- by connecting youth to a network of peer support.
Friends of the Children Low-income youth facing challenges $296,400 1 Seattle, South King County Friends of the Children -- Seattle will identify youth facing the toughest challenges and connect them with our professional mentors who will guide them to develop their greatest potential and achieve their goals. We support youth who have been assessed to have the least chance of success in school, and provide them professional mentoring – an average of 14 intentional hours every month for each child, year-round for 12½ years – from kindergarten through graduation.
Gage Academy of Art Homeless and LGBTQIA youth $180,000 1 2 3 4 All King County Teen Art Studios is a free, year-round arts access program that serves King County youth, ages 13 to 18, with emphasized outreach to homeless, at-risk, LGBTQIA, and underserved youth who have limited or no access to art education or instruction. The program is centered on weekly Friday evening drop-in sessions hosted 49 weeks a year at two locations: Gage Academy of Art's Capitol Hill campus in Seattle and Bellevue Arts Museum.
Gender Diversity Young transgendered children and their families $350,275 1 2 3 4 East King County, North King County, Seattle, South King County Gender Diversity offers a deeply impactful resource to transgender and gender diverse children and their families yet our capacity to meet the significant increase in requests has been stretched in the past two years. The nonprofit organization wants to better meet the needs of those who reach out to us as well as increase our outreach to youth, especially marginalized or unsupported youth, who are unable to find us or who simply don’t know we exist. By increasing its reach, expanding its group and activity offerings, and building in a robust assessment process, Gender Diversity will greatly expand and enhance its existing youth program.
Glover Empower Mentoring Youth and young adults of color $199,980 1 2 3 4 Seattle, South King County The Glover Empower Mentoring Leadership Academy will focus on youth/young adults throughout South King County with the purpose and intent of developing youth/young adult leaders through innovative training modules. Training modules that will inspire youth and young adult leaders to implement similar trainings within their home, communities and educational institutions. Glover Empower Mentoring will facilitate a cross-age mentoring model that helps youth and young adults who are within the adolescence stage of life, build self-confidence socially, emotionally, and academically.
Greater Maple Valley Community Rural youth $210,792 1 2 3 East King County Youth living in rural and suburban community’s youth face the same challenges as their peers in more urbanized areas but have fewer resources available to them due to a lack of local service providers coupled with a lack of public transportation. This project will fill some of that gap and provide youth development opportunities for youth residing in rural and suburban communities through a comprehensive and holistic approach to program delivery. The project will focus on youth who live in Maple Valley and the unincorporated communities surrounding the city.
Institute for Community Leadership Youth in South King County $299,445 2 South King County GET LEADERSHIP!, a youth leadership and engagement initiative, is a community based, out of school peer-coaching leadership program that strengthens inter-generational, interracial social relationships to increase civic engagement, success in school, and resiliency. Sixty young people participate in an intensive leadership cohort which meets on Saturdays and during all school breaks at the Institute for Community Leadership campus. These youth are engaged at all levels of program planning and implementation, including on the board, in decision making bodies, and as a cohort of dynamic leadership class peer-facilitators.
Lambert House Rural LGBTQ youth $303,591 2 East King County, South King County The program will develop and offer LGBTQ Youth Social Support Groups non-clinical)to youth who live in small cities -- a population of 30,000 or less -- and rural areas of the County. The groups will address topics identified by the youth in attendance. Likely discussion topics will include: Coming Out Safely to parents or guardians, siblings, and peers; depression and suicide prevention; social isolation and how to end it; HIV and STD prevention; finding friends when you’re part of an invisible minority, and others.
Latino Community Fund of WA Latinx youth $504,457 2 3 4 North King County, South King County Latino Community Fund will engage Latinx youth in King County through leadership and civic engagement trainings. In addition, we will support youth through steering committee stipends, and three youth leaders each year in the Alianza Fellowship.
LifeWire Students at Bellevue High School and Bellevue College $470,000 2 4 East King County This project focuses on preventing dating violence and improving students’ relationship skills – critical issues to address with youth and young adults. Working in Bellevue High Schools and Bellevue College, the program will help young adults improve their immediate and long-term quality of life through: a) effective bystander intervention skills training and b) support of positive campus norms related to dating and sexual violence issues. LifeWire will recruit student leaders from racial and other minority groups to ensure our approach, materials, training, outreach and message is culturally appropriate.
New Horizons Youth experiencing homelessness $215,000 1 2 3 4 Seattle New Horizons partners with Seattle’s homeless youth on their journey toward sustainability. The Day Programs model at New Horizons implements youth-identified programs using positive youth development principles to provide youth who are experiencing homelessness with skills, resources, and connections.
Para Los Ninos de Highline Latinx youth $258,000 2 4 South King County To support the positive racial, cultural, ethnic and language identity and leadership of Latino and Latina youth by providing a bi-lingual, culturally relevant academic success program during the school year; a cultural and language heritage program during the summer; and a civic engagement leadership academy. To develop the leadership and voice of Latino and Latina youth in culturally appropriate ways; to incorporate the entire immigrant family in the youth development process; to provide opportunities for Latino young people and their immigrant parents to learn and grow together.
Rainier Beach Action Coalition Youth in Rainier Beach $450,000 1 2 Seattle The Beach Fives project is a youth empowerment and leadership initiative, where you learn-by-doing and you lead by example. It’s a citizen-led community service for young adults to leverage the neighborhood they come from.
Skyway Solutions Youth in Skyway $450,000 1 2 3 4 Seattle, South King County In response to a number of inequitable life outcomes andhigh threat of unemployment in Skyway, this grant would fund a portion of the Next Generation Leadership Program to engage up to 75 African, Asian, Hispanic/Latino diasporas emerging leaders -- ages 18 to 24 -- to connect them with employment and leadership opportunities.
Society of St. Vincent de Paul Latinx youth $450,000 2 4 South King County The Re-Route project employs a culturally-tailored and family-centered approach to address the personal, educational and community issues impacting Latino youth in Kent. The project will work with three cohorts of 12 to 15 youth each year to build protective factors and promote positive relationships and increased school commitment through four core strategies: outreach and engagement; case management; positive identity development; and leadership and community engagement.
Stempaths Innovation Network Girls of color $500,000 2 East King County, North King County, Seattle, South King County SPIN Girls will be a transformative program that will build youth leadership and provide immersive STEM experiences, all paired with mentorship for girls of color by professionals of color from across King County. Starting in Fall 2017, we will induct 30 8th-grade girls as STEM Learners. In their second year, they will become STEM Mentors, where they will bring STEM back to their schools and help recruit, plan and mentor the next cohort of STEM Learners. In their third year, as STEM Leaders, the girls will help lead the program alongside their adult mentors. We will leverage our existing deep network of community and school partners to build up and diversify our collective efforts.
The Arc of King County Youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities $450,000 4 East King County, North King County, Seattle, South King County The Arc of King County will update The Arc of Spokane’s Heathy Relationship curriculum for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), and offer this program for the first time in King County. The curriculum provides customized learning opportunities on topics related to sex and sexuality; trust, respect, and choice; recognizing healthy and unhealthy relationships; and self-advocacy skills. This program will empower youth with I/DD to protect themselves from the disproportionate amount of sexual violence experienced by people with disabilities, as well as promote the opportunity for meaningful and healthy relationships, resulting in more opportunities for social connectedness, employment, and a higher quality of life.
The Dove Project Rural youth $351,065 2 3 4 Vashon Island The Dove Project will strengthen its existing Teen Council, an evidence-informed Peer Education program developed by Planned Parenthood, in which teenanger are developed as leaders and educators who are well-trained in healthy relationships, including sexual health. Teen Council act as Peer Sex Educators within Vashon High School and teach health classes to 100 percent of the McMurray Middle School students.
The Mockingbird Society Youth in the foster care system $450,000 1 2 3 4 Seattle, South King County When youth and young adults are civically engaged in community organizations and government, good things happen: youth develop leadership, communications, and life skills; the organizations benefit from the personal experiences of the youth; and youth-inspired ideas and passion can spur transformative social change. The Mockingbird Society has pioneered a model of elevating youth voice to achieve change in the very systems that directly affect youth. We now propose to expand that model in King County so that more youth and young adults can bring their unique perspectives and powerful voices to achieve positive change within organizations and systems.
The NW Network LGBTQ youth $300,000 1 2 3 4 Seattle, South King County The Outspoken Speaker’s Bureau is a youth leadership and engagement project that builds positive identities and increases social connection and efficacy by training queer, trans and allied young people ages 14 to 24 to be community educators. As panelists, LGBTQ young people are paid to educate the community about emerging LGBTQ youth issues and share their experiences regarding families, friends, schools, communities, religion/spirituality, art and culture, overcoming alcohol and drugs, coming out, violence etc.
Trail Youth Rural homeless youth $400,000 1 East King County Many of the Valley’s youth feel stigmatized due to their life’s circumstances. The Trail Youth will create a safe place by developing a youth coffeehouse in which mentoring can take place. The mentoring program will create relational connections within the community and train our youth to accept who they are, take control of their education and future, and empower them to lead successful lives.
Urban Native Education Alliance Native youth $240,015 2 4 East King County, North King County, Seattle, South King County This program will support ongoing efforts to have mentors help develop Native Youth leadership through the Clear Sky Native Youth Council. The primary activities will support youth by working with adult mentors to develop and implement action plans for improving their academic skills and leadership skills. The outcome will be an implementation plan for improving native student education outcomes.
Treehouse Youth in foster care $296,400 1 2 4 East King County, North King County, Seattle, South King County Treehouse’s mission is to give foster kids a childhood and a future. The nonprofit achieves these goals through education and enrichment programs that help youth succeed in school, connect them to important childhood experiences and fulfill key material needs. The Treehouse Graduation Success program provides comprehensive support for the educational needs of youth in foster care in grades 6 to 12, including education planning, monitoring, coaching, and service coordination, in order to keep youth on the path toward completing high school and a successful launch into adulthood.
Vietnamese Friendship Association Immigrant and refugee youth $525,000 2 Seattle, South King County Project: R.I.S.E. actively works to mitigate systemic inequities for refugee and immigrant youth. Its recent partnership work has focused on high school graduation, college success, educationand employment, and quality of life; four of the major Best Starts for Kids headline indicators. We support overarching Best Starts for Kids goals of “equitable opportunities to be safe and healthy” and “building academic and life skills to be thriving members of their communities.”
World Mind Creation Academy (WMCA) Refugee and immigrant youth, especially girls $500,000 1 2 Seattle YCB is a mentoring and youth-driven leadership program focused on the positive identity and social/emotional development of low-income refugee and immigrant youth, especially girls.The program trains and employs first- and second-generation refugees and immigrants as facilitating mentors and outreach specialist who serve as cultural liaisons with the goal of increasing the network of support available to target youth and their limited English speaking families.
YMCA of Greater Seattle Youth of African descent $500,000 1 2 4 South King County Y Scholars is a program that will be embedded at Tyee High School to ensure that students of African descent have the support and confidence they need to enroll and succeed in advanced-level high school classes and, and graduate from high school on time and ready for college, career, and the lives they choose.
Youth Eastside Services LGBTQ youth $123,060 3 4 East King County Youth Eastside Services' BGLAD program is a free drop-in support group for East King County Youth ages 13 to 19 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer or who may be questioning their gender and/or sexual identity. BGLAD supports LGBTQ+ young people's efforts to shape a positive identity, connect with and belong to a community, develop healthy relationships, and effectively address mental health issues.
Young Women Empowered All girls $466,000 1 2 3 4 East King County, North King County, Seattle, South King County The Young Women Empowered Lead program provide learning, leadership and community engagement activities for 75-plus girls, 30 mentors, and an additional 400-plus girls and women in community events. The program helps diverse young women become leaders and achieve life goals within a supportive, multicultural community of girls and women. Focus areas will include leadership training, culture and creative arts, health and resilience, self-care and safety, communication and conflict resolution, social justice advocacy, service and community-building, academic support, career education and college preparation.

Relevant links


More young people throughout King County will reach adulthood healthy, connected, empowered, and ready to thrive as a result of the partnerships we are creating with Best Starts for Kids. The initiative we are launching today will create leadership opportunities for the generation that will shape the future of our region.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

This is an amazing group of organizations and programs. It is excellent to see King County investing at this level in small, community-based organizations alongside larger organizations with longer track records. I am so excited to see the difference this initiative will make for young people in our region.

Jessica Werner, Executive Director, Youth Development Executives of King County

As a young person, I want to be in programs that see me as a change agent and not as a client. The funded programs are helping young people build skills to advocate for themselves and their communities. These programs recognize the strength and potential in the young people they serve and will help them become effective leaders who will shape our future.

Hikma Sherka, King County Youth Advisory Council
For more information, contact:

Chad Lewis, Executive Office, 206-263-1250

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography