Burien City Council considers establishing a youth ‘service club’ 1by Jack Mayne During the past few weeks, Burien City Councilmembers have expressed interest in developing a Youth Council to ensure “the youth in our community have a mechanism to be heard and express their interests.” With that in mind, the Council on Monday night (March 7) heard city staff give an overview of what middle and high school aged programming the city currently provides. Resident and onetime president of a former Burien Youth Council, resident Charles Schaefer said Burien should do more than just have an advisory board because that would mean “you don’t get the youth that are interested in community service.” The youth program now Burien does run some youth programs from the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department, and resident Jane Reamer lauded its teen program. “It has meant a lot to my family,” and both of her teenage children have participated in the summer day camp program since they were 6 years old. “I really appreciate them having someplace where they are being social and going interesting places and being active,” she said, but more than that the counselors “are actively and enthusiastically engaged” in developing the teens’ self-esteem and independence and responsibility. Patricia Mejia, the teen program assistant, said the afterschool program is based at Sylvester Middle School and “we try to provide resources and programs these students might not have otherwise.” ‘Every single student’ Mejia said they actually surveyed “every single student at Sylvester Middle School” and got 630 surveys back out of 700 distributed. The city “found they wanted access to sports, arts and crafts, physical fitness, life skills, cooking classes…so I pretty much designed our entire afterschool program just off of those results.” Recreation Manager Debbie Zemke said they contacted three other cities in the area that had youth councils that were in the “service club model” where the group is youth driven and youth led and the focus is community service projects. She said other cities said the youth programs need to have youth “drive the train,” and staff is only there to support efforts. The youth interested in such efforts are the ones most busy with other activities and so the programs need to be something “that is worth their time and gives them a new hands-on experience where they can learn and grow,” said Zemke. Service club model The staff recommendations, she said, would be to pursue the service club model similar to those in Renton, Auburn and Tukwila where participants would be recruited through Burien schools and existing youth programs. Also the city would continue to seek input from youth through our existing program participants and identify additional staff and resource needs for program expansions.” Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz, in a telephone connection, asked why the staff came to the decision on the service club model. Because it would be a “natural extension of our teen recreation program,” said Zemke, and can be administered by the Parks and Recreation Department and had the potential to “create positive outcomes for both the community and kids.” Councilmember Debi Wagner said Charles Schaefer had “said it was a service club, it was an advisory council, it was connected with the City Council, it was all of those things.” “I appreciated the council discussion regarding the potential return of the youth council,” Schaefer said in an email solicited by The B-Town Blog. “It seemed like all the (Burien City) Councilmembers supported some form of such a program. While the ‘service club’ model got the most support, there were also a couple of councilmembers who strongly favored the ‘junior city council’ model. “I would hope that even as a service club, the city councilmembers would take the opportunity to interact with the members of the youth council, who hold the potential to be the future leaders of our community,” Schaefer said. “I would like to see our elected officials have a joint meeting with the youth council as they have done with their other advisory boards, as well as having individual councilmembers attend youth council meetings as Jack Block Jr. did while he served on the City Council.” Schaefer also liked the “Town Hall Forum” the previous youth council hosted. “This was a great way to get input from a larger selection of youth than just those serving on the Council, and was well attended by city staff, elected officials and our Burien Police Department, all of whom were interested in hearing from the youth in our community.” City Recreation Manager Zemke told the Council that any program would fail if it were to be imposed on youth, rather than “coming from the kids.” Seeking grant for a park The Council agreed to put a request for county administered federal funds on the next Consent Agenda, which means that it most likely will approved in two weeks. The application will be for improvements at Lakeview Park Playground. City Finance Director Kim Krause said the top potential project for a federal Housing and Urban Affairs Community Development Block Grant would be for improvements estimated to cost $220,000 for Lakeview Park Playground and “Tot Lot.” The work would be pathway improvements needed to complement the recent opened Off-Leash Dog Park. This project includes design and construction to remove an existing old pea gravel surfaced play area and replace with play equipment suitable for ages 2 to 5, as well as renovation of an adjacent park pathway. The Council did not consider two other projects that included improvements costing $200,000 for Lake Burien School park playground and design costs of $65,000 for improvements to the South 132nd trail between 10th and 12th Avenues near Cedarhurst Elementary School. Also, the Council approved a city staff approved update to the “keeping of animals” section of the zoning code regarding fences and setbacks. Child therapy The Council heard a presentation on the Children’s Therapy Center by the group’s Chief Development Officer Gary Pollock who said the Burien Center has been operating since 2012 and served over 700 families last year, and that many people do not know of the center and its work. Assistance from cities like Burien “enable us to do what we do … and we are honored to be one of those,” he said, “and Burien is the fastest growing service area for us and it is challenging for us because of incredible diversity,” adding that the Center utilizes services of 70 language interpreters.]]>