The mission of the City of Kirkland Youth Services is to build a community in which families, neighbors, schools, and organizations all work together to enable young people to become competent, contributing, and responsible members of the community with a feeling of hope for the future.
CITY ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITY
The philosophy of the Youth Services section has been to broker existing services whenever possible, encourage and facilitate the creation of new community-based services, and only when no alternative source is deemed effective, to offer direct City funding or service.
The role of City government Youth Services in the past has primarily been that of catalyst, facilitator, and advocate for community-based services for teens. In addition, we have provided direct funding for: Teen Activity Grants, the Kirkland Youth Council, and for the lease/construction/administration of the Kirkland Teen Center (PDF). The City has also provided direct service/staffing to teens through the Kirkland Police School Resource Officers. Additionally, Youth Services staff have written or helped to write hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of grant funding that benefits Kirkland teens and their families.
In January of 1994, the City of Kirkland and the Lake Washington School District convened a Youth Taskforce modeled after a similar community process in nearby Bellevue. Taskforce members included youth from Kirkland’s junior and senior high schools, business owners, school district officials, police, faith community, non-profit agencies, elected officials, and parents. A steering committee of youth and adults divided this diverse and passionate group into five subcommittees; 1) Youth Involvement, 2) Recreation, 3) Public Safety, 4) Human Services, and 5) Education & Employment. All of these subcommittees had equal representation of youth and adults as well as youth and adult co-chairs. In May of that same year, the Taskforce sponsored Kirkland’s first Youth Summit.
Armed with the input from 350 youth attendees of the Summit, the Taskforce went back to their subcommittees and drafted final recommendations on how to best serve the youth of Kirkland. First and foremost, the group recommended the creation of a formal youth council and a City-based staff person to advise the group.
In April 1995, the City of Kirkland created and filled the new position of Youth Services Coordinator. In the fall of that year, the 20-member Kirkland Youth Council met for the first time. One of their first projects was the teen designed skate court in Peter Kirk Park. The overwhelming reaction of the youth was that of surprise. The City officials had not only asked then what they wanted and listened to concerns; they had also followed through and made a serious commitment to them.
Since 1994, the Youth Council has hosted a Youth Summit every two years. These forums have provided the opportunity for KYC members to hear from their peers as well as the sharing of important information and resources for Kirkland teens. Over the last 20+ years, the Youth Council has taken on several projects that were derived from recommendations originating from Youth Summit participants. This includes:
• Four editions of the Respect Booklet – handbook on police/youth relations
• Quarterly meetings with Lake Washington School District Superintendent
• Quarterly meetings with City Manager
• Kirkland Teen Union Building (Teen Center)
• Bluefish Music and Arts Festival
• We’ve Got Issues Videos –teen parties, teen suicide, high school survival, etc.
Summits have given participants the opportunity to openly discuss a wide variety of topics that are relevant to teens. Along with these conversations, summit attendees were given information and resources available to them in the community. Topics covered have included:
• Career Planning
• College Planning
• Digital Footprint
• Drugs and Alcohol
• High School Survival
• Money Management
• Police-Youth Relations
• Suicide and Depression
The City of Kirkland is recognized as a regional leader in the areas of Youth Services. Solid partnership relationships have been established with the Kirkland Police and the Lake Washington School District and with every youth-serving social, recreational, and health service agency on the Eastside. Youth in Kirkland have seen repeated demonstration from local government that their voice is heard and valued. In the of spring 2001, youth began being appointed to several of the City Boards and Commissions, serving as full voting members. Positive youth issues have risen to the forefront of community awareness and media coverage. Youth and their families have unprecedented access to information and services.