King County Parks commemorates 25 years of serving White Center youth

Since its start in 1991, King County Parks’ White Center Teen Program (WCTP) has given White Center youth a safe, positive place to get involved in year-round recreation and educational programs and activities.

The ultimate goal is to reduce youth involvement in violent, criminal or gang-related activities and increase young people’s connection to community through civic and volunteer opportunities.

“For a quarter century, the White Center Teen Program has played a positive role in the lives of King County youth, and I want to thank the employees and volunteers who have devoted their time to make this program such an important part of the community,” said Christie True, director of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

To date, the program has reached more than 26,000 participants and currently serves 1,200 young people age 12 to 19 years old annually. Recreation and educational programs range from homework help, to structured and drop-in recreation, to classes that focus on conflict resolution, nutrition, computer skills, and leadership training.

In addition to involving youth in safe and positive activities, the White Center Teen Program has been a force in the community, partnering with more than 50 social service agencies, community groups, schools, and local businesses and connecting participants’ families with resources and support services, such as the food bank, homeless shelters, academic assistance, counseling services, and drug and alcohol resources.

Over the years, WCTP participants have given back to their community, as a central aspect of the program focuses on involving youth in volunteering and service projects.  Some examples have included painting murals at local parks, taking part in the annual White Center Spring Clean event, and volunteering at community events, like the annual Halloween Carnival.

The program has also served as a job training opportunity, with more than 100 former youth participants having moved on to work full-time or part-time with the program as recreation leaders, coaches, and instructors. Thirteen of the 18 current employees participated in the program as youth.

Some facts about the WCTP include:

  • High school graduation rates among participants have increased by 19 percent and some 200 youth participants have earned their GEDs.
  • Some 85 percent of current participants are youth of color, and more than 18 languages are spoken in addition to English.
  • WCTP participants have –
    • Painted 38 murals and carried out 300 community service projects;
    • Learned to cook 48,000 pieces of toast in the “How NOT to burn toast” class;
    • Scored 30,720 goals (and counting!) since the Aztecs team was formed in 2007;
    • Written more than 1,200 poems;
    • Grown 962 tomatoes in the demonstration garden;
    • Played more than 24,000 hours of basketball;
    • Spent 16,000 hours in the computer lab; and
    • Explored the outdoors by taking more than 300 field trips.

The program hosted a 25th anniversary party in September for current and former youth participants and their families with a day of family fun at the “Log Cabin” – the nickname for the historic White Center Community Center.

On Dec. 12, the King County Council formally recognized the Aztecs soccer team and the White Center Police Activities League Boxing Club for their successes and contribution to the community (read our previous coverage – with video – here).

About King County Parks
King County Parks – Your Big Backyard – offers more than 200 parks and 28,000 acres of open space, including such regional treasures as Marymoor Park and Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, 175 miles of regional trails, 215 miles of backcountry trails and a world-class aquatic center. By cultivating strong relationships with non-profit, corporate and community partners, King County Parks enhances park amenities while reducing costs.

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