Walk in the Shoes: Earn and Learn Summer Program

March and April are busy recruitment months for students enrolled in Highline School District’s Avanza Program. They are thinking about the summer Earn and Learn program, a multi-organization collaboration project to re-engage youth through meaningful, paid employment that also helps students make up high school credit.

Prospective students are flagging down King County Juvenile Court’s Riley Todd in the halls of New Start High School to get inside info about applications and the 15 open spots.

Participants are 14-19 years old, primarily LatinX, economically disadvantaged, at risk of not completing high school and possibly court involved.

“They know what we do. Word gets out. It’s a great program.” Riley Todd, Juvenile Court

Earn and Learn is a six week program, four days per week, six hours per day. Students make $11/hour, spend half the day in class earning high school math credit, and half the day transforming the Shark Garden.

Along the way, they develop better work habits, work out interpersonal issues and solve problems – all with 3:1 student-ratio staff support.

“I learned to have patience working with people and plants. I learned to use tools. It was nice to interact with others.”

Earn and Learn goals are straight forward:

  • High school re-engagement
  • Employment experience and training
  • A positive, safe, healthy summer vacation environment
  • Intensive case management support that leads to post-summer school and employment

Does it work? The data tells the story.

The program has been in operation for 11 years and the last four have been under Riley’s management. But Riley is hardly on his own.

His village includes: King County DCHS/Education and Employment Resources, the Community Programs Unit of King County Juvenile Court, the high school, volunteers, Neighborhood House, and the Highline School District. All have a stake in this successful program to prevent court involvement and interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline through personal and one-on-one engagement.

Students who remain on the Avanza caseload after summer are earning 30% more school credit than they did the previous year.

The key to success

Team members manage behaviors in-house and on-site. They don’t leverage suspension or being sent home as a discipline tool. The team says it is more effective to hold students accountable and help them learn from poor choices when students are present.

The team also notes that supportive, positive, reliable, consistent, and professional relationships are the most valuable tool. They maintain a 5-15 staff/student ratio so everyone gets attention from someone. They also leverage food as engagement tool, and it’s a key component to the program’s success in engaging the community.

90% of the students completed the summer program

Riley says the need for youth support and intervention is real in the White Center/Burien corridor. Each year for the past four years, the program has lost one student per year within a year following the summer program. That is four in 60. One from a car crash and three by firearms.

Riley Todd is a King County Juvenile Court employee co-located in a local school. He says he is approachable and knowledgeable and says he’s grateful he can help youth with real answers and information that can change lives

Juvenile Court has many other community programs.

Published by

King County Superior Court Blog

The largest trial court in Washington State. Home to 53 judges, an Involuntary treatment Court, Juvenile Court, and Family Court. If it happens, it generally happens here first.

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