Enrichment Outside of the Classroom0
For today’s youth, the time spent out of school is just as important as the time spent in school. In fact, a local Promise Partner has made it their mission to provide the youth of Kalamazoo County with enriching experiences outside of the classroom.
Established in 2000, Kalamazoo Youth Development Network (KYD Network) serves as the umbrella organization for 60 youth-serving organizations in Kalamazoo County that serve 5,000 youth. As Executive Director Dr. Meg Blinkiewicz describes it, the organization’s goal is to prepare students for life after high school.
“KYD Network’s vision is to ensure that students are college, career, and community ready by the age of 21,” Blinkiewicz explained. “We view all of our work as an equity strategy. We know that the higher the quality in programming, the better the outcomes for our young people. Our work is all about ensuring high quality programming exists throughout our community.”
With more than 60 cohort partners, KYD Network has plenty of activity options for its participants.
“We partner with a range of large and small organizations that focus on arts, leadership, social justice, mentoring and tutoring, sports, and other areas that interest youth,” Blinkiewcz said. “Some of our partnerships include Eastside Youth Strong, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Young Kings and Queens, and New Genesis Incorporated.”
Families who are interested in enrolling their children in these programs can simply visit KYD Network’s online program finder to learn about opportunities that are available for our community’s youth. Due to KYD Network playing such an important role in the development of youth within our community, it only makes sense that they are a partner of The Kalamazoo Promise (The Promise).
“Of the youth we serve, 80-85% are eligible for The Promise,” Blinkiewicz revealed. “We view our work and vision as directly aligned with the goals of The Promise. The more opportunities for enrichment and exposure that young people have in and out of school, the more prospects they’ll have with The Promise.”
To guarantee that students make the most out of their chances with The Promise, KYD Network teaches social emotional learning (SEL) skills such as self-management, goal-directed behavior, and decision-making skills to adults and youth.
“We know from our research that the more developed our SEL skills are, the better we do in school and in work,” Blinkiewicz indicated. “Many of the top skills that employers look for in candidates are related to SEL learning, so it is important that youth practice and master these skills.”
As KYD Network continues to grow, Blinkiewicz hopes to see an increase in both youth leadership and voter participation in the 18-25 age range. It is the organization’s belief that an increase in these statistics will correlate to an increase in the advocacy skills that youth possess.
In terms of what is upcoming for the organization in 2020, KYD Network will host an event for National Day of Summer Learning in Bronson Park on Thursday, July 9, as well as a walk for Lights On Afterschool on Thursday, October 22. Be sure to connect with KYD Network for more details on other upcoming events!