Metro Parks Tacoma programs help children and youth develop resiliency, leadership skills and more

By Regence
September 26, 2022
Metro Parks Tacoma

Billy Ray Shirley III Recording Studio in Tacoma’s Eastside Community Center 

Children and youth today face unique challenges growing up, which can have serious and lasting effects on their long-term health. This includes how to safely use social media and dealing with the public health issue of cyberbullying, on top of the intense fears and uncertainty many faced during the pandemic and returning to school.

Children’s earliest experiences set the patterns for their lifelong behavioral and physical health. Those who experience multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are more likely to experience behavioral challenges and have a greater likelihood of developing life-threatening conditions. While ACEs are common – about 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE – some children are at greater risk than others. Early intervention for young children has been proven to be highly effective in building resilience and reducing ACEs.

To address the growing need for strong adult mentors and services for underserved youth, Regence has invested in two programs with Metro Parks Tacoma:

S.E.A.L.S. – Students Engaged in Active Leadership Services

S.E.A.L.S. is Metro Parks Tacoma’s internship program whose mission is to provide community education and leadership development training to high school students through experiential learning activities and paid-internship opportunities. Through this program, students become more focused on the importance of their current education, career choices and future schooling options.

S.E.A.L.S. launched in the fall of 2021 and continues to roll out across various parks throughout the district. Regence invested in enhancing the youth training programs, including Customer Services 101, De-escalation and Behavior Management, Workplace Etiquette and more. In addition to supporting youth, the investments also provide training for adult mentors to strengthen their leadership skills.

Resiliency Through Music and Words

Tacoma’s Eastside Community Center houses the Billy Ray Shirley III Recording Studio, which aims to give at-risk children and youth a voice and provide them with self-regulation and coping opportunities. Regence provided funding for the center’s Resiliency Through Music and Words Programs, which helps build youths’ resilience through music creation, production and performance.

Studies have shown that participation in positive youth development programs that incorporate hip-hop and/or spoken word is highly beneficial, particularly for youth of color. “Resiliency Through Music and Words is a free class for youth that help students gain the confidence they need to choose their own career path and speak their truth through music and lyrics,” says Molly Barnett, Metro Arts Tacoma supervisor.

Regence funding will help the Billy Ray Shirley III Recording Studio have enhanced audio programming, two engineer positions, upgraded equipment and supplies. Through the programs, youth can go to the studio to record and edit their music, spoken word and poetry. They also have classroom time to work on skill building with mentors as well as have opportunities to perform and present their work.

Regence was founded in Tacoma, Wash., more than 100 years ago, when timber workers decided to pool a percentage of their wages to create a safety net in case one of them was sick or injured. In recognition of our deep roots in the Tacoma community, Regence is honored to invest in these two programs that aim to boost youth resiliency.