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Stories / Youth

Working with SW Washington Youth!

What it's like to work with our SW Washington youth and how it differs from our Portland youth

Friends of the Children has continued to grow in SW Washington and now serve 44 youth in Vancouver, Battle Ground, Ridgefield and even Yacolt. It is our continued goal to connect with as many youth in the area as possible and we feel fortunate to be able to our northern-most neighbors and discover a new group of brilliant youth! But, what has this experience been like for both our youth and mentors? Despite the proximity in location, there are many differences between the communities. Friends have a much easier time coordinating with fewer school districts in order to help support their youth’s academic needs, making it easier to communicate with all our SW Washington youth.

SW Washington is only a bridge away from Portland and offers so many new places to explore. It is important for our youth to feel connected to their community, so Friends make a special effort to spend time with their youth exploring the parks, cultural attractions and nature trails as often as possible. One of our Friends recently shared his favorite place to visit with his youth:

"Klineline Pond at Salmon Creek Regional Park is one of my favorite parks to take kids. They have lifeguards on duty during the summer, so I could take my kids swimming any time we had an extra couple hours to spare. My kids have given many of the parks nicknames based on the color of the playground equipment. Their favorites are Red Park (Marshall Community), Blue Park (Meadow Homes), and Green Park (Evergreen). Even through the rainy season, we spend as much time hitting parks as we can. A lot of my youth spend a lot of their after school time indoors at home, usually in front of a screen. It’s really important to them that they have a regular chance to get outside and play and just be kids!"

Another favorite place for our youth and Friends in SW Washington is the Friends House located in The Heights neighborhood of central Vancouver. Thanks to the generous gifts from Give More 24! and the individuals and foundations throughout the community, we were able to get the necessary funds to establish a safe space for our SW Washington youth. Similar to our Rockwood location, the Friends House is an open space where our youth can drop in with their mentor to do homework, spend quiet time reading, making crafts or playing in the back yard. Friends also have a home base to complete their paperwork or collaborate with one another. Prior to having a dedicated space in SW Washington, Friends suffered many hours battling the Portland traffic.  

"SW Washington Friends House is a unique place. While our youth are there, they get to experience a rare type of safety and security. If they’re hungry, they get fed. There’s no threat of violence. Every adult they encounter accepts them unconditionally for who they are and is happy to see them. That’s no small thing. It’s a place where they can try new and uncomfortable things without fear of what will happen if they don’t get it right the first time. It’s a place where they can truly relax when things get rough in their worlds." - Mentor

Ultimately, our expansion into the SW Washington community has transformed the experience for our youth. It's been great being able to explore new areas, allowing our brilliant youth to discover new interests and make new connections, preparing themselves to become the leaders of tomorrow.

“Well, it’s great not having to go into Portland for a consistent youth space since we have the SW Washington House. Last year when we first got the house, my youth talked about how they appreciated having a space to regularly go. The SW Washington House is our go-to, but we also go what they call the Red Park, also known as Marshall Park, the Vancouver Library downtown or hit up the one in the mall. We go to YMCA for swimming, and Salmon Creek is always fun in the summer. What is great about Vancouver that I unfortunately don’t have with my Portland youth, is the fact that we spend a lot less time in traffic. Going to Portland to use the RW or Morris building often comes with hours of traffic.”