By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
The City of Seattle, through the Office of Economic Development (OED), and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle recently launched their Youth Web Design Program to introduced local high school students to the world of website design, while providing an opportunity to help local small business owners at the same time. The Urban League along with city leaders recently showcased the results of their hard work and highlighted the benefits to our local business community.
“The past year has brought unprecedented challenges to everyone in our city but it has been even more challenging for our Black and African American youth and small business owners, who have been disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn during COVID-19,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “The Youth Web Design Program teaches Seattle’s BIPOC youth new skills while simultaneously providing assistance to Black owned businesses who need it most.”
As part of the program, OED located 16 Black-owned, small businesses that were in need of a website support to enhance their operations and remain competitive. ULMS enlisted 16 high school students of color and designed a 6-week curriculum that provided web design training, industry accredited website design certification, and opportunity to consult with a Black business owner and receive a paid stipend for their work.
For the students this was an opportunity to both engage in career possibilities for the future and do their part as members of the community and use their creative skills to help others.
“Heading into my junior year of high school, it seemed appropriate to explore what I truly wanted in life,” says Keymani Washington, a participant in the program. “This program gave me the opportunity to take part in a new spectrum that is growing in today’s society, and with these new skills it will not only benefit myself for the future but also allow me to share my knowledge and help others.”
Michelle Merriweather, President and CEO of ULMS, says that it’s important to give students real world experience that can help prepare them for their future career paths.
“We need to be intentional about providing a space where students can gain industry level skills and prepare to enter jobs that will lead to a successful future,” says Merriweather. “The Youth Web Design Program provides our students with an early opportunity to learn lucrative, transferable web skills, all while supporting local business owners who are navigating this pandemic, doing their best to remain open in our communities.”
Honey Mohammed, owner of Mama Sambusa Kitchen in South Seattle, had nothing but high praise for the student who designed her website, Lucy Richardson.
“Our designer exceeded our expectations, one-hundred percent,” says Mohammed. “This is amazing that not only is it assisting our young Brown and Black children and boasting moral, this shows our children one, they are worthy and two they are capable of doing anything they set their minds too. And it gives businesses the opportunity to work with them.”
Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales says that the program delivered on its promise to help students gain life-changing skills and help local businesses restructure their business models in order to keep their doors open during the pandemic.
“This program is a win-win for both Black-owned businesses pivoting to online sales and marketing due to the pandemic and BIPOC youth, allowing them to gain skills in the underrepresented creative industry economy,” says Morales. “As we re-open and rebuild our economy, we must continue to look for opportunities to support Black, small business owners as they pivot their business models to meet the needs of our changed economy and train young people in the careers of the futures.”
Brianna Smith, a student participant in the program, says the program helped re-affirm her career path after high school.
“Overall, my experience was incredible,” says Smith. “I enjoyed having the chance to use my creativity in a new way. This has helped me answer the question of whether or not I want to pursue Computer Science. And I do!”
OED and ULMS will host the next cohorts of this program in the Summer and Fall of 2021. Black-owned businesses interested in this resource must be Seattle-based, have an up-to-date Seattle Business License Number, and can sign up for more information through an online portal, https://form.jotform.com/ULMS/youth-web-design-participation-b, in advance of applications opening in March 2021. The ULMS will choose student participants from their existing connections with youth serving organizations and programs throughout the City.