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Vashon Youth Council to close after 12 years
After more than a decade of providing programs, events, mentorship and grants to Vashon youth, the Vashon Youth Council (VYC) announced last week that it will close its doors for good.
VYC director Amy Ezzo said that like many small nonprofit organizations, the youth council — supported completely by grants and Island donors — has struggled to maintain its funding in recent years.
“We were ready to diversify our funding, but we had difficulty doing that,” Ezzo said.
VYC board president and recent Vashon High School graduate Klara Shepherd said the youth council also seemed to have run its course in the community. The number of youth it serves has decreased, as has the size of its board, she said.
“I think we didn’t have enough fresh involvement over the last year or so. … Sometimes you have to let something go away in order to allow something new and better and improved to come up in its place,” she added.
Ezzo said that although the decision to cease operations was a difficult one for her and the board to make, she feels that the youth council has provided excellent opportunities for Vashon in the past year and is pleased it will end on a positive note.
“Some nonprofits slowly but surely dwindle. … We felt like it was a good, strong year to go out,” she said.
In recent years the council has been especially known for providing mentorship, resources and funding for Dream Projects — unique undertakings that individual youth pursue. Recent Dream Projects participants have produced the mural at Ober Park, Challenge Day at the high school and the Blast at the Green Youth Stage at Strawberry Festival.
Ezzo said she hopes other Island organizations, such as the Vashon Park District, Vashon Youth and Family Services (VYFS) and Vashon Allied Arts, will support youth who may be interested in similar projects but can no longer seek the youth council’s help.
“I think its critical and crucial for the Island to recognize there is a need to provide youth with opportunities,” she said.
Ken Maaz, director of VYFS, said the organization will do whatever it can to fill the small but important hold left by VYC. VYFS, which strives to provide healthy activities for youth, helped sponsor the Blast at the Green last year, and Maaz said it will make sure the popular event continues.
“I hope (the youth council’s closing) won’t result in some kids not getting the attention they need,” he said. “It will be up to us and other agencies and the schools to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Ezzo said the youth council’s final event will be its second annual Blast at the Green, where she hopes past and present council participants and supporters will show up to celebrate VYC’s accomplishments.
“We feel proud of the work that we’ve done,” she said. “I’ve worked in nonprofit youth development for a really, really long time, and I feel like this organization has been hands down the best example of how to do it right.”