Special to the Vanguard
Davis, CA – The City of Davis’ Parks and Community Services (PCS) Department presented during the Sept. 19 City Council meeting their new “Inclusive Parks, Inclusive Hearts: United Communities Through Recreation!” series of programming that provided free, onsite recreation to under-resourced youth and their families.
This new series piloted three programs to help increase resiliency in youth through healthy social interaction, physical exercise, competency building and connection to nature while reducing barriers, such as cost, program awareness, language, transportation, enrollment logistics and timing.
“Recreational programming can provide many benefits to youth and families but it only works when people can access it,” said Davis Mayor Will Arnold. “The more we can do, across all our programming, to create equity and inclusion the more our communities can thrive. A huge thank you to our Parks Department for this amazing work.”
The following three programs were completely free for youth and their families:
Program One: Mutual Housing Series
Many youth live at Mutual Housing properties in Davis, yet very few participate in the City’s recreational programming. This series of programming was open to any youth living at Mutual Housing properties in Davis, and their family or friends.
At Adelante and New Harmony, two Mutual Housing sites with the greatest density of children, the City hosted two on-site programs, Mad Science and Kids in the Kitchen, where approximately 30 kids and their families participated. Mad Science is an interactive science-based program and Kids in the Kitchen is a cooking program for youth to learn how to make healthy snacks and desserts.
At Manor Pool, the City offered an introductory swimming lesson and open swim day for Mutual Housing families, which was very popular with over 66 enrollments. The City offered transportation to and from the pool, a beach towel, pool toys and a pizza lunch. Signs ups for this program were in-person at the Mutual Housing sites with paper forms instead of online forms.
Program Two: Migrant Center Soccer Program
The Davis Migrant Center, operated by Yolo County Housing, is home to approximately 55 children who live here for nearly seven months out of the year. A sizeable number of these children have come every year since birth and none have ever participated in the City’s recreational programming.
The City partnered with Yolo County Housing to provide a three-day, onsite soccer program with over 25 children participants. Staff eliminated the burden of cost, transportation logistics and enrollment by hosting the program onsite and conducting enrollment in person and in Spanish. The program ended with a special visit from a snow cone food truck and a pizza party.
Program Three: ESL Program at South Davis Montgomery Library
In partnership with the Yolo County Library, the City launched its first ESL classes in August. This 10-week literacy program, which already exists in other Yolo County cities, is held in the evenings and assists adults and their families who do not speak English as their first language. Since childcare can often be a barrier to attending evening classes, the City provided onsite recreational programming to the children of program participants and dinner to each family.
The City also provided 20 launchpads to the program, which are self-contained tablets that are pre-loaded with literacy-based apps for all different age groups. A total of 21 families are enrolled to date, with an additional 10 on the waitlist. The City intends to offer this series again in the winter and spring.
“All children deserve to play and grow in a safe environment with programing that meets their needs,” said Parks and Community Services Director Deanne Machado. “We will continue to work on dismantling barriers to participation because the inclusion of all children in our programming is a priority.”
“The Migrant Centers are special programs and Yolo County Housing was incredibly excited when the City’s Park’s Department reached out to see if we could partner on a project this season,” said Yolo County Housing’s Executive Director Ian Evans. “The three-day soccer camp was an amazing new addition to the program and we’re grateful to the City of Davis for bringing this opportunity to the kids there.”
Everything offered in these programs were provided by and paid for by the City of Davis. In 2021, the City Council allocated $50,000 of the City’s American Rescue Plan funds for the development of inclusive youth programming. The three programs cost $38,304 and the remaining balance of funds ($11,696) will be used to run similar programing in winter 2024.
The PCS Department will be looking at changes to several internal procedures to improve access to programming moving forward, including access to existing scholarship funds, enrollment logistics and information sharing between the City and target populations. The Department will also continue to develop relationships with the Davis Joint Unified School District, Yolo County Housing and others.