App and website to steer youth toward after-school programs

Center for Youth Engagement
4850 W. Fond Du Lac Ave., Milwaukee
Youth Map Milwaukee mobile app and website

Most young people in Milwaukee who don’t belong to after-school programming aren’t skipping out on that programming by choice, according to a 2013 survey of 1,000 area youth.

“The vast majority of those who do not participate in after-school programs indicate that lack of awareness is their number one barrier,” said Reggie Moore, founder and senior strategist at the Center for Youth Engagement. The Milwaukee-based nonprofit organization, which conducted the survey last spring, provides support and resources to schools, other nonprofits and public institutions offering quality services to youth.

Youth Map Milwaukee’s website and app will connect young people to hundreds of after-school services and programs.

To better connect Milwaukee kids and teens to after-school opportunities, the Center for Youth Engagement is developing a mobile app and website that will inventory and map hundreds of after-school programs and services in Milwaukee.

Moore (right) assists youth mappers Kevin Joy and Jada Ruffin with tracking of area agencies.

The project, titled Youth Map Milwaukee, is slated to launch at the end of May as part of a broader initiative facilitated by the Center for Youth Engagement and the Donors Forum of Wisconsin. That initiative, known as Beyond the Bell Milwaukee, seeks to “coordinate capacity building among youth service providers, policymakers and funders,” according to its website. Backed by funds from the Burke Foundation, the Helen Bader Foundation and Community Advocates’ Milwaukee Brighter Futures Initiative, Beyond the Bell is addressing youth programming issues related to access, quality, data, policy and funding.

Youth Map Milwaukee represents one strategy under Beyond the Bell Milwaukee’s focus on improving access.

So far, more than 240 youth services and program sites have been mapped through the work of 12 youth mappers, who spent much of August through December last year identifying agencies, contacting them for updated information and entering that information into a central database.

“The thing that makes Youth Map powerful is it actually puts that experience in the hands of young people,” Moore said. “It’s not just the product that results from mapping that’s important. It’s also the process that young people go through to conduct the mapping, themselves.”

The Center for Youth Engagement will also rely on youth to maintain the website once it is up and running with bi-annual calls to agencies and programs to ensure all information is up to date.

“It’s important for young people to really be aware of the assets in their community and be a part of actually building a resource or a tool,” Moore said. “Oftentimes, they are not part of processes like this. (Instead) these processes and products are imposed on young people.”

With the help of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee geographic information system student Kristian Dee Vaughn, the data aggregated by the 12 youth mappers will be overlaid with other points of data referencing crime, poverty and neighborhood initiatives. With this web of data points, Youth Map Milwaukee will present a clear view of where youth programs are occurring in Milwaukee and where they need to be strengthened.

The overlaying effect will also have broader implications to potentially influence policy and funding tied to youth programming, Moore said.

“It’s information that will be useful and that we hope will inform how funders and policymakers make decisions about resourcing youth programs in the city,” he said.

While the Center for Youth Engagement is currently searching for a designer to develop the front end of the Youth Map Milwaukee website, students from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s App Brewery are leading the development of the mobile app.

Following the May launch, Moore and his team will aggressively market the technology to area schools and youth programs to ensure young people know how to tap into both resources.

Youth Map Milwaukee stands as an opportunity to connect young people with activities that can help them find a sense of purpose, find value and voice in their community, and learn about career paths they otherwise wouldn’t, Moore said.

“With the right support, (after-school programs) are a powerful talent pipeline in this community,” he said.

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