The net improvement program permits youngsters to help small companies and purchase expertise

Pictured above is a screenshot of the home page of Mama Sambusa Kitchen’s new website designed by
Student in the Office of Economic Development and Urban League of Youth Web Design in Metropolitan Seattle
Program. The program provides an opportunity for color students to learn web design and create websites for
Black-owned small businesses that had little or no online presence prior to the pandemic.

From Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium

The city of Seattle recently launched their youth web design program through the Office of Economic Development (OED) and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle to introduce local students to the world of website design while providing the opportunity to local micro-businesses help entrepreneurs at the same time. The Urban League and City Guides recently shared the results of their hard work highlighting the benefits for our local business community.

“The past year has presented everyone in our city with unprecedented challenges, but it has been even tougher for our Black and African American youth and small business owners, who were disproportionately affected by the economic downturn during COVID-19,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “The Youth Web Design Program provides new skills for BIPOC youth in Seattle while providing support for black-owned businesses that need them most.”

As part of the program, OED identified 16 black-owned small businesses that needed website support to improve their business and stay competitive. Hiring 16 colored students, ULMS designed a 6-week curriculum that included web design training, an industry-recognized website design certification, and the opportunity to consult with a black business owner and receive a paid scholarship for their work .

For the students, this was an opportunity to both embark on future career opportunities and do their part as members of the community and use their creative skills to help others.

“When I entered my junior year of high school, it seemed appropriate to find out what I really wanted in life,” says Keymani Washington, a participant on the program. “This program gave me the opportunity to participate in a new spectrum that is growing in today’s society and with these new skills it will not only benefit me in the future, but will also allow me to share my knowledge and help others . “

Michelle Merriweather, President and CEO of ULMS, says it is important to provide students with hands-on experiences that can prepare them for their future career paths.

“We need to purposely create a space where students can acquire industry-level skills and prepare for jobs that lead to a prosperous future,” says Merriweather. “The Youth Web Design Program is an early opportunity for our students to learn lucrative, transferable web skills while helping local business owners navigating this pandemic and doing their best to stay 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. “It is amazing that it not only helps our young brown and black children and boasts of their morals, but shows our children that they are one, that they are worthy of it, and that they are able to do anything they have set out to do. And it gives companies the opportunity to work with them. “

Seattle City Council member Tammy Morales said the program has fulfilled its promise to help students acquire life-changing skills and help local businesses restructure their business models to keep their doors open during the pandemic.

“This program is a win-win for black-owned companies who are migrating to online sales and marketing due to the pandemic and the BIPOC youth to develop skills in the under-represented creative economy,” said Morales. “As we reopen and rebuild our economy, we must continue to seek ways to support black small business owners as they align their business models with the needs of our changing economy and train young people in the careers of the future. ”

Brianna Smith, a student on the program, says the program helped cement her career path after high school.

“Overall, my experience was amazing,” says Smith. “I enjoyed using my creativity in a new way. This has helped me answer the question of whether I want to do computer science or not. And I do! “

OED and ULMS will host the next cohorts of this program in summer and autumn 2021. Black-owned companies interested in this resource must be based in Seattle, have a current Seattle Business License Number, and be able to log in. For more information, visit an online portal at https://form.jotform.com/ULMS/ youth-web-design-participation-b ahead of the application opening in March 2021. The ULMS selects student participants from their existing relationships with young people serving organizations and programs across the city.

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