BY EDGAR SANCHEZ
On January 1, 2018, the City of Sacramento reorganized its parks department with a new focus on youth and a new name: the Department of Youth, Parks, & Community Enrichment.
The change resulted from conversations involving the Sacramento City Council, the City Manager’s Office and pro-youth advocates, including Councilman Jay Schenirer, who sought not only a new department focused on youth but increased investments in the city’s youngest residents, including more internships.
“We should value our young people” by giving them opportunities to succeed, Schenirer said early last year, after teenagers spoke to the council in support of creating a centralized youth department.
The council instead created a Youth Division within its Department of Parks & Recreation, which had run most of the city’s youth programs. The council also established five new full-time positions, to support citywide youth programs.
Last January, one of those jobs, Youth Division Manager, was filled by longtime city parks employee Kim Mohler.
“Any resources that can be given to youth, especially youth who are overlooked and under-represented [are great].”Nayzak Wali-Ali
Sacramento Youth Commission member
“With the finite resources that were available … it made more sense to expand a youth division rather than create a new department,” Mohler said recently. “Council decided it could do more by putting any additional resources directly into youth programming rather than create a new infrastructure.”
Simply put, Sacramento “got more bang for the buck,” said Lindee Lane, who arrived from Oakland this summer to become the city’s Youth Development Policy Manager, also a new post. Lane works in the City Manager’s Office, ensuring that city youth programs, including those outside the Youth Division, align with a new youth program policy framework unveiled last December. The non-Youth Division programs include recreational programs run by the Police Department and an internship effort administered by the Mayor’s Office in partnership with local employers.
The Youth Division has its own employment readiness programs, with 520 young people in internships and paid employment yearly, Mohler said. One program, Landscape and Learning, teaches gardening skills and maintenance to youngsters who clean city parks. They also learn conflict-resolution tactics and how to be good employees.
“Landscape and Learning employs 220 youth every year, and it’s a first job for almost all those kids,” Mohler said.
The mere idea of a youth department “definitely excited” Nayzak Wali-Ali, 18, a member of the Sacramento Youth Commission, an advisory group.
“Any resources that can be given to youth, especially youth who are overlooked and under-represented [are great],” said the Sacramento native who now studies political science at UC Davis.
The California Endowment supports Sacramento’s pro-youth efforts.