Web development program empowers young people to support small businesses and learn skills

The image above is a screenshot of the homepage of the new Mama Sambusa Kitchen website which was designed by
student at the Office of Economic Development and Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle’s Youth Web Design
Program. The program offers students of color the opportunity to learn web design and build websites for
Small, black-owned businesses that did not have or had a limited web presence before the pandemic.

By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium

The City of Seattle, through the Office of Economic Development (OED), and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle recently launched their Youth Web Design Program to introduce local high school students to the world website design, while offering the opportunity to help small entrepreneurs at the same time. Urban League and city leaders recently presented the results of their hard work and highlighted the benefits to our local business community.

“The past year has brought unprecedented challenges for everyone in our city, but it has been even more difficult for our black and African American youth and small business owners, who have been disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn during COVID-19,” the mayor of Seattle said. Jenny Durcan. “The Youth Web Design Program teaches new skills to young Seattle BIPOCs while simultaneously providing assistance to Black-owned businesses that need it most.”

Under the program, OED located 16 black-owned small businesses that needed a website to improve their operations and stay competitive. ULMS enrolled 16 high school students of color and designed a 6-week program that offered web design training, industry-accredited web design certification, and the opportunity to consult with a black business owner and to receive a stipend paid for his work.

For the students, it was an opportunity both to engage in career opportunities for the future and to do their part as members of the community and use their creative skills to help others.

“As I approached my junior year of high school, it felt right to explore what I really wanted in life,” says Keymani Washington, a program participant. “This program gave me the opportunity to take part in a new spectrum that is growing in today’s society, and with these new skills, not only will it benefit me in the future, but it will enable me also to share my knowledge and help others.”

Michelle Merriweather, president and CEO of ULMS, says it’s important to give students real-world experience that can help them prepare for their future careers.

“We must be intentional in providing a space where students can learn industry-level skills and prepare for jobs that will lead to a successful future,” says Merriweather. “The Youth Web Design Program offers our students an early opportunity to learn lucrative and transferable web skills, while supporting local business owners who are going through this pandemic, doing their best to stay open. in our communities.”

Honey Mohammed, owner of Mama Sambusa Kitchen in South Seattle, had nothing but praise for the student who designed her website, Lucy Richardson.

“Our designer exceeded our expectations one hundred percent,” says Mohammed. “It’s amazing that not only does this help our young brown and black children and boast of morals, it shows our children one, they are worthy and two, they are capable of doing whatever they decide too. And it gives companies the opportunity to work with them.

Seattle City Council member Tammy Morales said the program delivered on its promise to help students learn 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 businesses shifting to online sales and marketing due to the pandemic and for BIPOC youth, providing them with skills in the underserved economy. represented from the creative industry,” says Morales. “As we reopen and rebuild our economy, we must continue to seek opportunities to support Black small business owners as they pivot their business models to meet the needs of our changing economy and train young people for careers in the future. ”

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

“Overall, my experience has been amazing,” says Smith. “I appreciated having the chance to use my creativity in a new way. It helped me answer the question of whether or not I wanted to pursue a degree in computer science. And I do!”

OED and ULMS will host the next cohorts of this program in summer and fall 2021. Black-owned businesses interested in this resource must be Seattle-based, have a current Seattle business license number, and can s register for more information via an online portal, https://form.jotform.com/ULMS/youth-web-design-participation-b, before applications open in March 2021. ULMS will choose the participating students among their existing relationships with youth-serving organizations and programs throughout the city.

James S. Joseph