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Seattle Housing Authority youth create a website for their peers during the pandemic

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courtesy of Seattle Housing Authority
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The web site, SHAyouth.org, includes information about things such as scholarships and job listings as well as social activities such as onling gaming groups.

Teens and young adults who live in Seattle Housing Authority communities have built an online social hub for their peers. It’s meant to help young people navigate life in the pandemic.

The public housing agency has an active youth leadership program. In the past, the young people have organized their own job fairs and a Seattle teen summit.

When the pandemic hit, they worked together to create a website of resources and links including job listings and crisis hotlines. They also included activities that would allow them to stay connected online during the stay-at-home order.

Daimon Abraha just finished eighth grade at Mercer Middle School and is one of the youth who helped create the site.

“I’m in charge of hosting these big gaming tournaments, movie nights and other activities online, so we’d have a large group where we could talk on an app called Discord and just communicate with each other while playing games for prizes,” he said.

They play games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty and the prizes are usually gift cards, he said. The website they built also includes links to virtual field trips to Yellowstone National Park, the Cincinnati Zoo and the Met Museum in New York.

Abraham Kidanemariam grew up in the NewHolly Seattle Housing Authority site, and now works there through the AmeriCorps program. He said the site also includes information for students on how to sign up for Washington state’s College Bound Scholarship program.

“We kind of surveyed the community and the kids that are in middle school that need to fill it out and saw there was a large portion who hadn’t completed it or weren’t too sure on how to go about that,” he said. “Although the Seattle Public Schools does provide support, we thought that would make it a little bit simpler and make it easy to access on the website.”

Ty Edwards, youth engagement specialist for Seattle Housing Authority, said the youth he works with wanted to add mental health resources so that their peers could find support if they needed it.

“We have text hotlines, a teen chat hotline and National Suicide Prevention hotlines,” he said.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.