- Edgewood Experience
The Edgewood Experience is an immersive educational program for local high school students. The program was founded in 2021 as a six-week program that takes place in July and August. Five students spend six hours at City Hall three days per week and are compensated for their time as limited-term employees with the City of Edgewood. In the program, students work with all of staff through a strategic sequence of activities, presentations, and discussions. The students learn about the services that municipalities provide, as well as the job responsibilities of each City staff member.
It is well-known that public education and engagement efforts can help reduce barriers to citizen participation in governmental processes and build trust in communities. However, young people are often excluded from these efforts. To address this reality, the Edgewood Experience provides an opportunity for youth to identify improvements, especially on issues such as transparency, accessibility, and equity. Giving students a “behind-the-scenes” look at what it takes to run a City empowers them to be advocates for the importance of local government, and promote public engagement in community decisions. The program was established with seven (7) key goals in mind:
1. Explain the role that local governments serve
2. Empower youth to become active citizens
3. Explore career paths in local government
4. Provide professional and personal development opportunities
5. Reach underrepresented community members
6. Share the unique organizational culture of Edgewood
7. Improve City processes and the Edgewood Experience program
The City has partnered with five (5) high schools for this program. Each school has nominated one (1) student to participate in the program. The partnering schools are listed below:
1. Chief Leschi High School
2. Fife High School
3. Puyallup High School
4. Sumner High School
5. Walker High School
This Edgewood Experience program manual serves two (2) important purposes:
1. Operational Guide for the Edgewood Experience
This manual outlines the necessary steps that it takes to run the Edgewood Experience every summer. The manual will be shared with City staff, City representatives, local school districts, and the public so everyone clearly understands the key components of the Edgewood Experience. Students, facilitators, and presenters could change each year of the program, but the Edgewood Experience will continue to thrive thanks to this operational guide.
2. Help other organizations with engagement efforts
The Edgewood Experience program was created to be unique. Multiple research hours were devoted to finding an existing municipal program that offered what Edgewood envisioned. After only finding “Government 101” courses or general details regarding public engagement, the unique Edgewood Experience was born. This manual shares all the details regarding how Edgewood created and facilitated this program.
In an effort to help others create similar youth and public engagement programs, we wanted to share as many resources as possible. If you are reading about the Edgewood Experience and would like to create a similar program, please reach out to Edgewood’s staff with any questions. Let’s all improve together! These additional resources are referenced throughout the program manual, but also provided in this list below for ease of access.