One of the projects Youth Institute students create is a video. Courtesy of Kalika Curry

Youth Institute program teaches students valuable technical skills, instills confidence

Eastside students ages 14-17 have the opportunity to learn relative technical skills while creating their own video and magazine.

The work is part of a six- to seven-week summer program run out of the Kirkland Teen Union Building called the Youth Institute Program, which is hosted by the YMCA of Greater Seattle and supported by the Kirkland Kiwanis Foundation.

At the end of the program, students can earn up to $500 for their work.

Recently, Kalika Curry, marketing program coordinator with the Y, received the Hero of the Year Award from the Kirkland Kiwanis for her work with the program.

The Youth Institute Program teaches students valuable technical skills, builds relationships and instills confidence. The program also includes guest speakers and tours of local colleges.

Students meet from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the beginning of summer. The first week features a camping trip where students form bonds while living very minimally. No electronics are allowed; students set up a minimalistic tent structures and they cook their own food and take turn washing dishes.

Curry said the Kirkland program has been going on for about five years. Many of the students come from Kirkland and Bellevue schools.

Students have a chance to learn how to use the Adobe suite and editing software like iMovie and Final Cut Pro.

“There’s a big need for kids to be thinking in that technology direction or that art direction,” Curry said. “We do some really deep dives.”

They also learn how to create their own music, how to take photos and film video. They work in a MAC environment, which most of the students have little to no experience with.

“We want to create and give kids tools that they can use when they go out into the workforce,” youth leadership program lead Carlos Guerrero said. “We want to teach relevant material that industry uses.”

Nearly 90 percent of Youth Institute graduates go on to a two- or four-year college, according to the program. And 50 percent of graduates go into careers in human services. The other half choose careers in technology.

It is based on a program developed about 15 years ago at the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, based in California.

Guerrero is one of the leaders from the YMCA of Greater Long Beach who travelled to other Ys to teach the program.

“I went through the program when I was in high school,” he said.

Students apply for the program. The Y also works with school councilors to encourage students to apply for the program, Guerrero said.

“We do get a diverse amount of applications,” he said.

This year’s graduates created some of the “best” videos so far, he said.

“It’s really cool to see the projects and what kids can create,” Guerrero said. “The movies that we made this year were exceptional.”

Katie Winkelmann, 15, was one of this year’s graduates. Winkelmann is a sophomore at Eastside Academy in Bellevue.

“I loved it,” she said. “It was a great experience.”

Winkelmann heard about the program through her school who learned of it through the Y.

She said her favorite part of the program was creating the video.

“They gave us a theme and we just went with it,” she said.

In a group of four, Winkelmann and her team created about a five-minute video about mental health.

“We wanted to do a video about depression, anxiety and an eating disorder,” she said.

Through the creation of the video, Winkelmann learned how to film and edit the footage. She said she it’s a “big possibility” that she’ll apply for the program again next year.

“I definitely made a lot of friends out of the experience,” she said. “It was just a really good program overall.”

For more information on the program, visit

Tennae Dillard and Josiah Dillard are Youth Institute junior staff. After 2 years of program participation, graduates are eligible to apply for a junior staff position and they receive a stipend and college scholarship for their leadership role in the program. Courtesy of Kalika Curry

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