Wong to be honored at conference

Ken Wong, teen programs director for the City of Redmond's Parks and Recreation Department, will be honored as the 2009 Outstanding Teen Professional at the Washington Recreation and Park Association's (WRPA) conference in Spokane, April 29.

The mission of the WRPA's teen services section is to "empower professionals who work with teens in the state of Washington by providing communication, training, resources, support and advocacy."

Among Wong's many accomplishments, he established the Redmond Youth Partnership Advisory Committee (RYPAC) to give youth and adults opportunities to work collaboratively on matters of importance to local youth.

RYPAC members have cooked and served meals for Tent City residents and other homeless coalitions, hosted pumpkin-carving parties for low-income children, sponsored multi-generational dances at the Redmond Senior Center, cleaned up city parks and promoted awareness of teen issues at a biannual youth summit.

Wong also oversees activities at the nationally prominent Old Fire House Teen Center in downtown Redmond.

Nancy Chang, a teen program coordinator for the City of Redmond, said, "Teen center alumni credit the Old Fire House ... with providing a safe, positive environment that helped them become caring, contributing adult professionals. Often alumni return with successful business and education degrees to 'give back' to the next generation of teens."

On a personal level, Chang remarked, "Ken is the best boss ever. I really enjoy working with Ken because he has great vision for young people in the City of Redmond. He makes sure to push us as staff to be innovative and stay relevant to the public's needs."

Wong has also been a respected guest speaker in the Lake Washington School District and helped to create an after-school program for junior high students, funded by a voter-approved levy in Redmond in August 2007.

The City of Redmond has twice been recognized as one of the 100 Best Communities for Youth by America's Promise — the Alliance for Youth, in part because of teen programs Wong has fostered.

Wong's dedication to teens goes back to his work with the Bellevue School District between 1986 and 1993, where he developed programs to address gang problems and a freshman orientation program to acclimate incoming high school students.

In 1993-1994, he worked as a special needs educator and from 1994-2004, was a program supervisor for Youth Eastside Services. There, he created a violence intervention and prevention program, in conjunction with schools, law enforcement, juvenile court and social service providers.

In her recommendation to the WRPA, Chang concluded, "Ken's 20-plus year career has been directed toward the successful development of teens into men and women of distinction. His efforts are seen in the lives of youth he has touched either directly or indirectly through the organizations with which he chooses to associate. He practices what he promotes and teaches — relationships with teens that show genuine care and concern."

Although Wong will not attend the WRPA conference, Chang hopes her colleagues and the community at large will applaud him for his efforts to make Redmond an exceptional community.

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