Bethaday Community Learning Space provides event venue for the good of the community

By Bao Nguyen with contributions from Kelly Wakefield of TAF
February 20, 2018

Bethaday Community Learning Space. Photo provided by TAF.

White Center is probably the last neighborhood where you would expect to find a hip, sustainable, state of the art event venue. You might think that maybe it’s closer to West Seattle or Delridge; you know, where things are a little…nicer.

But no. It’s definitely in White Center, right behind Cascade Middle School and just a stroll from the White Center Food Bank. Not only that, everything else about the venue is as White Center as it gets. Even its name, Bethaday Community Learning Space (BCLS), reflects how folks in White Center care deeply about their community.

Opened in 2012, BCLS is a beautiful example of what an innovative public / private partnership can accomplish. On one side was King County, who provided funding toward the project and, more importantly, the land upon which the building stands, inside Dick Thurnau Memorial Park. On the other side of the partnership was Technology Access Foundation (TAF), a nonprofit founded in 1996 to provide science, technology, engineering, and math education to underserved students of color.

Starting as an after-school program teaching coding and tech skills, TAF has grown to become a leader in project-based STEM education for K-12th grade across Washington. Today, TAF co-operates an 800-student school for grade 6-12 in the Federal Way School District and supports Tacoma Public Schools in transforming some of their underperforming elementary schools.

In 2005, TAF started a capital campaign to build a sustainable office space and came up with the idea for a multipurpose building that not only serves TAF’s needs but also supports the needs of the surrounding community. Seven years later, BCLS was unveiled, nestled in Lakewood Park. Its primary goal, in line with TAF’s mission, is to serve White Center youth with STEM opportunities.

For the rest of the community, BCLS provides a home to several other White Center-based nonprofits: White Center Community Development Association, Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team, and Equity in Education Coalition.

Bethaday Community Learning Space. Photo provided by Jerome Tso.

To offset operating costs and also provide a much-needed service to the area, BCLS is also an affordable event venue for anything from weddings to board meetings. All revenues from event rentals go back to support TAF’s programs.

Sherry Williams, TAF’s Deputy Director, leads a team of women to take care of BCLS, which she calls a “hidden gem,” a status that she is hoping to change.

Next Wednesday, February 28, BCLS is hosting a Sip and Savor Soiree, a free open house event where guests are invited to take a peek inside the space and learn what it has to offer.

Featuring demonstrations, information, and lots of action from a number of POC-owned local businesses, guests will find Kimora Beauty Boutique, Seattle Beauty Lounge, Michael B. Maine Photography, and Decoraciones Ely in attendance. Other event experts and event planners will be present to share their work. DJ Topspin will be pumping tunes all night in addition to live performances from Yirim Seck, Sarah Christine, and Pak and the Lolo’s.

White Center may not have all the glam like other neighborhoods but there’s no shortage of heart and soul. The BCLS is a prime example. It is a gem indeed and TAF wants everyone to know.