John Hasslinger started working for Seattle Parks and Recreation six years ago as a teen development leader and has been extremely successful in increasing youth participation.
“Wherever he goes teen programs explode,” Community Center Coordinator Carl Bergquist said.
When Hasslinger worked at Bitter Lake, Bergquist said he had 30-40 kids actively involved in programs and events. At Hiawatha he took a program attended by virtually no youth and transformed it into a program attended by “dozens if not hundreds.” He has supervised as many as 12 youth employees at once, actively engaging them in a broad range of activities.
“John makes sure to get youth out of their neighborhoods and meeting other youth,” Bergquist said. “I could go on for days about the amazing stuff he does.”
Hasslinger has served 12 community and teen life centers and currently is the recreation leader at Hiawatha. He said he is proud of his staff’s cooperative spirit and their work to make the community center a hub of teen opportunities.
“There’s such a large number of youth who leave school at 2:30 and have idle hours,” Hasslinger said. “This can lead them into trouble or it can lead them to a place where they can make friends, find mentors, develop useful work skills, seek homework help, recreate without safety concerns and feel a sense of belonging to a group. Hiawatha is that place for many.”
Hasslinger said he feels fortunate to have spent several years in West Seattle building lasting relationships with youths, developing more consistency in teen programming and bringing unique outside opportunities into the neighborhood.
With the support of Southeast Late Night staff, Hasslinger has helped 10 West Seattle youths participate in daily work-shadowing at the community center through the Youth Career Training Program. This month, each of those 10 students will have served 120 hours and completed 12 weekly training sessions to develop life and work skills.
“Partnering with fellow Seattle Parks staff to deliver such programs is super rewarding and a good reminder how much our youth benefit from our community center teamwork,” Hasslinger said.
Before joining the department, Hasslinger taught English in public schools in Japan and served as a Professional Golfers’ Association instructor and head golf professional.