Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers



March 10, 2023

Each generation has its challenges, but it’s no secret that today’s youth have become quite the softball stars, given the curveballs thrown their way. As humans, we’re designed to adapt, and no one does it quite like Gen Z. We’re not sure what’s in their water, but one thing is clear: This generation is driven by a desire to address social problems. Why not use that drive to your (and their) advantage? Cultivating a spirit of philanthropic entrepreneurship might not be part of your current game plan for student engagement, but Y4Y’s new Youth in Action course will get you and your staff excited about the possibilities.

The Name of the Game

The term “social entrepreneurship” might sound like a totally different ballgame than the one you’re playing, but it’s in the same ballpark as service learning and project-based learning. Social entrepreneurship blends a business goal of providing products or services with the desire to support a cause that improves the lives of others. It’s not a totally new concept. For example, over 100 years ago in Pennsylvania, this ideal inspired Milton Hershey to build a model community around his factory. So why pass the bat to your students? Here are three good reasons:

  • Social entrepreneurship is a natural tool for student engagement. It taps into their interests and their desire to make a positive difference in the world.
  • It benefits students. For example, projects that combine concepts from entrepreneurship and service learning let students practice real-world 21st century skills like creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication. Experiences with social entrepreneurship also help students develop important mindsets like the value of hearing multiple perspectives and the importance of empathy when developing solutions.
  • It benefits society. After all, you’re preparing the leaders, creators, and decision-makers of tomorrow!

The Introduction section of the Youth in Action course not only delves into the history and benefits of social entrepreneurship. It also shows how it can build the top workforce skills your students need to stay ahead of the curve.

Batter Up!

You need a team that’s fired up and ready to engage students in service learning and entrepreneurship activities, and that’s where the Coaching My Staff section of this course comes in handy. It provides ready-to-go trainings and tools — and it guides you through the steps to creating a professional development plan that’s a good fit for your program. You and your staff will be ready to start swinging in no time!

It doesn’t stop there, though. After staff have stepped up to the plate, they’ll need practical strategies to help students hit that home run. That’s where the Implementation Strategies section of this course comes in. You and your colleagues who complete this section of the course learn how to:

  • Describe the process for implementing a social entrepreneurship activity.
  • Facilitate social conversations amongst students.
  • Guide students as they implement their plans.

As you’ll notice while making your way through this course, it’s less about being the “sage on the stage” and more about being the “guide on the side.” If you or your staff aren’t sure what that might look like, don’t worry. You’ll get some practice scenarios, planning checklists, driving questions, and more.

Hit It Out of the Park!

As consumers, we’re often told that we “vote” with our dollar, meaning the businesses we choose to support should reflect the kind of world we want to live in. Today’s students already have an intrinsic desire to leave this world better than they found it. Putting youth in action so they can act on their best impulses is sure to be a grand slam!


March 10, 2023

High school age students taking a textDo you remember the standardized testing of your youth? It’s safe to say that most of us didn’t exactly look forward to it. The clock at the front of the bare room seemed to stare forebodingly as the minutes ticked by, the cold seats felt harder than the questions, and the mandatory silence was interrupted only by the nervous scribbling of your classmates. Who decided this environment might be conducive to good test scores?

You may not have much say about the testing environment your students experience today, but you can give them tools to mitigate test anxiety. As standardized testing season approaches, check in with your students to assess how comfortable they feel about test taking. If you hear responses like “Pass the anti-nausea medication, please” or “Frozen,” consider teaching some test-taking strategies. Having the tools to chip away the ice if they freeze up during exams can go a long way toward building students’ confidence — and improving their performance!

Buckle Up Their Tool Belts

To kick things off, consider holding a focus group discussion to gauge students’ feelings toward exams in general and how those feelings may affect their test-taking abilities. Here are some questions you might pose:

  • How do you feel about taking exams? Does the prospect of taking exams worry you?
  • Are there any physical symptoms of nervousness or anxiety that occur when you take an exam? Do your hands feel shaky? Do you ever experience shortness of breath?
  • Do you notice an inner dialogue when taking exams? If so, what does it sound like to you?
  • Do you have trouble concentrating when taking exams? Maybe you find it hard to focus on one question at a time, or perhaps it’s difficult to focus when reading a passage.

Wherever your students’ anxieties may stem from, it’s important to let them know they’re not alone! Reassure them that test anxiety is common, and even adults can have it.

Add One Tool at a Time

Once you’ve fostered an open dialogue, encourage students to bounce ideas off each other. Encourage them to choose the ones they think might work for them and add those tools to their Test Anxiety Tool Belt. Here are some tips you may want to share:

  • It can be discouraging to open a test booklet and get thrown off by the first question. Instead of spending all your time trying to figure it out, move on to the next one! Answering the “easy” questions first boosts your confidence and leaves you time to come back to the hard ones.
  • Have you tried the process of elimination? For each test question, there are almost always one or two answers that are obviously incorrect, so eliminate those first. This increases your odds of getting the right answer.
  • It’s always a good idea to break a question down so you can examine each part. This helps you make sure you truly understand what it’s asking. For example, if the instructions say to select the answer that does not belong, but you overlook the not, you’ll select the wrong answer — even if you know the right one! Underline important words and key terms to help you stay on the right track.

Every Tool Kit Needs Accessories

Having the aforementioned tips in their Text Anxiety Tool Belt can reduce nervousness and build confidence. There are plenty of other strategies that can act as “accessories.” If you caught our blog post on Creating a Mental Health Tool Kit, you may have shared some of the tips mentioned there with your students. If your students are already using these ideas as “homework hacks,” let them know they can also be modified and used in the testing environment. Let’s review some ideas to share with students!

  • Do you listen to music to either calm down or get hyped up during homework? You can’t exactly bring your headphones into the testing room, but perhaps you can get in the right mindset by listening to your favorite playlist that morning as you wake up and get ready.
  • Sometimes, stretching can bring relief if you tend to tense up during homework time. However, your yoga moves may be distracting if you try them in a room full of people on test day. Instead, try taking a restroom break so you can move around and stretch your limbs. Even if it’s brief, it gives you a chance to regroup and refocus.
  • If you find it hard to keep your eyes open during homework time after a long day at school, maybe you’ve found it helps to take a quick power nap before you begin. Since we don’t want you snoring at your desk on test day, make sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before.

With some coaching, practice, and the right tools, your students will find they can mitigate stress on test day and beyond. So go ahead: Give them those power tools. Happy testing season!


March 10, 2023

elementary students running under parachute outside in the summerDo you remember that self-improvement promise you made to yourself at the beginning of the year? Or the follow-through that may or may not have petered out by now? Perhaps you made multiple New Year’s resolutions, and maybe one mentioned overcoming procrastination. Hey, we get it — it’s only March, but it’s been a busy year already, and it’s difficult to find time to plan for the long term. However, procrastination now will only lead to more stress later. So do yourself a favor: Don’t wait until the last day of school to start planning your summer learning program! For bite-size learning that will get you summer-ready in eight weeks or less, try Y4Y’s Quality Program Quickstarters (QPQs). Topics include everything from building a program team to mapping community assets. The countdown to summer starts now!

Pick a Card, Any Card

You can choose from five QPQ’s. If deciding where to start feels like picking a card at random from a street magician, fear not! Let us break it down for you:

  • Spring is the perfect time to start thinking about who you want on your team this summer. Building a Program Team walks you through the steps for gathering key stakeholders, managing communications, and working together effectively.
  • There are plenty of resources in your community waiting to be uncovered. Locating and securing them is one of the most important things you and your program team can do to help meet the needs of students and families. Community Asset Mapping shows you how.
  • Needs shift over time as new students and families enter your program, schools enact new programs and priorities, and community circumstances change. Reassessing those needs should be part of your yearly checklist. Haven’t gotten to it yet? Check out Conducting a Needs Assessment.
  • Maybe you’ve already assessed student and family needs. Intentional Activity Design builds your understanding of how to design activities that address those needs. Purposeful design helps everyone reach their goals.
  • Once you’ve put in the work, you’ll want to spread the word about your amazing program! From tailoring your message to reach a specific audience to discovering tools that’ll help you do so, Marketing and Outreach provides practical guidance on taking your program to the masses.

Yep, There’s a Tool for That

A Y4Y motto is “We never provide a key strategy without also providing a tool to help you get it done.” That’s why each QPQ comes with a curated list of Y4Y tools to send you on your way. Here are some “fan favorites” (one from each module):

  • There are a myriad of methods and channels for communicating with and providing feedback to program staff. The Effective Workplace Communication Training to Go is a downloadable, customizable PowerPoint that shows how it’s done!
  • Asset mapping is a helpful process, but you may be wondering where to begin. Try the Community Resource Map tool. It breaks down potential resources into distinct groups.
  • To properly conduct a needs assessment for your summer program, you need input from students and families. The Y4Y Family Engagement Survey provides the right start.
  • The Intentional Activity Design Planner provides a template for an activity plan based on SMART goals. Not sure what SMART goals are? No worries: It’s covered in the module.
  • A good social media campaign can help you recruit students and community partners to your summer program. The Five W’s of a Social Media Campaign easily lays it out!

With each QPQ module, you’ll gain vital information (and tools) that will set your summer program soaring. Don’t wait — if you devote just a little time each day, a daunting task suddenly seems much more manageable. Ready, set, go!


February 7, 2023

clip art of family standing around large computer monitor with an image of a lock on the left side of the monitorDo you remember the days when students had to visit a bricks-and-mortar library in person to do research? Remember that old relic called a card catalog? Fortunately, thanks to the internet, students’ access to knowledge is no longer limited to a small number of books gathering dust on local library shelves. Today’s students were born into a world where the internet is ever present, ever evolving, interactive, and full of diverse people and ideas. These characteristics make the internet an incredible learning tool. They also make it difficult for young people to navigate it wisely and safely. You can help students avoid possible problems now and later (you know the saying: “Once it’s online, it lives forever”) by following these pointers for internet safety — and encouraging families to do the same.

Attack of the Killer…Television?

Perhaps as you enjoyed a favorite show after a long day at school when you were younger, a family member chided, “T.V. rots your brain!” While your brain wasn’t actually rotting, the sentiment wasn’t totally misguided. A slew of problems come with too much screen time:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Loss of cognitive ability
  • Impaired social skills
  • Weakened emotional control or judgment
  • Delayed learning in young children
  • Lower self-esteem

It’s important to limit screen time regardless of age, especially while a child’s brain is still developing. When families manage screen time for children and teens, it’s also important for adult family members to lead by example:

  • At dinner time, instead of turning on the T.V., swap stories about things that happened during the day and have real conversations.
  • When there’s downtime, though you may be tempted to catch up on social media, pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read or take a walk outside. Show children that a screen isn’t the only way to be entertained.

Y4Y’s Tips for Families: Managing Screen and Study Time provides ideas you can share to help families strike a healthy balance between phones and productivity.

Practicing Proper (N)Etiquette

Netiquette doesn’t mean saying “please” and “thank you,” although that’s still important! Netiquette refers to practices and behaviors that help people interact safely and effectively in online spaces. When children are in the digital world, we can’t always be there to monitor what they (or others) are up to. With trolling, bullying, and other unethical behaviors becoming commonplace on the internet, it’s crucial that students know that they’re responsible for their own behaviors and responses — and that’s a powerful thing! Along with Y4Y’s Online Safety and Netiquette Training to Go, here are some important values to teach students:

  • Protect privacy — Never share important information with strangers online, even if they feel like “friends.”
  • Protect passwords — Set strong passwords and get in the habit of changing them regularly.
  • Steer clear of online bandits — To protect yourself from online stealing and viruses, make sure you know the difference between a shady site and a reputable one.
  • Keep your cool — If you encounter online bullying, it’s easy for emotions to run high. Instead of fanning the flames, the best thing to do is to report harassment (or any other behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable) to a trusted adult.

The internet can seem like a scary forest with monsters lurking at every turn. As adults, we’re well aware of the dangers. In fact, it’s easy for us to become Web Worriers. But ignoring the online world isn’t the answer. Instead, we can arm young people with the right tools and knowledge to help them avoid dark places and find a wonderland full of possibilities. The virtual age has just begun. The sooner students know how to navigate it, the sooner they can become Web Warriors!


February 7, 2023

an image looking down of a young school age girl doing homework It’s early enough in the new year that you may be living off the momentum of that new planner you bought and the gym membership you signed up for. In years past, these promising practices may have fizzled out instead of becoming regular habits. No doubt, you had every intention to color-code your meetings and conquer that rowing machine once and for all — not only for yourself but also to set a good example for your students. After all, it’s no secret that young people watch and imitate their adult role models’ behaviors. Feeling the pressure? Relax! Here are some insights and ideas you can use yourself (and share with staff and students) to prep for success.

Designers, Let’s Get to Work!

Before we “walk the runway” to a better role modeling career, let’s explore why resolutions and goals often fall by the wayside. The research is there, so it’s no big secret.

First, instead of being centered on what you want to be doing, your goals of the past may have been based on what you think you should be doing. Ever heard of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation? Intrinsic motivation involves doing something because it’s personally rewarding to you. Extrinsic motivation involves doing something because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Think about the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for your current job. You might do your job because you get a paycheck (extrinsic) and because you have a passion for helping students succeed (intrinsic). Both are valid reasons to do your job! Both can motivate you to get out of bed, get dressed, and show up at work each day. But sticking to that routine will be easier and more meaningful if intrinsic motivation is in the mix.

Second, make sure your intrinsic motivation, whatever it may be, is attached to goals that are SMART enough to help you follow through and stay focused. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound. The “A” in the middle is important because when you write a goal that’s achievable (like “walk a mile before noon every day this week”) instead of impossible (“climb Mount Everest this year”), you feel hopeful and encouraged about pursuing that goal. This applies to your staff and students as well. The “T,” which stands for “time bound,” adds a sense of urgency. Maybe you’ve heard it said that “a dream is a goal with a deadline.” It’s true! Try having staff and students write their SMART goals on sticky notes and stick them in visible places, either in the program environment or in a personal space of their choice. These reminders can help them pursue their dreams. Check out Y4Y’s tool on writing SMART goals for concrete guidance.

Down the Catwalk We Go

Managing your time is a crucial part of forming productive lifelong habits. Research shows that people who practice good time management techniques are more productive, have more energy for things they need to accomplish, and feel less stressed. Time management looks different for each person because everyone is unique, so it may take some “shopping around” to find what works for you! Try out these tips in your everyday life, and provide support to help your staff and students to do the same:

  • Know how you spend your time. Keep a time log and identify your most time-consuming tasks. Where is most of your time devoted? Are you investing your time in the most important activities?
  • Set priorities! Not all the tasks on your to-do list are equally urgent or important, but without order, it can feel like they are. Ranking your tasks in order of urgency and importance helps you say “no” to extraneous activities and give a starting point to your day.
  • Use a planning tool to help you keep to your schedule. Technology is a wonderful thing! Whether you prefer visual or audio reminders, there are plenty of programs to help you stay on task and on schedule.
  • Y4Y can help. From our Effective Homework Time Training to Go, which can keep homework time engaging and effective, to our tool on Creating a Home Learning Nook for a more productive learning experience, we’re behind you 100% in your efforts to model good habits and instill them in your students.


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