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December 12, 2019

The concept of mentoring has been infused into all levels of society, from elementary school buddy programs to Fortune 500 executive training. A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. Being mentored can be powerful.

According to research cited by The National Mentoring Partnership, young adults who were at risk for falling off track but had a mentor were 55% more likely to enroll in college, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions than their peers who were not mentored. Also 90% are, themselves, interested in becoming mentors. You’ve undoubtedly recognized the benefit to students of bringing mentors to your 21st CCLC program. Now it’s time to put together your elevator speech for adults in your community to educate them on what mentoring does for them on the two-way street called Mentor Way.

First, take a minute to reflect on the people in your life whom you consider mentors. Do you have a formal mentoring relationship? Probably not. For most people, our mentors are just people with more experience in some facet of living, even as fundamental as how to breathe (think swimming or Lamaze). The thing that made them special was, yes, their knowledge and wisdom, but equally important, their approachability and their desire to be useful to others. No doubt, there are people in your community with these characteristics. Finding them and connecting them with your program is one of the most valuable things you can do for your students, and for the “mentors in waiting” who respond to your call to serve.

Y4Y’s new course on strategic partnerships includes many tools that can help you map your community assets and link those assets to your program needs. For example, what if the greatest need in your program is support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities? Can you approach a local university to solicit student volunteers who might be wooed with the promise of a resume builder, improved communications skills, confidence boosting, networking opportunities and gratitude for their help? Factor these benefits for mentors into a targeted elevator speech for this potential partner.

What if your greatest need is literacy support? The retired teachers association in your area is a great resource for men and women who are hardwired to help and teach young people, and have the time and skills to do it. Your elevator speech for these potential volunteers might emphasize the liberty of leaving in the afternoon with no papers to grade, the emotional satisfaction of helping young people, the health benefits of contributing in a meaningful way, and the intellectual stimulation that comes from keeping up with their profession.

If strengthening social and emotional support for students is high on your list of program needs, check out community resources for mentors who can offer that extra adult guidance. These resources might run the gamut from veteran organizations to Big Brother/Sister programs to graduates of your program or programs like it. What does the other side of the street look like in this mentor-mentee relationship? This mentor has opportunities to reflect on the choices they’ve made in their own lives, to watch another life grow and change with their involvement, and to rest easy that they’ll be leaving the world a little better than they found it.

 



November 18, 2019

The gift of identifying and engaging strategic partners only comes to those 21st CCLC professionals who can break free from scotch tape and pretty bows, roll up their sleeves, and apply some creative thinking. Join Detective Dave and go undercover in the newly updated Y4Y professional learning course, Strategic Partnerships. Together, you’ll unwrap five key strategies for making partnerships successful and effective:

Strategy 1: Identify Needs. This basic element in all facets of 21st CCLC practice ensures that your efforts correspond with desired outcomes. The course walks you through using school-level, student-level and student voice data to determine partnership needs. Y4Y offers a Strategic Partnerships Planning Checklist to help you develop your needs statements and set goals.

Strategy 2: Use Community Asset Mapping. Is your program in a rural or an urban setting? In what areas does your program need additional resources to accomplish its goals? Are there potential partners that can support an area of identified need? What does your program have to offer a prospective partner? These are just a few of the questions the course helps you consider in your quest to effectively recruit new community partners.

Strategy 3: Implement an Outreach Plan. Your new partners will fall somewhere on the continuum of engagement: networking, coordinating, cooperating, collaborating or integrating. Wherever you start, you’ll aim to move along the continuum as you collaborate.

Strategy 4: Execute Your Partnerships. Detective Dave steps you through the skills and tools you’ll need, such as negotiating and developing memorandums of understanding, or MOUs, to formalize new strategic partnerships.

Strategy 5: Preserve Your Partnerships. A marriage only begins when you say “I do,” just as a strategic partnership only begins with an MOU. The course offers important tips on routine communications to maintain and grow the partnership.

As with other Y4Y courses, the Strategic Partnerships course includes a Coaching My Staff section to help you prepare staff and stakeholders to identify, develop and sustain strategic partnerships that contribute to program success and sustainability. In this section, you’ll also get help to create a professional learning plan for your staff and stakeholder team, and integrate effective coaching techniques as you implement the plan. Trainings to Go support this important phase of implementation as you and your new partners prepare to walk off into the sunset.

 



November 18, 2019

Some students find school-day learning about government and civics to be dry as dust, and it’s no wonder. Studying the three branches of the U.S. government, the Electoral College and tariffs on trade with other countries can seem pretty remote from young people’s everyday lives. They might not know how federal, state, and local policies are made, or how those policies can affect things that matter to them, like social justice, clean air, and the price of groceries and video games. Also, they might not know how to make their voices heard. Here are some ideas to help you brush the dust off to make civics interesting.

Use Y4Y resources. See the Introduction section of the Project-Based Learning course and the Introduction to Civic Learning and Engagement Training to Go for ideas on connecting with local civics activities. Service learning and citizen science also offer entries into local, real-world policies in action. See the Citizen Science course and the Service-Learning Toolbox.

Engage students in virtual-hands-on activities. Take advantage of game-based activities to introduce cross-disciplinary learning and thinking as students encounter and grapple with problems related to science, ecology, history, agriculture and government. Choose from a group of virtual environments funded by grants from the Institute of Education Sciences. You can also explore civics, social activism and world governments through virtual tours, primary documents, and connections with students from around the world. Common Sense Education has collected links to 30 Best Government and Civics Websites and Games, all created by government, education and civic sponsors.

Recruit local partners and experts to bring civics to your site. Start by gathering student voice data on social issues that interest them. The Student Voice podcast in Y4Y’s Developing a Needs Assessment Click & Go offers tips on this step. Then find experts to help students explore one or more of these issues. The local chapter of the American Bar Association, a nearby law school or professors at a local college might help conduct a mock trial. Local advocacy organizations or individuals might help students explore an issue or event and conduct a reenactment. Local writers and theater groups might help facilitate student development of a play, video or other event related to a social issue or historical event. When it comes to civics, your neighborhood is a real-world textbook that offers plenty of teachable moments.

 



October 10, 2019

Emergencies happen, and it’s your job to be ready when they do. Natural and human-caused threats to safety can take many forms. A sudden thunderstorm may knock down power lines and flood roads, or a family dispute may leave the home and enter your program site. Prepare now to respond to an emergency by making sure you have a targeted, up-to-date safety plan and training to support it.

The new Y4Y Click & Go, Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan, offers guidance and tools to help. Here are a few highlights from the mini-lesson, podcasts and tools; consider what you already know, and explore to begin your next steps.

Look for an existing safety plan. Most schools and community organizations that regularly host activities for children and families have safety plans in place. You need to know whether and how your 21st CCLC program is included in the host organization’s plan. Start by using the Safety Plan Meeting Request to get a copy of the plan and connect with the site’s safety leader.

If necessary, adapt or update the safety plan to your situation. Perhaps the out-of-school time program is new and wasn’t included in the host site’s plan. Work with the site safety leader to determine how your staff and students should respond to various situations. Use the Site Coordinator Safety Checklist to make sure you consider important areas and procedures, such as using a fire extinguisher, locking and unlocking doors and windows, sheltering in place, and evacuating your space.

Create and implement a Training and Practice Plan. Train staff members and practice safety procedures with them and with students. This will help to reduce chaos and confusion during an emergency and will reduce anxiety for everyone, families included.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Stay in regular touch with the host organization’s safety leader, so both sides know if anything about a safety plan needs to change. When you practice safety procedures, ask to be sure everyone understands their role or knows whose lead to follow. Use the Communication With Families About Safety tool to guide set-up of contact procedures during an emergency.

Get set to become “emergency ready” with the Y4Y Safety Click & Go.

 



October 10, 2019

The Y4Y team recently caught up with Emanuel Betz, 21st CCLC state coordinator for Vermont, to ask some questions about partnerships in his state.

What does the ground floor of your 21st CCLC partnership development look like?

First, for key partners, let’s name three pillars to call the foundation, or ground floor: the school, community and family. 

In many ways, the core “partner” in the 21st CCLC-funded project is the school. Every project needs a school (assuming it is ready and has the capacity), its resources, leaders and teachers who “get it” to actively contribute to the vision. If the school, leaders or system are not integrated with the project over time, it is fair to say it may not even work, and certainly may not be sustained or as effective as it should be. This would be especially true in a small rural community.

The second pillar consists of community contributors. These can take many forms in size and scope, including organizational or individual commitments. No contribution or activity is too small. These often manifest themselves effectively as wonderfully diverse learning opportunities, be it in STEM, the environment, in the arts and movement, or in content areas where the school may not have expertise. Look for successful organizations to support new ideas and professional development and funding.

The third pillar would be family, whether it’s just getting their kids to the program because they know they need and want it, or at greater levels, such as attending events and programming. Family members are often key stakeholders, supporters or leaders.

What are the key elements you’ve found lead to the most successful and long-lasting partnerships?

First, I think the personality and leadership skill sets of the program leaders are most important. A charismatic leader who is an effective communicator goes places quickly. Second, people who know the served community intimately have an edge on navigating challenges, maintaining relationships and building quality over time. Third, leadership retention and consistency over time provide a platform for consistent growth, especially in tandem with the above.

What are ways to expand community partners into sustainable funding sources? How else do you recommend pursuing sustainable funding after grants expire?  

I don’t think viewing partners as sustainable funding sources really works. Any partnership can be developed and contribute to quality over time. What works is a collaborative enterprise, and the results that come may not be foreseen. For example, one arts partnership I had as a program director came out of the blue with a $30,000 grant to expand our program approach. That was an unexpected but cool conversation! I think the key element to creating sustainable funding sources is executing high-quality programs that the community values because they are good and serve kids well. That is job one. Money should and will follow high-quality programming. 

I think, too, it is important to identify a partner as different from a contractor. A partner is an organization, individual or group that shares ownership of the application (program) and its intended results. Partners may assume responsibility, manage, and contribute or create activities that support the vision.

Perhaps a starting point could be using a self-assessment tool to investigate possibilities. In Vermont, after Year 5, we have a goal that at least 50% of funding would come from five different sources. There are some proven key strategies that explicitly support sustainability and can be used to build a plan that keys off of quality. This sustainability self-assessment for afterschool programs is based on the one we use in Vermont.