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September 21, 2021

Heading into what’s traditionally flu season, your host organization is likely stepping up its safety practices to ensure a healthy winter. Throughout August, the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) released resources and reminders to start the year out right. Be sure to review them along with Y4Y resources to help you “brave” the rest of the program year.

To start, check out the Department’s comprehensive list of COVID-19 resources and the Return to School Roadmap.

The Department responded to questions about enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — which promises all a free appropriate public education (FAPE) — during these unpredictable times. The Department issued a letter to state education agencies (SEAs) noting that it reaffirms a commitment to the legislation. What does this mean in your 21st CCLC program? As an entity receiving federal funds, you want to be sure your students with disabilities are not disproportionately impacted. Consult Y4Y’s resources in the course on including students with disabilities, such as the Federal State Law Fillable Document, to be sure you’re up to speed with any modifications your state might have made in response to COVID-19 measures. While you continue to make modifications to your program space with infection safety in mind, don’t forget to review the Environmental Checklist to be sure you’re still accommodating those students with disabilities.

While it does stand firm on IDEA, be sure to review the Department’s list of Waivers and Flexibility, and know that as you have pockets of students going in and out of quarantine, your state may offer generous flexibility around school-time 21st CCLC programming. Y4Y hosted and archived many webinars and published contributions from practitioners around the country who managed to meet their students where they were throughout the last school year. Check out 21st CCLC Programs in a Virtual World Part I and Part 2, and podcasts on engaging students virtually, successful virtual STEAM programming and one program’s student-driven “netiquette” policies.

In response to questions around school openings and civil rights, the Department prepared a civil rights Q&A document. Has the question of civil rights come up in your program space? Don’t be afraid of this conversation! Instead, use the opportunity to help students understand how our government works, both on the national and local levels. Y4Y’s Civic Learning and Engagement course and resources like the Investigating Issues in Your Community tool can help you turn a hot-button topic into a teaching moment.

Know that a focus on wellness — both physical and mental — is a priority for everyone this year. The Department published a list of resources, but catering to your 21st CCLC program specifically, tools within the Y4Y’s Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day Click & Go can make it easy to work with the professionals who know your students as well as you do to fill in the wellness gaps you discover together. In some cases, your program may even be connecting families with health care or other related services. Now is a good time for staff to brush up on their understanding of how important all types of family engagement are in 21st CCLC programs with Y4Y’s Training to Go on connecting families to supports.

“Wellness” means different things to different people, especially in 2021, but we know your concern for students’ wellness covers all definitions: physical, mental and academic. We’re here to help. Just take your dose of Y4Y and call us in the morning!



August 6, 2021

A sense of purpose drives most success in life, whether that success is as a parent, a home health aide or president of the United States. By tapping into that human instinct in every one of your students, you can make an immeasurable impact on their lives. Two Y4Y courses, Citizen Science and Civic Learning and Engagement, offer ways to help students find a path to community participation that can give them a sense of greater purpose well beyond their years in your program.

Citizen science means that everyday members of the community can make impactful contributions to scientific advances. This crowdsourcing of information takes little training or even deep understanding of all the principles at work, though often participants in a citizen science project gain significant knowledge through their involvement. Have your students felt like bystanders for the last 18 months, helpless as a new virus wreaked havoc on the world? Biomedical scientists are always looking for volunteers to advance their work. CitizenScience.org has a full list of projects soliciting help in all aspects of COVID-19. Explore many other topics, ranging from studying water quality to space feature hunting, at CitizenScience.gov or through your own internet searching. Just keep these simple tips and tools at hand:

In a similar way, Y4Y’s Civic Learning and Engagement course offers helpful guidance for channeling students’ interest in their community into meaningful contribution. Youth of today are increasingly engaged in the world around them. Whether this is because of social media, cameras on cell phones that make more human experiences universally accessible, or a less tangible raising of collective consciousness, there’s no denying that young people today are aware of the problems around them and they’re eager to fix them. Public figures like climate change activist Greta Thunberg, education advocate Malala Yousafzai, and gun control activist David Hogg may very well reflect the passion and drive you see in the students in your program.

It’s never too early to start sowing those seeds of community purpose in your 21st CCLC program. Start by

Citizen science and civic engagement aren’t mutually exclusive. You may opt to offer both kinds of opportunities to your students to expand the breadth of your program. Studies tell us that they’ll expand their skills, feel empowered, grow into responsible and productive citizens, and even live longer by establishing the practice of being contributors. Most famously, the Harvard Grant study, now 83 years running, demonstrates that “people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community are happier, they’re physically healthier and they live longer than people who are less well connected,” according to Harvard psychiatrist Robert Waldinger. Your program, along with the school-day, may be the first communities your students are experiencing. Help them expand that vision of community beyond your walls, your city and even the country. Your students will benefit, and so will the world.



June 16, 2021

You’ve probably noticed that no matter how many strategies for success a Y4Y course offers, the final one is always to celebrate! That’s because celebrating is fundamental to impactful educational experiences. From STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) to civic learning and engagement, check out these ideas of what successful celebrations might look like, both virtually and in person.

  • Shout from the rooftops. If your program just wrapped up a successful project or met a milestone you’ve been looking forward to (like enrolling your 1,000th student), don’t keep it to yourself! Share the news on social media and in your regular communications with partners.
  • Don’t forget student voice and choice! Your students are bound to have their own thoughts about how they’d like to celebrate. In fact, you can use their favorite reward, whether it’s a pizza party, dance party or trip to the park, as an incentive to meet an attendance goal, for example.
  • It’s all in the family. Your celebrations are a natural fit for family involvement. Get the most bang for your family engagement buck by listening to students’ ideas about how to engage each of their family members in attendance.
  • Have a backup plan. If your celebration is a culminating event for a design-thinking project in STEAM or a problem-based solution to a community concern, have a backup illustration of your students’ successes, such as printed photos or short write-ups, in case technology or prototypes malfunction. Never waste an opportunity to show off your program or your students!
  • Play it safe. Virtual celebrations with a mix of adults and children online demand a little extra vigilance. Have staff rotate the assignment of gauging appropriate internet etiquette and being prepared to mute or turn off cameras if needed. If in person, be sure to follow your host facility’s guidelines for gatherings, such as making sure any snacks are individually wrapped, avoiding crowded spaces and masking.
  • Have fun! It doesn’t really need to be said, but don’t forget that your staff sets the tone. It can be stressful to aim for perfection in your celebration. Remember: Perfection isn’t your goal — a happy vibe is.

For more ideas, see these Y4Y tools: Tips and Tricks: Plan a Successful Culminating Event and Demonstrating and Documenting Learning.



May 14, 2021

We’ve adopted the chemical principle of “osmosis” into our educational jargon, but the strict definition refers to something traveling from a space with higher concentration into one of lower concentration. Is your program saturated with equity? Have you developed a program culture and climate that’s oozing with so much equity that all students can’t help but absorb that energy? Check out tools from several Y4Y courses that will aid in your equity by osmosis.

  • Equity on arrival. The return to in-person programming is a gift you don’t want to squander. Check out Y4Y’s Strategies for Creating a Positive Learning Environment for tips on setting the stage for a positive learning environment. How do you welcome students, for example? Are students who aren’t native English speakers more comfortable being greeted in their native language, or do they prefer not to stand out? Will a student in a wheelchair feel bad if you ask everyone to “jump up” or “stand tall” to give their “highest five”? The power of the greeting can never be overstated. The way you greet each student can impact other students in your program as well.
  • Voices in perfect harmony. Student voice is critical in your program, but those voices aren’t always in harmony. Don’t let discord amplify inequity. Y4Y offers a Guide to Socratic Seminars (and a Socratic Seminar Student Assessment) so that you can establish group norms and expectations for all opportunities around student voice.
  • Words matter. Y4Y’s tool for using Socially Responsible Language reminds staff and students alike that a disability or any other characteristic that might set a student apart demands language that demonstrates you don’t define the student by that single characteristic.
  • Know your audience. Your students may have life experiences or cultural heritage completely outside your own. Building cultural competence across your program is a critical step toward ensuring equity. Get up to speed with Y4Y tools such as the Background on Trauma Research Brief and publications like “Strategies for Building Cultural Competencies” (available through Y4Y’s Supporting English Learners “Learn More Library”).
  • Is equity your greatest social and emotional need? When you consider that the five skill domains of social and emotional learning (SEL) are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision making and relationship skills, you may well determine that promoting equity more successfully is high on your list of SEL program priorities. Using Y4Y’s Capturing Social and Emotional Learning Program Needs Assessment and Assessing Social and Emotional Learning Organizational Readiness, you can be intentional in identifying this priority, as well as how best to implement SEL that emphasizes equity — a new concept known as transformative SEL.
  • Citizens all. Y4Y’s course on civic learning and engagement walks you through key strategies for turning your students into the kind of responsible citizens who know how to recognize inequity and effect change. Tools such as the Investigating Issues in Your Community checklist give them guidance on how to explore this and other pressing concerns in their world.

To distinguish equality from equity, The Interactive Institute for Social Change offers a free download of the above image by artist Angus Maguire, with attribution. Equality means everyone gets the same thing, represented by each child getting a single crate to stand on (making only some students able to watch the ballgame). But equity gives every child equal opportunity to see over the fence, even if smaller children receive more crates. This sort of imagery can be invaluable to the students in your program who might not understand why one student gets more proverbial crates than they do. Consider posting an image like this in your program space. Then remind students through your words and deeds that it’s your personal goal to make sure each of them has all the crates they need.



March 18, 2021

Some students walk into your program on the first day as natural leaders. Others have no vision of themselves in a leadership role. Leadership might be a concept that we hesitate to apply to young people, out of our desire to let them “come into their own.” But leadership comes in many shapes and sizes, and your 21st CCLC program is the perfect place to help all students explore and develop leadership skills. Nothing provides a greater sense of connection to the world around us than that vested feeling of active leadership.

The Texas State Safety Center offers a concise list of research-based benefits from youth leadership:

  • Leadership skills, such as personal goal-setting, problem-solving and sound decision-making
  • Improved ability to solve community problems and enhance civic participation 
  • Formation of higher career aspirations, increased self-esteem, and improved high school completion rates
  • Direct benefits to communities and organizations through a greater understanding of the problems facing other youth, and fresh perspectives on how to address these problems
  • Positive impact on adults by counteracting negative stereotypes of youth when they are successfully engaged in leadership within their communities. 

Y4Y offers a number of resources to help you guide the teens in your program to leadership roles. There are many sides to this conversation, so referencing the tools in several different Y4Y courses will arm you with a comprehensive approach.

  1. What do your students enjoy, what’s their comfort level, and what are they good at? Y4Y’s new Student Voice and Choice course offers tools such as Student Goal Setting and Reflection and SMART Goal Starter for Students. When your students better understand themselves and what they want out of your program and their lives, you can collectively find the right brand of leadership for them.
  2. What’s fair to expect? Tools in the Civic Learning and Engagement course can acquaint you with Youth Development Stages and Incorporating Multiple Viewpoints to lay the groundwork for mutually agreed upon, age-appropriate expectations as you ask students to navigate new leadership roles.
  3. What does youth leadership look like? The new Y4Y Click & Go on Recruiting and Retaining High School Students emphasizes the importance of youth leadership to the overall success of your teen program. Check out the tools on Youth Leadership Roles and the Youth Ambassador Job Description Template to dive into a framework for youth leadership in your program.
  4. What will youth actually lead? Great question! If you have non-STEM-based collaborative academic enrichment projects in mind, you can turn to the Group Roles, Youth Participation Checklist, Planner for Brainstorming and Project Planner tools, all in the Project-Based Learning course. Looking to develop student leadership skills through STEM projects and activities? Check out the new Y4Y STEAM course and related tools like the STEAM Student Self-Monitoring Checklist for Project Work, Design Thinking Task Tracker for Students and Selecting Student Roles for Group Work. Each student can play to their strengths and lead their own learning, regardless of their assigned role on a project team! Of course, if you’re looking to take that sense of community beyond the “four walls” of your program into the larger community, revisit tools in the Y4Y Civic Learning and Engagement course, like Brainstorming Civic Engagement Topics and Investigating Issues in Your Community to get student leadership on the right path to community project success.

A noted American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Adopting this guiding philosophy on the power that your students can have in their own lives and the lives of others will grow leadership in each of them. Not only will your students and your program benefit, but the ever-shrinking globe will gain the leaders of tomorrow it so desperately needs.