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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!



September 21, 2021

We all know the stories well. Johnny Suburb studied philosophy at a New England liberal arts college, has $250,000 in student debt, and works delivering pizza because he isn’t qualified for a “professional” level job. Sam Blue-Collar couldn’t afford college, so after high school he took an internship with his uncle, a certified electrician. Now at age 24, after taking three junior college courses in business, Sam runs his own one-man company, earns a six-figure salary and is thinking of training a new partner himself because he can’t keep up with demand for his work.

The country has realized that college is not the answer for everyone, and the future is nothing to be afraid of once your students understand this.

Y4Y is excited to roll out a totally revamped version of its College and Career Readiness course, with a new title to match: Career Pathways for Students. Cassie, a teen trail guide and Pathfinder High School senior, hikes the Y4Y trails with you: College, Military, Trades and Workforce. With engaging tips and tricks along the way, you’ll be dazzled by this fresh opportunity to help K-12 students find or create their own paths.

In the Introduction section, you’ll earn a Basic Level certificate while you explore:

  • The past, future and benefits of college and career education
  • Connecting your learning to 21st CCLC programs
  • Strategies for building a stakeholder team
  • Student and family needs and the related goals you might develop
  • Mapping your many community assets
  • Relevant logistics of your career pathways guidance
  • Intentionally designing activities
  • Student recruitment
  • Staff recruitment and training
  • Family engagement
  • Planning for continuous improvement of your career pathways programming

When you engage in the Implementation Strategies section to earn an Advanced Level certificate, you’ll dive deep into the three realms of the career pathways approach — awareness, exploration and preparation — and how your program can deliver activities in each of them. Your hike will also take you through tips and tricks for implementing the career pathway steps you explored at the beginning of your adventure, in the Introduction section.

A Leadership Level certificate is also available. Check out the Coaching My Staff section of the course for a trail map to

  • Building a culture and climate to support the career pathways approach
  • Planning age-appropriate career awareness, exploration and preparation activities
  • Using career pathways self-assessment tools with students

Check out the full set of new tools to help students chart their course and strike out on a fearless path stretching far into their promising futures.



September 21, 2021

Many out-of-school time professionals confess that teaching or tutoring STEM subjects is their greatest fear. Well, the best weapon against fear is preparation! These resources from Y4Y around STEAM (STEM plus the arts) and citizen science will help alleviate those fears and make the most of STEM activities in your program.

Site coordinators can download and adapt Y4Y’s Training to Go PowerPoints for informal sessions in as little as 30 minutes. You can conduct them either in person, or virtually while staff are relaxing on their couch at home. With each title and link below are objectives of these trainings.

STEAM Trainings (also check out the Y4Y tool Everyday STEAM: Strategies for Staff).

Applying Design Thinking

Objectives: Describe the components, model design thinking and plan methods for the design thinking process.

Connecting to Real-World Challenges

Objectives: Use the design thinking process, identify real-world challenges facing your community, describe the relationship between STEAM projects and community partners, and prepare a specific ask for those partners.

Creating a Makerspace

Describe what a makerspace looks like and how it can support the STEAM approach to learning, plan key logistics (budget, schedule, materials and professional development), and describe ways to assess student learning in a makerspace.

Citizen Science Trainings (Also check out the many tools that accompany these trainings)

Assessing Citizen Science

Objectives: Understand the importance of assessment, explore the difference between informal and formal assessment, and learn how to build an observation rubric.

Facilitating Learning to Practice Inquiry and Science Process Skills

Objectives: Discuss how the science process skills are supported through citizen science, understand the importance of inquiry, and guide students in using science process skills.

Introduction to Citizen Science

Objectives: Understand the definition of citizen science, explain its benefits, and explore strategies to engage students in citizen science.

What’s that you say, site coordinators? You dread public speaking as much as anyone else? You have limited time to prepare? You’re looking for professional development for your frontline staff to learn about facilitating STEM activities when it’s convenient for them? Here’s a shortcut: Check out these archived webinars (and their objectives) to help you choose the right trainings. Y4Y certificates of participation are only available to those who participate in live events, but don’t let that stop you.

State Highlight: Minnesota Citizen Science Initiative

Y4Y highlights the great work out-of-school time programs can achieve through partnerships with state agencies and community partners. Minnesota’s out-of-school time programs have worked in tandem with the University of Minnesota’s Pollinator Initiative, whose mission is to develop a coordinated research, education, extension, and policy-driven effort to address issues related to pollinators and pollination in Minnesota. Youth across the state learned about local plants and insects, operating as citizen scientists. Hear from the Minnesota state coordinator, program directors, facilitators, and partners on how they organized, implemented, and assessed projects.

STEAM (Two-Part Series)

When did STEM become STEAM, and why? Incorporating the arts into traditional STEM learning means exploring the design thinking process that’s central to engineering and other innovating careers. How can you expand STEAM in your 21st CCLC programs with limited time, budget and content knowledge? Learn a concrete process for planning and implementing problem-based design thinking. Work through how you can prepare your mind and your environment to develop high-quality activities that will propel your students into careers of the future. No prior knowledge necessary! This session is for experts, newbies and those in between!

Learning Approaches to Science-Based Education

This session is focused on methods for facilitating hands-on science education. Explore best practices in the scientific method, design thinking and the engineering design process to get students thinking and doing. By developing your knowledge of these hands-on strategies, you’ll expand your instructional toolkit and be ready to implement STEAM in your out-of-school time program.

Bringing Students and STEM Professionals Together! 21st CCLC STEM Collaboration With NASA and IMLS

Beginning in 2013, the U.S. Department of Education created an interagency initiative to integrate high-quality STEM programming into 21st CCLC programs by partnering with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), then the National Park Service (NPS), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). How can your program tap into national STEM-based initiatives and the rich curriculum and resources these agencies have to offer? Check out this archived webinar!

Wherever your STEM fears stem from (rimshot), Y4Y is here to support you! The greatest pioneers in science, technology, engineering and math took risks. Made mistakes. So, if you wobble a bit in facilitating the highest quality STEAM/STEM activities, guess what? That, in itself, is an important lesson to your students!



September 12, 2021

The country’s collective consciousness and conscience are waking up to inequity. Institutions are eager to address this societal albatross, and there are many very different ideas on how to do it. Resources such as Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan ask educators to shift thinking from deficit-mindedness to asset-mindedness. “Street data is the qualitative and experiential data that emerges at eye level and on lower frequencies when we train our brains to discern it. Street data is asset based, building on the tenets of culturally responsive education by helping educators look for what’s right in our students, schools, and communities instead of seeking out what’s wrong.” While your 21st CCLC program will continue to require evidence-based intervention methods, how can you begin to shape the culture and implementation in your program around student strengths rather than perceived deficits?

Authors Safir and Dugan, who were featured at the 2021 Summer Symposium, offer guiding principles and core stances for each chapter of their groundbreaking book. These are crosswalked below to Y4Y resources that can help your program shift its framework to an asset-minded approach that promotes equity.

Why Street Data, Why Now?

Guiding Principle 1: Reimagine our ways of knowing and learning. Core Stance: Holism.

How can your program give value to learning that’s emotional, spiritual, and physical as well as that which is cognitive?

  • Know the five skill domains of social and emotional learning.
  • Principles of inclusion reach beyond disabilities. Gather a full team and build an inclusive team by roles so your program can see every student for their strengths, like leadership, teamwork and clear communication.
  • Tools available in Y4Y’s Career Pathways for Students course already put you in the mindset of focusing on each individual’s strengths. Asset-based thinking takes this principle a step further and recognizes that different subcultures in your community might practice different and exciting ways of knowing and learning. 

Guiding Principle 2: See the barriers; imagine what’s possible. Core Stance: Awareness.

Is equity just one more new initiative, or is your program committed to a culture shift?

  • Your culture and climate language must reflect your commitment. Consult the implementation strategies section of Y4Y’s course on creating a positive learning environment.
  • Only with strong community champions that share your values can you make progress toward equity.
  • Team building is one more way to stress that your program is a community that values all its members.

Choose the Margins

Guiding Principle 3: Center voices from the margins. Core Stance: Antiracism.

Are the loudest voices that are front and center the only ones that are heard in your program?

Guiding Principle 4: Seek root causes over quick fixes. Core Stance: Deep Listening.

How is your program working to fully understand its students?

Deepen the Learning

Guiding Principle 5: Equity work is first and foremost pedagogical. Core Stance: Agency.

Does your program place resilience at the center of perceived success?

Guiding Principle 6: Less is more; focus is everything. Core Stance: Coherence.

Progress cannot be made in the silo of your program. How can you reach to partners to bring them along on this journey?

  • Review the introduction section of Y4Y’s course on continuous education to develop strategies for approaching your school-day partners. Aligning your efforts to foster asset-based thinking with hopes of affecting pedagogy is key.
  • Adapt the Y4Y tool to establish professional learning communities and bring all your stakeholders together from around the community to reflect on your different views of data collection.
  • Families are your strongest partner in advocating for equity. Understanding and overcoming challenges to family engagement are important first steps.

Guiding Principle 7: Mobilize a pedagogy of voice for educators. Core Stance: Symmetry.

Have you empowered your staff, many of whom were perhaps chosen for their familiarity with the community, to act on their best impulses for supporting equity?

Transform the Culture

Guiding Principle 8: Break the cycle of shame. Cores Stance: Vulnerability.

Do you strive so relentlessly for perfection in the delivery of your programming that you don’t take the risks that can lead to imperfect progress?

  • A theme we can borrow from STEAM/design thinking is undoing right-answer thinking; it’s better to try and falter, learn from that experience and try again.
  • Another Y4Y Voices From the Field guest, Marcy Richards, focuses on the “can-do’s” and not the “can’t-do’s” in her approach to equity, diversity and English learners.
  • Virtual learning in 2020 and 2021 was a stark lesson in just how quickly and effectively 21st CCLC programming can pivot. Nobody said “effortlessly.” Nobody said “easily.” And certainly, nobody said “perfectly.” But take those lessons, just as California practitioners featured in Y4Y’s March webinar series, Literacy Done Virtually, did, and consider what kind of shifts toward equity can be put into place immediately and program-wide. There may be bumps in the road, and it’s OK to be OK with that.

Guiding Principle 9: Every moment is an equity moment. Cores Stance: Warm Demander.

As the authors note, “Rather than call people out, warm demanders call folks in and up to the work of equity.” Is your program committed to a universal approach to challenging your full staff, partners and community to embrace equity?

  • By definition, 21st CCLC programs are a place where diversity is understood. You already fight for the students in the margins. Consult the Diagram of Philosophy and Practices Within 21st CCLC to guide everything you do.
  • Use the Knowing Families and Cultures tool to develop strategies for familiarizing staff and partners with the unique qualities and strengths of the families you serve.
  • Become a warm demander by creating a program elevator speech. Craft your language not around calling people out, but around calling partners in and up to the work of equity. Most important, get comfortable talking about equity with a tone of gentle insistence.

As you balance your formal and informal data collection activities with an eye toward equity and improvement, consider the book’s closing message:

“Listen deeply. Trust the people. Act on what you learn. With that invocation, I invite you to walk forward on your street data journey with clear eyes and a full heart, knowing that the biggest mistake we can make is to cling to the status quo. Be brave, be bold, be visionary. We’ve got this.”



August 23, 2021

For generations now, educators have invited parents into the classroom to speak about their work in hopes of both engaging families and sparking professional inspiration. Meanwhile, virtual learning has opened many creative avenues. Consider how you might investigate virtual opportunities to bring a physician or researcher or entrepreneur who looks like your students into your program virtually, and make a surprising impact on your students’ lives.

Start by Asset Mapping

You always want to start with your own community when it comes to guest speakers, though we’ll move on to expanding that thinking in a moment. Guest speakers are nothing more than a new type of partner, and Y4Y’s course on Strategic Partnerships, and specifically, tools for identifying partners, community asset mapping, (and then mapping community assets to partners) can help. Reach out for guest speakers in your own geographic community if your goals include

  • Highlighting professionals who have walked in the same shoes as your students.
  • Featuring adults with an intimate understanding of your community.
  • Establishing a longer-term relationship that might lead to field trips or internships.
  • Providing a resource to families.

Reach out and Touch Someone

The quest for a guest speaker doesn’t have to be limited by geography. What goals of your program might demand expanding your horizons and reaching out to touch professionals outside your community?

  • A desire to connect students to a highly specific profession such as astronomer or neurosurgeon.
  • Inspiring students with a minor celebrity such as a lesser-known children’s book author or minor league athlete.
  • Offering a vision of life beyond your community.
  • Connecting with any professional areas that you can’t tap into in your own area, such as an active military member, farmer, marine biologist or TV producer.

Where Should I Start?

Follow these tips to empower your program and bring exciting guest speakers to your program.

  • Think big. The worst thing that happens is that your emails go unanswered or told no. It hurts nothing to ask.
  • Do your research. If a public figure, local or otherwise, is inclined to work with youth groups, you’re bound to find traces of that on their social media. If not, you can always note that you might be asking them to reach outside their comfort zone, and will keep their visit out of social media yourselves.
  • Reverse-engineer it. Build buzz about a lesser-known author or professional by introducing students to their books or work, then approaching the author or scientist (or athlete, etc.) with tales of the students’ enthusiasm over their contributions.
  • Make no promises. Speak in general terms with the students about the kinds of guest speakers they’d like to have in your program so you’re sure to include their voice, but don’t let them in on specifics until you have firm commitments.
  • Have an elevator email. Remember the 1-minute elevator speech you’ve been advised to carry around on the tip of your tongue? Modify it to a 1-minute email. Be dynamic! Be funny! Be shameless! But be professional. Guilt trips are never a way to go. Instead, keep it light and positive, focusing on how inspiring it might be for them to meet your students. Don’t forget to include a catchy, informative subject line – you’re a marketer now! Something like, “Our urban students love your book, Ms. Love,” or “Please take our rural students to the Phoenix Cluster, Prof. M!”
  • Be prepared. Once you have a commitment, make sure students have questions prepared. Offer them areas of wonders they could draw from, such as the guest’s own childhood, education or training, inspirations and even guilty pleasures.
  • Follow it up. If you’re lucky enough to get an exciting virtual guest for your program, be sure every student sends an old-school thank you note. “Package” the experience with a digital scrapbook to use for future guest and student recruitment. Most important, have a meaningful reflection project for your students.

Something to bear in mind as education shifts into recovery mode is that we have many areas of strength and resilience to draw from after the pandemic. One power of virtual learning is the ability to bring every corner of the world right into your program space. Prospective guests are sure to respect your focus on the positive. And why not show your students there’s a lesson to learn in every setback?