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November 23, 2022

The Red Apple of Yesteryear

In the days of yore, children skipped hand-in-hand to the one-room schoolhouse, sometimes towing logs if it was their turn to start the fire that morning. Younger and older students sat together while the only teacher in the building led the lesson, complete with a red apple on her desk. While the American education system has gone through quite the metamorphosis since then, the heart of it still beats strong, and that’s definitely something to celebrate! American Education Week is the week before Thanksgiving — this year, it takes place Nov. 14‑18. This is the perfect time of year to recognize the progress that’s been made in public schools throughout the country and the people who’ve made it possible. Y4Y tools for supporting English learners, including students with disabilities, and aligning with the school day can help you continue the great American tradition of expanding access to quality education for all!

Queuing “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang

Thankfully, there are many ways to get your students celebrating American Education Week, whether you do it now or later in the year. Each day is themed:

  • Kickoff Day on Monday allows students to study the history of the holiday. Take this opportunity to have a conversation with students about why they’re thankful for their education. A poem or short essay would be a great way to exercise their creative writing skills!
  • Tuesday’s Family Day theme is the perfect time to welcome families into your out-of-school time environment. What are some of their education memories? What subject(s) interested them, and did that influence their current careers? Your students can host a discussion circle with a Q&A session.
  • Education Support Professionals (ESP) Day on Wednesday is all about honoring the professionals who make the school day — and quality out-of-school time — possible. Bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, clerical workers, health providers, librarians, and technical experts are integral to a child’s overall education, and ESP Day allows their valuable work to be recognized by the students they serve. Encourage your students to write a thank-you letter to an ESP who’s impacted their lives.
  • Thursday’s Educator for a Day is geared toward immersing students and business and community leaders in the decisions and responsibilities that educators face each day. Community members may act as “educator assistants” or join a video call to educate students by giving a presentation about their career or teaching a skill they use on the job. Another idea: Ask students to “dress the part” for their desired career and act as an educator about what the career entails.
  • The week closes on Friday with Substitute Educators Day, which shines a light on the significant role that substitute teachers play throughout the school year. In the wake of a substitute teacher shortage, it’s more crucial than ever to recognize that the school day would be impossible without their work. A handwritten note and/or drawing from your students addressed to substitutes would go a long way in appreciating their hard work!

This Is Where We Come In!

The purpose for celebrating American Education Week is to spotlight teaching and learning. Your out-of-school time program can bring students into the celebration and nurture an “attitude of gratitude.” Expressions of gratitude benefit both givers and receivers. Warm some hearts this season!



November 17, 2022

Inviting key stakeholders to your 21st CCLC program team helps you include diverse people and perspectives as you make important decisions about how to serve children and families. There’s another benefit as well: Having a strong team of advisors reduces stress at work by providing access to fresh ideas, expertise, and resources so you can reach your goals. Not sure how to build a strong team? Y4Y’s new Quality Program Quickstarter (QPQ) module, Building a Program Team, covers the basics, like identifying and recruiting the right team members, managing communications, and working together effectively. When people with a purpose unite to make a difference, energy goes up, stress levels go down, and the future looks brighter than ever!

Superheroes, Assemble!

This brand-new QPQ explains that having the right program team can help ensure that your program’s values are realized. It’s important to decide what focus or initiatives will be at the forefront of your program and what school-day staff (and other partners) can help. For example, if your program wants to improve family engagement, it makes sense to include one or two family members as well as community members who understand families’ needs and interests. The best way to master something is to practice it, so this QPQ has plenty of opportunities to practice various scenarios, double-check your knowledge, and test your understanding. There are ideas in this QPQ for various initiatives and stakeholders who can support each one, so take your pick!

The Perfect Match

Once you identify your program team, the next step is to assign roles to make your team as effective as possible. Think about it: You carefully selected a team of experts and advisors to make your program plans happen. The last thing you want to do is leave ’em hanging. They know their stuff, so take advantage of this by assigning roles that honor their experience and expertise and engage them in the decision-making process. (By the way, this is a good approach to use with your program staff as well!)

The Buy-In

It can be difficult to attract stakeholders, especially school-day leaders, who already have multiple commitments. However, there are ways to communicate to school-day leaders that you value their time and expertise, and that you believe their participation is integral to the success of your program — and students. The Building a Program Team QPQ will give you the skills to efficiently communicate your needs to your potential partners.

Once you have your team, keeping them effectively engaged will require some planning. You’ll get an in-depth look at how to prepare and host meetings, maintain ongoing interaction, and develop task timelines to minimize chaos and maximize productivity. Additionally, there are a variety of ways to communicate with your team, such as one-on-one meetings, emails, phone calls, and group meetings. The best communications plan is the one that fits your team.

Reaping the Rewards

With the right team, you can take your program to new heights. If you assemble a team of superheroes and tap into their specialized powers, you and your students will reap the rewards: more energy and ideas, culturally sensitive practices, an enriched learning environment, and less stress. Bonus: Your students will surely take notice, too!



November 17, 2022

“October” and “scary” go hand-in-hand, whether you’re talking about Halloween or horror movies. One thing that doesn’t have to be scary, though? Encouraging your students to create a mental health tool kit! This tool kit can equip your students with ways to manage stress and anxiety while also reminding them of daily habits that are essential to mental as well as physical health and well-being.

It’s the Journey, Not the Destination

Mental health among children and young adults is a growing concern for parents, and it has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five adolescents ages 12-17 have experienced a major depressive episode, and seven in 10 parents agree that the pandemic has taken a toll on their child’s mental health. It’s important to teach your students that attaining and maintaining good mental health is an ongoing process. It’s seldom a smooth road; it’s more akin to a journey with a few stop signs, roadblocks, and detours. The good news is that with the right map, the road is drivable, and the journey is achievable! What would this “map” look like in real life? Let’s explore.

Getting Introspective

Start with these guiding questions to help students focus on their thoughts and feelings:

  • Think of a time when you felt stressed or anxious.
  • How did your body respond to this feeling? Maybe your heart rate increased, your mouth or throat became dry, or your hands felt clammy.
  • Have you noticed certain events that cause you to feel this way? Perhaps it’s presenting to the class, meeting strangers, or taking an exam.

Once your students can pinpoint their feelings, symptoms, and potential triggers, it’s easier for them to handpick tools that can deescalate the situation. There are a multitude of ways to de-stress, and it can look different for everyone! Have your students try the following strategies:

  • Breathe in, breathe out: Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in for four counts. Then exhale slowly through the nose for four counts. Pay attention only to the rise and fall of your belly and chest.
  • Music therapy: If you’re able to, listen to a song that makes you feel calm or happy. Many music streaming services have playlists specifically designed to curb anxiety.
  • Muscle relaxation: Stress and anxiety often cause pain and tension in certain muscles, so tensing and releasing those muscles can provide relief. Try squeezing the muscles in your face, shoulders, hands, legs, and toes for 10 seconds at a time and then releasing, making sure to breathe through it. The goal is to pay extra attention to how loose your muscles feel after the exercise.

Can your students think of other exercises or strategies to alleviate stress? Ask for ideas, and try them out as a group! Students can decide individually which ones belong in their personal tool kits.

Supplementation Minimizes Frustration

Along with healthy exercises that can decrease feelings of stress and anxiety, arm your students with strategies they can use in their everyday lives to keep stress at bay. Engage students in an open conversation about things they already do to lessen stress, and also discuss activities and behaviors that might not be helpful. Here are some topics you may cover:

  • Physical activity is a proven stress reliever. Need some ideas for incorporating it into your program? Y4Y’s Health and Wellness Click & Go can get the ball rolling — literally and figuratively!
  • Do your students’ parents or guardians limit screentime (maybe to the student’s dismay)? Research shows that this can actually fight off anxiety symptoms over time, making it a perfect tool for students to include in their mental health tool kits. Express to your students that, while they may not love time away from their devices, it’s important to let their minds focus on other stimulating activities.
  • Something as simple as combing your hair and brushing your teeth can be supplements in a mental health tool kit. Keeping up with your personal hygiene is a little reminder that you deserve attention and care!

I’ve Got the Power!

Let your students know that having a mental health tool kit packed with handpicked strategies that work for them is a powerful thing. It gives them the confidence and  know-how to regulate their own feelings and emotions. Model key strategies for your students. The next time you or your staff are feeling overwhelmed, doing something as simple as a breathing exercise can show your students that destressing doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s something that we can all benefit from, so why not start young?



September 23, 2022

There are some helpful takeaways from a report from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) on 10 years of systemic social and emotional learning implementation in urban settings. Keep reading to learn about these findings and Y4Y resources that can help guide social and emotional learning in your supportive 21st CCLC program now and in future program years. 

Prioritizing social-emotional learning (SEL) is key to building a joyful, resilient program environment. That’s because SEL skills help us identify and manage our emotions, express empathy, form meaningful relationships, and cope with stress. When we prioritize social-emotional well-being for both educators and students, we can foster a culture in which everyone is better equipped to reach their full potential. 

Building a Network of Support

As students return to school this fall, the social and emotional aspects are just as important as gathering school supplies, meeting the new teacher(s), and finding out what’s being offered for lunch. More than ever, SEL is a key ingredient in addressing the top concerns for schools and out-of-school time (OST) programs. That includes physical wellness, mental wellness, emotional well-being, and academic recovery. OST programs have a key role to play in this effort. As your program partners with schools and families, you can strengthen relationships and provide a network of support that includes trusted adults and enriching experiences.

These three Y4Y tools can help you shape the priorities of your group effort in implementing social-emotional programming:

Providing Comprehensive Support for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

The CASEL report mentioned above involved large, complex school systems in the country. Not only did these districts demonstrate it was possible to implement SEL systemically, but every district deepened and expanded SEL implementation from school to OST programs and families. CASEL identified four key elements that are necessary to comprehensively support quality SEL implementation throughout the system:

  • Building foundational support and plan
  • Strengthening adult SEL competencies and capacity
  • Promoting SEL for students
  • Reflecting on data for continuous improvement

The researchers examined how the districts they studied equipped themselves to sustain a commitment to SEL over the long term, even as the people and contexts within the district changed. CASEL identified six elements for sustaining SEL:

  • Leaders model, cultivate, and elevate a shared vision for SEL.
  • Core district priorities connect SEL to all departments and individuals, so everyone is invested.
  • Schools have resources and pathways to guide SEL implementation, as well as room to innovate and customize SEL for their communities.
  • SEL informs and shapes adult learning and staff culture and climate.
  • Students, families, and communities are co-creators of the SEL vision, plans, and practices.
  • External and internal communities of practice strengthen implementation.

These findings align with advice from Dr. Dave Pauneski, a senior behavioral scientist at Stanford University: “If we really want all students to leave school having developed certain academic, social, personal, and cultural capacities, we need to think really carefully about whether we as educators are creating the types of experiences that we know from research will help develop those capacities.”

Y4Y Resources Supporting SEL

These additional Y4Y resources can also support your efforts:



September 23, 2022

Man looking at reflection in mirror that is laying on the groundComparing yourself to others is, unfortunately, human nature. Often, we do it without even noticing. But when we do it in front of children, they notice. That’s because children are like sponges — they tend to soak up behaviors, attitudes, and ways of thinking. Imagine what may happen in the mind of a child when their adult role models openly criticize themselves. The child may wonder: “If they don’t believe they’re enough, should I be worried about how I perceive myself?”

One of this month’s Creative Program Ideas is to offer students a dedicated day (October 19, to be exact) to evaluate their life. Evaluate Your Life Day was inspired by a model of social behavior called Self-Evaluation Maintenance. This model suggests that if students have close friends or family members who “outperform” them in an area students don’t particularly pride themselves in, that connection boosts their self-esteem. But if a friend or family member outperforms a student in an area that matters a lot to the student — like skills in sports or the arts, or even attractiveness — then that relationship may take away from their self-esteem.

In other words, the Self-Evaluation Maintenance model suggests that a child’s self-evaluation is constantly interacting with how others close to them perform. That means each child’s identity and sense of self can be affected by how their peers perform.

What can your out-of-school time program do to help students find healthy ways to negotiate the natural human tendency to compare themselves to others? Here are some ideas.

All for One and One for All

To make sure that all your students feel like their success is possible, they must first feel like their voice matters. It’s important to incorporate regular self-reflection in a way that deters negative comparison. Y4Y’s Student Voice and Choice course takes a deep dive into maximizing student engagement and equipping staff with the tools they need to encourage a healthy self-image. When students feel heard, their confidence grows, and they’re more likely to develop a strong sense of self. You can nurture this strong sense of self by:

  • Assessing student needs
  • Conducting student interest surveys
  • Encouraging goal setting
  • Prioritizing student self-reflection

Setting the Scene for Reflection and Growth

Just as incorporating student voice and choice nurtures a healthy self-image, it’s also important to make sure your learning environment cultivates constructive attitudes. Creating a positive learning environment will, in turn, give your staff and students the setting they need to have open and honest conversations about self-reflection and self-love. The strategies in Y4Y’s Creating a Positive Learning Environment course can help your staff to create a safe space where students and families feel supported. Students in an open and positive environment are more likely to be supportive of each other. In fact, learning to celebrate one another’s successes is a great way to stop the “comparison habit” in its tracks.

When program staff members build positive relationships with and among students and create a nurturing environment where each student feels seen and heard, it sets the stage for students to discover their own strengths. Further, a safe, nurturing environment provides opportunities for them to develop those strengths. This is the path to establishing a generation of students with a healthy self-image and a productive attitude.

You can guide students along this path by teaching them that self-reflection is best practiced through a lens of positivity and self-compassion rather than constant comparison. Make sure your students appreciate that they are only ever striving to be their best selves.