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January 20, 2022

The students in your program are not likely to be “spoiled” at home, though you might find they’re occasionally “indulged” by parents wishing they could make their lives just a little easier. With a quick review of the milestone matrix prepared by Y4Y to accompany the new Stages of Child and Adolescent Development course, you’ll gain some basic ideas of what students need most from the adults in their lives at various stages of development. Use these tips and additional Y4Y tools to explore those areas where your program can offer students the royal treatment by supporting healthy growth and development for the best possible life outcomes.

Students ages 4-6 are improving their fine motor skills, are beginning to understand cause and effect, and want to show off their skills. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Establishing a program space rich with materials that “grow with” young peoples’ motor development, like crayons and paint brushes in different sizes.
  • Asking many leading questions, even ones that are not lesson-oriented, like “What could happen if I don’t tie this long shoelace of mine?”
  • Creating opportunities to show off talents great and small, reminding students to encourage one another and not always take a competitive position. For example: a hopping-on-one-foot “break” (not contest) could be a nice way to take a breather from academics. You can call out different students for how creatively or slowly they hop as well as the student who hops the longest.

Check out Y4Y’s Facilitating Positive Youth Development in Summer Learning Training to Go.

Students ages 6-9 may become more physical in their games, are beginning to read to learn once they’ve learned to read, and are beginning to identify their own personality traits in comparison with others. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Offering a variety of options during outdoor playtime with established safety ground rules and the opportunity to play contact sports to the degree all participants are comfortable.
  • Coordinating with school partners like the librarian to offer interesting reading material that supports academics. Offer “fact treasure hunt” activities.
  • Providing daily reflection opportunities. Choose an adjective each day like “confident,” “strong,” or “smart,” and ask students to remember a moment in their day when they saw this trait in themselves.

Check out Y4Y’s Effective Questioning literacy tool and Best Practices for Mindfulness tool.

Students ages 9-12 are developing faster reaction times, experiencing a rise in self-esteem as interest-based peer groups emerge, and are increasingly able to monitor and direct their own progress toward a long-term goal. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Interspersing “rapid-fire” quizzing as a study strategy for students who enjoy that activity and are not stressed by it.
  • Offering icebreaker activities throughout the year to help students continually look for things in common with all their peers. Challenge them to make “unexpected” connections.
  • Allowing long-term group projects to be centered on student voice and choice and student-driven goal setting.

Check out Y4Y’s Icebreaker Activities and Student Goal Setting and Reflection – Middle School.

Students ages 12-15 are completing puberty, growing critical of adults and siblings, may thrive on conflict ranging from intellectual debate to serious rebellion, and becoming anxious for the future. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Firmly establishing your program as a safe space for different opinions and life experiences while fostering constructive debates about society and the world around your students.
  • Forging deeper trust and connections with students while maintaining healthy boundaries between adults and teens.
  • Offering a wide variety of career pathway activities to broaden students’ horizons and help them to envision themselves as successful adults.

Check out Y4Y’s Incorporating Multiple Viewpoints Checklist and Career Pathways Activity Design Guidebook.

Students ages 15-18 are physically mature or nearly so, likely to be feeling strong emotions like anger or loneliness even if those emotions aren’t always obvious, and are increasingly able to take everything they’ve learned to make decisions about their future. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Encouraging initiative and leadership skills in your program and beyond.
  • Continuing to educate students on all aspects of lifelong health and wellness, centered on better understanding themselves and their own needs, and making good choices in much more “adult” arenas.
  • Offering guidance through the practical aspects of career pathway choices such as test prep, college or apprenticeship applications, or speaking with military recruiters.

Check out Y4Y’s Youth Leadership Roles tool and Student Self-Assessment: Late Adolescence.

No Such Thing as a Spoiled Child

It may be decades before we can successfully remove the term “spoiled” from the long list of adjectives we might use for children. But as a youth worker, you understand better than most that term simply means that expectations on a child do not match what is developmentally appropriate for them. Often you are aware of why this might be the case for the students in your program. But raising these princes and princesses to be their best selves is an honor you share with their parents, so remember to team up with tools like Y4Y’s Sample Caregiver Survey and Partnering With Families for Healthy Child Development Training to Go.

One day your students will rule the world. We’ll all benefit from them ruling wisely.



January 4, 2022

Accelerated learning rules all during this academic year. Place your students on their right-sized thrones with tips from Y4Y’s new Click & Go on homework and tutoring sessions and Human Resources course. But partnering with the school day doesn’t end with academics! Your program also has agency to address student health and wellness as their school days are jam-packed with other duties. Ensure that your palace of learning is perfectly appointed for whole child support for the rest of the program year with help from Y4Y’s crown jewels.

The Data in Your Kingdom

Updated Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) measures for 21st CCLC have you keenly aware of the importance of data in your community. You can glimpse those updated measures in Chapter 2 of the Introduction Section of Y4Y’s updated course, Introduction to 21st CCLCs. The data you captured at the outset of this program year should be informing how you structure your homework and tutoring time to be sure you support the school day with accelerated learning. But some midyear checks might have you considering a little restructuring. Go back to the Y4Y Five Key Strategies tool and Homework Help vs. Tutoring tool for the basics, beginning with what your staffing should look like.

The Right Hand of the Throne

If you’re going to place each student on their right-sized throne of learning, the staff member who sits by their side will make all the difference. Taking tips from the mini-lesson on what your staff numbers and qualifications need to be, consult the Y4Y Human Resources Planning Checklist for guidance on possible midyear hires, or better still, your summer program planning. If you have new leaders who have their own learning curves to accelerate, the staff training on conducting an effective interview is a great place to start. In 21st CCLC programs, you can never lower those shields against turnover! Also train leaders on employee retention to ensure continuity for student learning.

A Royal Wedding

The school-day partnership your 21st CCLC program enjoys is always going to be at the heart of your program’s success. You’ll need to satisfy those student data needs, communicate about homework, and access school-day staff and academic resources when you consider that program success is measured, in part, by students’ school-day success. Y4Y offers many more tools to build and strengthen this relationship, whether you’re part of the fabric of your school district or a community-based organization still proving your worth. Remember: In out-of-school time, you have the unique opportunity to support other aspects of student success. But it can’t be done alone. Partner on student health and wellness and understand everyone’s roles and responsibilities as you align social and emotional learning goals with school-day initiatives.

Her/His Royal Highness

The students in your program may not have many opportunities in life to feel special. At the end of the day, if your 21st CCLC program accomplishes nothing else, building self-esteem, contributing to healthy growth and development, and helping students see that you will always treat them with the dignity of royalty can still make or break the long-term outcomes for these children you cherish. Y4Y offers many resources to help you implement these less tangible goals, including a new course on stages of child and adolescent development, which includes training on understanding development and connecting with children. Plus, the course on creating a positive learning environment includes quick tips for implementing basic strategies.

Beloved Princess Diana said of her role in the royal family, “Nothing brings me more happiness than to help the most vulnerable people in society.” Never forget that you are royalty, too. Your place in your 21st CCLC program may carry great duty, but it also offers great rewards.



December 16, 2021

Imposter Syndrome — the feeling that you don’t belong in the environment you’ve worked toward — is very real and seems to impact women and minorities most. Some of the self-doubt professionals feel is reinforced by memories of the messaging they received — both direct and indirect — from the adults who helped to shape their lives. This realization can be both scary and exciting as you consider the power you have in the lives of your students. Use tools from several courses for tips on how you can turn the tables on imposter syndrome and set your students up for success in any field.

Relationships Are the Root

The stronger your relationship is with your students, the more weight your words will carry with them. Most of us can remember at least one teacher with a reputation for meanness. And while, as adults, we recognize it could not have been easy to be on the receiving end of that meanness, it was likely easier to live with than even slightly disappointing a cherished mentor. To lay the groundwork for strong connections with your students, Y4Y offers a staff Training to Go, Building Relationships, and a brand-new training that takes childhood development into account: Understanding Development and Connecting With Children. Also check out Strategies for Creating a Positive Learning Environment, and take an active role in team-building activities.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

One educator-turned-mom blogger, Shelly Stasney, cites three psychological and child development theories that reinforce the idea that, as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, children will become what you say they are. These theories are echoed in the research compiled in the “theories” tool in Y4Y’s Stages of Child and Adolescent Development course. In fact, a course matrix shows that children as young as four years old are forming new images of themselves based on how others view them. The basics of social and emotional learning also remind us that the first and most fundamental skill is self-awareness, so if your program is offering any social and emotional learning skill-building, you’re actively opening students up to taking in and taking on your perspective of who they are. As you consider the students in your program who may be more vulnerable as adults to imposter syndrome, you can use this awesome “power” to build up those little psyches. Every challenge is an opportunity for honest praise. If a child displays:

  • Disruptive behavior, say “I love that you have so much enthusiasm that it’s hard to wait your turn!”
  • Shyness, say “I can tell you have some powerful thinking going on in there!”
  • Self-doubt, say “I believe in you! Want to know why? Because I’ve seen you accomplish amazing things like coming to the program on time every single day all year. You might say that’s easy, but not everyone does it!”
  • Discomfort with anything academic, say “Using your mind is mostly about problem solving. Remember what a great job you did at problem solving when there weren’t enough kids to play a game of basketball? We’re ALL using our brain power every day!”

Passive Imagery

Even if you’ve built trust and actively given positive, personalized messages to your students, there’s only so much you can do about the world outside your program. Be sure to include lots of passive, diverse imagery in your program space and materials. Invite guest speakers that “look like” your students, such as a female surgeon, a college professor from the inner city or an attorney who uses a wheelchair. And teach students to “think big” when it comes to imagining their futures. Y4Y’s newly updated Career Pathways for Students course offers many tools like the Career Pathways Activity Design Guidebook to help students head imposter syndrome off at the pass by envisioning those futures from a young age.

Although you may be focusing efforts on acceleration of learning and general academics, don’t lose sight of the opportunity to expose your students to real-world careers in ways that help them to see themselves there. Not sure where to start? Check these Y4Y courses for activities that connect students to a variety of professions:

Activist Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” In your 21st CCLC program, you have the power to build a new generation of diverse professionals who won’t just do amazing things, but feel it was always their destiny.



December 15, 2021

As humans with an instinct for survival, we’re “wired” to look for problems, concerns and barriers. For decades, education has focused on identifying each student’s weaknesses and sought to strengthen student performance in those areas. But does this mean generations have identified themselves by the things that trip them up? Are your 21st CCLC students at particular risk of this when the very legislation that serves as the basis for your funding includes language like “underperforming?” How can you flip the coin on deficit thinking in your program to help your students not only survive but thrive? You can start by demonstrating your commitment to helping all students discover their gifts, develop their skills, and perform to their full potential. This asset-based approach places students (not their weaknesses) front and center.

Feeling or Focus?

Scientific studies demonstrate that practicing gratitude improves everything from sleep to physical and mental health to relationships, self-esteem and beyond. While gratitude is an individual mindset and practice centered on life’s positives, it’s easy to see how asset-based thinking in education is a systemwide extension of this principle. While your 21st CCLC program may not have “feelings” of gratitude, the studies say it’s the practice of gratitude that yields results. When you think of this shift toward intentionality, you can appreciate that the results are more dependent on focus than feeling. So, how can you focus on student assets in your program to improve results?

Set the Culture

Y4Y’s course on creating a positive learning environment walks programs through the steps needed to set or reshape your culture. Revisit your core values with the implementation checklist that accompanies the course, and commit your program to that cultural shift that emphasizes individual and group strengths.

Just Ask!

If your program hasn’t mastered the topic, check out the Y4Y course on capturing student voice and choice. Effective methods and tools for considering both student and family feedback will not only help you discover those student strengths; they’ll also illustrate that strengths are your focus. Download and adapt these Y4Y tools:

Strengths as Data Points

As you move toward an asset-based approach, be sure that your data collection reflects this shift:

  • The Y4Y Three Types of Data tool serves as a reminder of what goes into intentional program design. Even school-level data could speak to individual strengths like resilience of students in a region that experienced a recent natural disaster.
  • Explore the Structuring Successful Homework and Tutoring Sessions Click & Go for suggestions on how to use that data in your staffing efforts, then group students in ways that highlight their respective strengths.
  • Get comfortable with qualitative data. This less rigid way of determining needs and results is critical in a shift to asset-based thinking, given that quantitative data is often rooted in a deficit framework.

Just as health and longevity get a boost with a generous dose of gratitude, so, too, will your program when you give students the opportunity to be seen for their strengths. Every single student has strengths. If you can’t see their positives, it doesn’t mean they need to work harder. It means you do. Y4Y is ready to work for you and WITH you on this great mission.



November 22, 2021

The world of business offers a lot more research on the value of gut-level decision-making than the world of education, but your students may well find themselves in that world one day. Trusting your gut takes a unique kind of confidence. Young people can learn how to develop and trust their instincts by matching their cultural learning with self-awareness and self-management, social awareness, leadership opportunities, and more. Tools from Y4Y courses can help you build student intuition and confidence through a variety of strategies so they’ll be ready for times when snap judgments — and trusting those snap judgments — are a must.

It Starts With a Positive Learning Environment

Creating a positive learning environment opens the door to everything from baby steps to giant leaps in each of your 21st CCLC initiatives. Consult the Y4Y list of strategies for creating a positive learning environment to make sure that door is wide open. Simple practices around how you interact with your students and your stakeholders — like one-on-one exchanges, focused listening and appropriate personal openness — ensure the safety and trust that lead to strong work in confidence building.

The Role of Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) gives students the tools needed to become well-adjusted adults. The Y4Y research brief on this subject expands on how the emotional competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making build on one another. An effective, evidence-based SEL curriculum can help this process. It might be tempting to consider “responsible decision-making” only those decisions that have been deliberated with a textbook list of pros and cons. But researchers are finding that sometimes responsible decision-making means knowing when to abandon that method.

An effective SEL program should be “SAFE” (sequenced, active, focused and explicit) and provide (1) purposeful design that leads to skill development; (2) opportunities for practice; (3) time devoted to developing one or more social and emotional skills; and (4) a plan that targets specific skills. A few Y4Y tools to get you started are the SEL Competencies Matching Game to get to know the competencies, and the Delivery Methods for SEL and SEL Learning Activity Intentional Design Planner to implement your focused practice of those competencies. Researchers advocating for the benefits of snap decisions note, “Another interesting finding in this study is that intuition can be improved over time, suggesting that the mechanisms of intuition can be improved with practice.” Your program might consider self-awareness skills the perfect place to begin a focused practice. After all, solid self-awareness is the foundation for all emotional competencies and the best assurance of trusting your gut!

The Art of Reflection

Y4Y offers many more opportunities outside of the SEL course for students to build their self-awareness skills, and reflection is at the heart of them. The course on student voice and choice includes tools for middle and high school students to reflect on what they’re learning, how they learn and how to connect that learning with their lives. The full set of voice and choice course tools contains tools specific to grades K-1, 2-3, 4-6, middle school and high school that help connect reflection and goal setting. It’s easy to see how a lifetime of reflection and goal setting could develop a strong neurological pathway for making quick, outcome-oriented decisions!

Put Confidence to the Test

Once you’ve invested time in building student confidence on the inside, there are plenty of opportunities to put that confidence to the test in your 21st CCLC program space. Help students grow into leadership with tools from the Recruiting and Retaining High School Students Click & Go, such as the Youth Leadership Roles ideas. Group brainstorming calls for quick, free-flowing ideas, as does the Concentric Circles Discussion Format. These practices are ideal for out-of-school time to prepare students for the professional world and to exercise emotional competencies beyond self-awareness, such as social awareness and relationship skills. More broadly, these group activities are essential for design thinking (at the center of the Y4Y STEAM course) and other kinds of project-based learning.

The Future of Intuition?

The linked article suggests that “the ability to quantitively measure intuition could be a boon to many different fields, especially when it comes to workplace hiring.” It cites research on a growing ability to scientifically measure intuition, which could lead to hiring practices based more on those measurements than on candidate questionnaires that merely “test people’s opinions about their own feelings of intuition.” Your 21st CCLC programs are the perfect environment to help students develop strong intuition through self-awareness and reflection exercises, and just as important, to trust that intuition as you help them build their confidence through leadership and collaboration.