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June 16, 2020

Independence Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate how countless cultures come together to share the unique identity of America. Are we a melting pot? A tossed salad? Whatever your choice of metaphor might be, how is this practice reflected in your program’s culture and climate? Check out Y4Y’s Creating a Positive Learning Environment course to do that self-check.

Mission, Vision and Values

When was the last time your program team sat down to reflect on what your program is all about? If your celebration of diversity isn’t woven into the fiber of your stated values, consider shaping new culture statements to guide your program’s mission and vision of what you plan to achieve. It might be something as simple as “We will honor the diversity of our staff, students and families.” Check out Y4Y’s Positive Learning Environment Implementation Checklist to walk you through the essential steps. When you incorporate the idea of celebrating diversity into the very foundation of your program, you have a much better chance of meeting that goal.

Celebrating Diversity in Practice

Once you’ve established the celebration of diversity as a goal on paper, how can you demonstrate to students and families that you’ll “put your money where your mouth is,” as the saying goes? Here are a few simple ways to foster a positive learning environment by celebrating the many cultures that make your program and our country a rich tapestry:

  • Take a virtual tour together of a museum that celebrates an artist or culture outside the U.S., such as Museo Frida Kahlo in Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico, the Pinacoteca de São Paulo in Brazil or the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi, Kenya. Thousands of other virtual museums are available online.
  • Listen to music from different countries and have students identify something they like about it.
  • Invite students to take turns sharing a game or sport that’s a tradition in their family, whether their family recently immigrated or has been in the U.S. for generations.
  • Choose a simple word or object as a class, such as “dog,” that you’ll look up in 20 or 30 different languages. Have students compare the sounds or spellings or symbols.
  • Explore picture books that tell traditional stories from other countries.
  • Design a web of inclusion. On a whiteboard or online, you can ask a student, “What’s something that’s interesting or unique about yourself that you’re willing to share?” Listen to the response, then ask the next student to connect this to his or her own life. For example, if the first student says, “I’m right in the middle of five children,” the next student might say, “I’m the oldest, but when I was little, I had an imaginary older brother and that would make me a middle child.” The third student could then connect with birth order or imaginary friends. Encourage questions and pose some of your own that demonstrate your interest in different backgrounds and experiences.
  • Offer an art project around flags of the world. Students might wish to create a flag from a country of their family’s origin or a place they hope to visit one day.

Don’t Forget the Warm and Fuzzies

Your positive learning environment will be complete when you follow these simple strategies as you connect individually with your students. An educator can never be sure what messages a student experiences in life outside your program, but it’s fair to guess they may not always be affirming ones, especially if they have cultural barriers to overcome. You wouldn’t be a 21st CCLC professional if you weren’t already a warm and caring adult to children, but some days you may just be looking for a little extra help in forging those more difficult relationships. Try Y4Y’s questionnaire for building student/educator relationships

The poet Maya Angelou once said, “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” What an uplifting way to view our unique country and the safe space you’ve created for students.



June 16, 2020

June is for educators what December is for the rest of the world. And this academic year was certainly not what anybody expected! What worked in your program, and what “new year’s” resolutions would you like to set for next year’s program? How can Y4Y resources help you achieve those goals? To get those creative juices flowing, start by exploring Y4Y’s tools for continuous improvement, such as the SWOT Analysis Worksheet, Sample Evaluation Guide, the Continuous Improvement Process Diagram and Planner. Then, plan for a deeper dive into those areas that need particular attention.

Here are the top 2020 New Year’s resolutions set by Americans, and their translation into 21st CCLC-speak:

Exercise More

How well are you incorporating physical activity into your program? Have you caught Y4Y’s archived Showcase webinar, Expanding Quality Health and Recreation Opportunities? A summary of the resources presented is also available. Start with a good stretch: Reach out and connect with your community using Y4Y’s Mapping Community Assets tool. Get the heart pumping with engaging project-based learning. A wealth of ideas were presented during the May webinar series, and resources were shared to the discussion board. Looking for a little muscle mass? The Y4Y course on strategic partnerships offers important steps to building a stronger program and the importance of teamwork. Don’t forget the cool-down.

Save Money/Stick to a Budget

Do you know that as many 21st CCLC programs have unspent funds as those that end the year on the crumbs of their annual funding? The key to a successful fiscal year is staying right on target. Step 1: Know your grant! Step 2: Catch session 1 of the New Leaders Academy Webinar, which gives an overview of what expenditures are allowed in your program. Step 3: Go deeper and take Y4Y’s Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course. Step 4: Get out Y4Y’s Sample 21st CCLC Budget Worksheet and start the new program year fresh as a crisp Benjamin.

Don’t forget to share the importance of fiscal responsibility with your students and their families. Y4Y offers a Click & Go and an online course on financial literacy.

Eat More Healthily

“Garbage in, garbage out.” Although this expression came from the computing industry, we have come to appreciate that our bodies need the right fuel to work best, and so do our 21st CCLC programs. Nothing fuels a healthy program like the right staff! Y4Y’s Human Resources course will help ensure you recruit and retain the right folks for the job. Safety is also at the center of your program’s health. Be sure to check out Y4Y’s Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan Click & Go to safeguard the health of your program and your students.

Get More Sleep

People who set a resolution for more sleep recognize they’re trying to do too much, and probably not performing efficiently or effectively in the process. Achieving this goal often means improving self-management and decision making. These skills are at the heart of Y4Y’s course on social and emotional learning, along with self-awareness, social awareness and relationship skills. The role of your 21st CCLC program in the lives of your students extends well beyond academic support. Research tells us they’ll need social and emotional tools to be well-adjusted and to truly succeed as adults. The good news is, you can weave this theme through activities you’re already doing in your program. Look to Y4Y’s Logic Model Template, Delivery Methods, and other tools to achieve this worthwhile goal without spending time you don’t have, or worse still, time you’re stealing from other important areas. Like SLEEP!

Focus on Personal or Mindful Growth

One of the greatest luxuries of out-of-school time is the space it creates for individual attention and care. Your program can be a haven for students’ social and emotional growth — a safe space where they can explore who they are and who they want to be. Some might say you’re nourishing not just their minds, but their hearts and energies. Y4Y’s course on Creating a Positive Learning Environment can help you ensure that students feel supported. Appreciated. Special. Safe. For best practices that promote the “energy wellness” of your program and your students, also take a look at Y4Y’s Click & Go on Trauma-Informed Care. It can help in those instances where the hearts in your care need a little extra nurturing.

Tip: Planning to bring new staff on board? If they’re new to 21st CCLC programs, Y4Y’s Introduction to 21st CCLC course can help them get up to speed! Don’t forget Y4Y’s ready-to-use tools you can use to train your entire staff, whether they’re 21st CCLC novices or veterans, on a variety of topics, including project-based learning, financial literacy, college and career readiness, and more! Happy New Year!



April 20, 2020

There’s no shame in the comfort of sameness. The desire to join others who have similar experiences and interests is natural. That’s why there are groups and clubs dedicated to everything from genealogy to fly fishing to Bigfoot. It’s not an issue unless it keeps you from welcoming new people and experiences into your flock. The trick is to realize you have something in common with every person you meet.

In 21st CCLC programs, no matter how diverse your staff, you all have one thing in common: a desire to serve children, youth and families. Y4Y’s new Creating a Positive Learning Environment course helps you define your shared goals and create a place where everyone — students, families, partners and staff — feels welcome, respected, appreciated and engaged. That kind of program environment enables your staff and students to do their best work, regardless of their diverse interests and backgrounds.

Respecting individuality while pursuing common goals is a time-honored way to value diversity while building community. For example, organizers of Multiracial Heritage Week dedicate a week each June to “a celebration for all people” that “highlights our similarities, not our differences.” If your staff uses Y4Y’s Building Student/Educator Interests Questionnaire, you’ll see ways students are alike and ways they’re different. The new Y4Y course can help your staff create a positive learning environment where birds of all feathers can flock together to help one another soar



February 13, 2020

Bad weather is sometimes unpredictable and always out of our control. Cultures that have developed around some of the harshest weather conditions just lean into the storm with good preparation like dry clothes, an emergency kit and a strategic plan. Similarly, people can navigate life’s storms successfully by preparing socially and emotionally. That way, they’re ready to act and respond wisely when difficulties arise — and they always do! Your 21st CCLC program can use social and emotional learning strategies to help students develop this kind of “storm readiness.”

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has done a great deal of research and development in social and emotional learning. Here’s the definition CASEL uses:

“Social and emotional learning is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Y4Y’s new Social and Emotional Learning course spotlights five areas for personal growth identified by CASEL:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management
  • Responsible decision making

People sometimes say these are “soft skills,” which can make them sound unimportant or unnecessary. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Our ability to navigate emotions and relationships greatly affects how and what we learn, in school and beyond. Social and emotional skills are life skills. So, when you model and teach these skills to students, you’re helping them prepare for success throughout their lives.

Not convinced? Think back on your own experiences in school:

  • Remember your favorite teacher, coach or counselor? Why is that person your favorite? It’s probably not just because you loved math or were really good at soccer. Your personal relationship with this adult made you more interested in learning what he or she had to teach you.
  • Consider a time when you were anxious about a test, felt intimidated by a teacher or had trouble with a classmate. This likely kept you from doing your best. You may even have developed long-term anxiety about test taking, a particular subject or certain kinds of classroom interactions (like giving a speech or working in small groups).

Your experiences are similar to those of every learner, including the children and youth in your 21st CCLC program. Social relationships and emotional states have a profound effect on learning. Positive emotional experiences motivate people of all ages to work hard and try their best.

Developing smarter, kinder, happier, more productive human beings is a goal we can all get behind. Y4Y’s new Social and Emotional Learning course helps you envision how social and emotional learning fits with that goal and with your other program goals. It also shows you how to weave social and emotional learning strategies into your program activities, and how to support staff members throughout the process.

You might also want to check out Y4Y’s new Creating a Positive Learning Environment course. It has strategies for infusing a “can do” attitude into program activities and routines. That course shows ways your staff can improve the overall program culture and climate, whereas the Social and Emotional Learning course shows ways to help students manage their internal “weather system.”

Why not put on your snow boots or galoshes and jump in with both feet?



February 13, 2020

Counselors have a saying: “Environment always wins.” At the height of flu season, this isn’t always great news, but instituting the Dracula sneeze, aggressive hand washing and a generous supply of hand sanitizer are measures every educator knows can sway the environment in their favor. But when it comes to positivity, slather that stuff all over your 21st CCLC program.

Creating a program environment that enables your staff and students to do their best work is a smart way to magnify everyone’s efforts. Not sure where to start? Take a peek at Y4Y’s new Creating a Positive Learning Environment course. Chelsea, your guide, will welcome you as an “apprentice builder” and walk you through six strategies to help you renovate your program environment. You’ll learn how to define and assess organizational culture and climate, plan for behavior management, build relationships, be intentional about designing a positive learning environment, and plan for continuous improvement. A few tweaks can make a big difference.

Add this course to your tool belt, and use it to strengthen your program’s foundation, imagine new possibilities, and make dreams come true for students and families. It might be easier than you think to create a “yes, I can” environment where confidence, curiosity and enthusiasm are contagious.