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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.



April 28, 2021

The “buddy system” has gained traction in classrooms, extracurricular activities and dedicated organizations through the last decade. As your 21st CCLC program begins, at last, to return to an in-person format, you may consider incorporating structures that range from casual buddy pairing to formal peer mentoring as a way to embrace full inclusion of students with disabilities. Borrowing from tools in Y4Y’s new course, Including Students With Disabilities, explore how the buddy system benefits all.

Who Makes a Good Buddy?

  • Student leaders in your program: that young lady the other girls watch and copy, or that young man who always seems to have a group of kids gathered around him. You recognize natural leadership a mile away, and that gift gives young people the confidence to be gracious toward a peer with a disability.
  • Anyone who demonstrates compassion: that student who notices and speaks up when anyone gets left out or left behind.
  • Young people who love teaching others: whether it’s because they like to “be the boss” or they just like to be helpful. You can help students positively channel those inclinations.
  • Academic superstars: your highest-achieving students may or may not be your most outgoing, but they’re always up for a challenge and understand that schoolwork isn’t easy for everyone.

What Is Peer Mentoring?

  • Fostering friendship. “Assigning” friends doesn’t have to feel as forced as you may believe. Just as icebreakers show us, people inherently want to be friendly toward one another. Often they just need some structured way to bridge any social awkwardness.
  • Offering support. Make your peer mentoring program what you need it to be. Will students support each other academically? Socially? Assess these needs with the Environmental Checklist from Y4Y’s Including Students With Disabilities course or use the Capturing Social and Emotional Learning Program Needs Assessment.

Where Do I Start?

  • Once you’ve established your program’s needs, bring in stakeholders like special education teachers and parents of students with disabilities to define your buddy program. Y4Y’s Building an Inclusive Environment by Roles tool can help.
  • Offer student training. Being any kind of mentor demands training, even if it’s just to establish a strong understanding of responsibilities and boundaries. Refer to the Y4Y tool on Socially Responsible Language.
  • Align strengths. Are you seeking to pair a student with a disability whose primary goal in your program is to make friends? Place her with that natural leader. Does your student with memory deficits just need a little patience with instructions and reminders? Pair him with that old soul in your program who never gets ruffled.

Who Benefits?

  • EVERYONE! It isn’t just students with disabilities whose lives are enriched through the buddy system. Peer mentors develop skills in forming friendships, building compassion and preparing for leadership. Most of all, the climate and culture of your program will reflect the equity and celebration of individuality you want it to.

Looking for More Resources? Check these out:



March 18, 2021

Every day brings more promise of a return to “normal” 21st CCLC programming. Rich lessons we’ve taken from a year of full or partial physical separation from students include these:

  • An understanding that connectedness is everything. A decade of social media might have suggested that you can trick the brain into believing those human connections can be replaced with virtual (“wireless”) ones, but a year of pandemic has blown that theory out of the water. Relationships matter.
  • Despite those charming articles and blog posts about how the pandemic has allowed people to reevaluate and reset their eating habits, 21st CCLC families are more likely to be food insecure and dependent on processed foods for basic sustenance.
  • “Self-care” has grown way beyond buzz words; professionals in many industries, but ESPECIALLY education, are keenly aware of an escalation in stress levels from the day-to-day demands of flexibility. The stakes of student outcomes make most education professionals eager to begin bridging the learning gap that has only widened for 21st CCLC students over the course of the last year.

As the school year winds down with anything but normal momentum, the hope of more in-person programming can at least offer your program the opportunity to be one with your students, set a footing for a summer of remediation and healing, and set new priorities and practices on well-being going forward.

There’s a certain irony in suggesting the need for more “heavy lifting” to arrive at your happy place, so consider all of the resources you can take advantage of passively. Grab a cup of tea, jump on your rowing machine, or even step out with your laptop onto your patio this weekend and check out these archived webinars and Click & Go mini-lessons and podcasts. Let the messages swirl around in the back of your mind to plan for summer and fall programming with the above goals in mind.

  • A new Y4Y Click & Go, Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day, offers a mini-lesson with the basics, as well as four short podcasts: Planning Health and Wellness Activities, Connecting With School-Day Staff on Health and Wellness, Health and Wellness On the Go, and Caring for Your Staff.
  • An archived LIVE With Y4Y webinar, Bringing Mindfulness to Out-of-School Time, offers strategies for promoting thoughtful positivity and awareness among staff and students.
  • A four-part webinar series, Social and Emotional Learning, steps through the process for delivering high-quality social and emotional learning activities: planning, designing, implementing and assessing your efforts.
  • Another four-part webinar series, An Artfully Formed Positive Environment, provides the tools you need to paint smiles on the faces and warmth in the hearts of staff, family, partners and, most of all, your students.
  • An archived Y4Y Showcase webinar, Expanding Quality Health and Recreational Opportunities, lives up to the promise in its name. It demonstrates successful implementation health and wellness initiatives in out-of-school time.
  • An archived four-part webinar series, Strategic Partnerships, helps you consider how partnerships can be an asset in helping to address food insecurity among your students.

We hear it everywhere today: “Give yourself grace.” These are simple words, representing a simple concept. Goodness knows that 21st CCLC professionals across the country have extended that grace to their students! Now it’s time to be one with your students in this exercise as you ease out of an unprecedented year and into one of unity, calm and productive energy.



February 17, 2021

Y4Y’s new Click & Go, Recruiting and Retaining High School Students (RRHHS) holds the premise that in every community, there are high school students who grapple with belonging. This can be especially true for students who are new to this country. Your program can lift up and inspire them to a whole new level of engagement and maturity. Be intentional in how you support these students, and help them chart their own course to adulthood. Looking for ways to help them break through language barriers, find their own place in your 21st CCLC community, and stay physically and mentally strong? Consider combining resources from Y4Y’s new courses on supporting English learners and student voice and choice, along with the new Click & Go on recruiting and retaining high school students.

Here are some challenges that immigrant teens may face, and where you can find Y4Y tips to support them.

Making Friends

Being the “new kid” as a teenager comes with some daunting statistics about student behaviors like falling in with a rough crowd and experiencing higher rates of substance abuse and even suicide. You can lay the groundwork for countering these statistics by training staff on creating a safe learning environment for English learners. A “safe environment” may be a new and welcome experience for English learners who are immigrants, depending on the circumstances in their countries of origin. Building trust among staff and students is an important first step in helping them build friendships and connections. You’ll appreciate the Y4Y RRHHS Click & Go tools for adopting a Youth Ambassador program because they put friendship-building at the center of your program design.

Cultural Assimilation vs. Family Wishes

In one generation, the U.S. went from being referred to as a “melting pot” to a “tossed salad” as people realized the benefits of keeping unique aspects of one’s home language and cultural rather than requiring people to give up those things to create a single, blended “flavor.” You can build trust by demonstrating to students and families that your program will respect and revere the practices they’ve brought with them. From the Home Language Survey and Knowing Families and Cultures tools to the Cultural Competence Training to Go and Family Goal-Setting Survey, you’ll establish, from the inside out, that your program is a shared effort between families and staff, and that participation in your community means never putting students in the position of having to choose between their heritage and their future.

Language Barriers, Low Literacy Levels and Interruptions in Formal Education

Tips for supporting a wide array of English learners in your program range from hiring a multilingual staff, which may be feasible if your students share the same native language, to using the universal language of math, as Marcy Richards describes in this month’s Voices From the Field: Diversity, Equity and English Learners. You can engage in Y4Y’s full course on the subject for in-depth professional development, or you can brush up on some basic concepts with Y4Y tools like Instructional Strategies for English Learners, Marzano’s Six Steps for Vocabulary Instruction, and a basic Sentence Frames and Stems worksheet, all of which can be downloaded and customized to meet students where they are.

No Sense of Control

There’s extensive research on the correlation between a sense of control in one’s life, and engagement and therefore success. Teens often grapple with feelings of restriction as they desire greater freedom to make their own choices and “do their own thing.” Immigrating to a new country (and learning a new language and culture) during adolescence can add to their frustrations and their sense of “not being heard.” Y4Y’s new Student Voice and Choice course can help! Adapt the Activity Choice Form to reflect your students’ ages and English literacy level. Tools like the Concentric Circles Discussion Format and Focus Group Format give you the added benefit of group work that builds friendship and community while reinforcing student voice and choice. Use the Student Goal Setting and Reflection tool as proof to your students that they have the power to say, to choose, and to control their futures as part of their new community.



December 14, 2020

As the weather turns cold and the country heads into a second cycle of COVID-19 closures, the idea of cabin fever — a phenomenon that already plagued educators in colder climates especially — may have new implications. Drawing from Y4Y's resources, you can arm yourself and your staff for an unprecedented season of cabin fever and serve your students in new and important ways.

You can begin by thinking about the signs of cabin fever, such as impatience, restlessness, general irritability, trouble concentrating, lack of motivation and fatigue. Remember, these look different in students than adults, but we’re all equally prone to them. Here are a few ideas on how to combat each.

Impatience. Right now, life feels like one big waiting game, so it’s only natural that we’re becoming impatient with waiting for a file to download, for class to be over, or for Mom to bring us a juice box. But what if you filled those times with something special so it doesn’t feel like waiting? Here’s an idea: Identify times when your students have to wait, and use transition strategies to help everyone stay focused and engaged. See Y4Y’s Transition Strategies tool for inspiration.

Restlessness. The solution to restlessness is staring every educator right in the face: MOVE. How can you incorporate more movement into your program? Just before the initial pandemic shutdown, Y4Y hosted a Showcase webinar, Expanding Quality Health and Recreation Opportunities, which was also summarized in a blog post. A key takeaway that applies even in a virtual environment is the need to incorporate movement wherever you can. For example, have students jump up and down whenever another student offers a correct response to a question. Be inclusive of your students with disabilities when thinking about these goals. Consider these tips from the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) for home workouts.

General irritability. Combat negativity with positivity! You can start with Y4Y’s Strategies for Creating a Positive Learning Environment and other tools from the course. Thanksgiving is still in your rearview mirror. Practice gratitude with students by having them take turns expressing what they’re grateful for, and why. When the holidays are over and life feels especially dull, liven things up with a joke-of-the day assignment or a dance party to raise spirits.

Trouble concentrating. This is an issue that 21st CCLC programs have always faced after students have put in a long school day. That “brain break” of some social time before jumping into any academics is always key, but cabin fever might bring on the kind of concentration barriers that seem insurmountable. This month’s LIVE With Y4Y webinar, Bringing Mindfulness to Out-of-School Time, is a tremendous resource for how and why meditative practices are key for adults and children in achieving a clean mental slate and state. If you missed the real-time webinar, you can catch it in the archive in the new year.

Lack of motivation. Believe it or not, routines can be good for you, and even a path out of the doldrums. After all, a routine is a small set of goals you set for you or your students each day. In Y4Y’s webinar series on approaches to learning, specifically in Webinar #1: Building Trust With Students in the Whole Environment, the U.S. Department of Education's Y4Y Technical Assistance Team discusses the sorts of structures that offer predictability and comfort in the face of the uncertainty everyone is facing right now.

Fatigue. This may be the trickiest symptom of cabin fever to combat. Some students may be suffering from the kind of fatigue that comes from too little sleep. This is pretty easy to recognize in most students. Occasionally, fatigue can result from too much sleep, which isn’t always as easy to recognize. Be sure your program gives students the opportunity to complete all homework, to take that task off their plate. Revisit Y4Y’s Trauma-Informed Care Click & Go to help you recognize and address signs of trauma in your students. Finally, don’t forget the importance of supporting and engaging families if student fatigue persists.

We see signs around the country that many adults aren’t coping well with restrictions that mean their lives have to change — in some cases quite dramatically — for an indefinite period of time to keep everyone safe. Let the lessons of social and emotional learning be your guide to appreciating the resilience and maturity students stand to gain from this period of their lives. While cabin fever might not have a tried-and-true cure, your 21st CCLC program may be the chicken noodle soup that gets your students through the worst of it.