Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers
  1. Contact Us
  2. Join
  3. Sign In

Navigation

September 23, 2022

Diverse group of students running in a parkThe school dismissal bell is a phenomenon that should be studied. The second that the sweet chimes grace the ears of students, a sort of shapeshifting happens. Children and youth transform from slow-moving students to track stars hurtling toward the finish line! As they rush out the door to their buses, chaos ensues. Imagine a slow-motion replay of their exit as Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube,” plays in the background as they improvise their “school dismissal dance.” You get the picture.

But not all students head out the door. For some, their out-of-school time (OST) programs are just getting started. This is where the learning continues. This is where it’s all happening.

America After 3PM, a 16-year study published this spring by the Afterschool Alliance, confirms that parents and communities truly value OST programs. The findings below highlight some advantages of OST programs and ideas for making them even better. But wait — there’s more! You already have an OST program that supports student success and values family engagement. Why keep that all to yourself?! Read to the end for some tips on connecting with policy leaders in your school district, reaching out to colleagues in neighboring communities, and expanding your program’s outreach to spread the word on the value of your OST program.

Not Just “Another Brick in the Wall”

The OST programs of today are not where imagination and creativity go to die, and just like students, they’re not “one size fits all.” According to the Afterschool Alliance study, parents recognize a wide array of benefits:

  • Technology is great, but unproductive screen time is a real problem. More than eight in 10 parents in the study agreed that afterschool programs provide opportunities for young people to live beyond the screen by learning life skills and building confidence. Sounds like a recipe for a productive member of society!

Try this: Not all screen time is created equal. Building digital literacy is important to ensure that students can successfully navigate the digital age. That’s why Y4Y created the Digital Literacy Click & Go especially for you. Learn about digital literacy and what your program can do to teach digital literacy skills to youth. Let’s face it — the last thing parents want to do is play the part of FBI agents when it comes to tracking down their children and monitoring their every move. Luckily, most of the parents surveyed (84%, to be exact) agreed that OST programs help to reduce risky behaviors.

  • Physical activity and nutritious foods are super important factors for parents. In fact, these OST benefits were cited by 84% and 71% of parents surveyed, respectively. These factors only grow in importance when considering low-income families, families living in urban communities, and Black and Latinx parents.

Try this: See the Y4Y Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day Click & Go for tools and detailed information to help you make health and wellness a priority for you and your staff!

Let’s Give the People What They Want

You know that OST programs like yours provide students with the tools they need to be successful in and out of the classroom. However, there are areas of opportunity for OST programs to support families as well. Consider the following findings as you seek to fill any gaps you may have in your program to ensure that families feel valued!

  • One of the most important factors in fostering student success is bringing families into the conversation. Children tend to model their attitudes and self-image after family members, so it’s critical that families feel included in their student’s OST journey. However, the Afterschool Alliance study found that only 43% of parents reported that their child’s program offered parent and family activities.

Try this: Y4Y recognizes that children thrive when families are valued, so we created an entire course on family engagement, complete with useful tools!

  • Even though helping your students strengthen relationships in their community can also positively impact their “health outcomes, educational achievement, feelings of connectedness to the community, and economic prospects,” only 36% of the parents surveyed stated that their child’s OST program prioritizes this. Including service learning and community service is a great way to make sure your program is meeting the needs of students and their families.
  • Some parents and families believe that enrolling their child in OST programs might expose their child to “negative influences, experiences, and values, such as bullying and peer pressure.” Unfortunately, only one in four parents said they feel there’s substantial information on OST programs within their community. Parents want to be in the know! Keep them updated with newsletters and social media, and encourage open communication about your program.

Shout It From the Rooftops

Wait, you’re telling me that you already have an OST program that caters to students’ needs, prioritizes family engagement, and provides opportunities for service learning — and you’re not performing a song and dance about it? The world needs to hear about your program! Thankfully, there are ways to make this happen.

Try this: Check Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course. You and your staff will get an in-depth understanding of how to identify strategic partners in your area and develop an outreach plan to engage them and to develop strong partnerships. To convey the value of your program, you’ll also need a killer elevator speech that lets potential partners know what your program is all about and why your program is the one they should work with! The Y4Y course also comes equipped with an abundance of tools that cover important topics such as community asset mapping, conveying needs to partners, and developing an effective memorandum of understanding. We know you’ve got a hectic schedule, so we tried our best to think of everything!

Out-of-school time programs really are a priceless gem that sets students up for success — and parents already agree! So use this knowledge to your advantage! An open and continuous dialogue between families and your staff will only enhance what your program can do. Furthermore, learning how to make the most of partnerships (and the resources and connections they provide) is a surefire way to take your program to the next level.



August 25, 2022

bookshelf with booksDo your students have unlimited access to the school library? Do you depend on donations of books, or do you use your 21st CCLC grant money or other braided funds to keep that bookshelf stocked? What role do books play in your program schedule? These back-to-basics reminders point to research about why books in hands are so important for all children.

Start With Staggering Stats

A 2019 study of 31 countries found that individuals who grew up with a home library demonstrated greater adult literacy, adult numeracy, and adult technological problem-solving. While researchers looked for a relationship between library size and these skills, they discovered that the greatest returns from book ownership came from smaller libraries — and that’s good news for your families! Another literacy study makes the shocking claim that the likelihood of being on track in literacy and numeracy almost doubled if at least one book was available at home compared to when there was none. One book.

A Revolving Library?

Consider stocking a program library with the hope of sending books home permanently with students and families. This goal means high volume, so get creative in how you bring books into the program. You might

  • Partner with local stores — bookstores, thrift stores, grocery stores, and even clothing stores. Have the students make posters for a “Why I’d Like My Own Books To Keep” campaign theme.
  • Speak with the school and public libraries about taking their “hand-me-downs.” Sometimes public libraries hold fundraisers with the titles they’re retiring. You can schedule a family outing around one of these very affordable events.
  • Reach out to faith-based or parent organizations in private schools or more privileged districts — especially if you’re in a larger city — to gauge their interest in a book drive for to benefit students who don’t have home libraries. Again with the posters!
  • Research regional and national grant funding for books, such as the National Book Fund (for promoting adult literacy) and book giveaway programs like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
  • Educate families on the relationship between book ownership and lifelong success. Be sure to stress that they don’t need to bring an encyclopedia into the home! Each family member should make selections that match their own interests.

How Y4Y Can Help

Y4Y has a number of tools that can help you ensure that what you have on your bookshelf honors everything that’s great about books!

  • Read this month’s Voices From the Field interview with Amy Franks of Book Harvest to appreciate the importance of students being able to see themselves in literary characters.
  • Keep in mind that the stories in books can be used to support many aspects of growing up healthy and well. The Y4Y Student Trauma Book List gives examples of titles to help students overcome trauma. As other titles come through your program, give them a skim and consider whether they might be earmarked for helping students through any kind of life challenge.
  • Y4Y has also developed a Financial Literacy Book List that can serve a similar purpose.
  • Book clubs gained traction during virtual learning. Download Y4Y’s tool, Literacy Book Clubs, to keep them alive in your program! Depend on those partnerships to get multiple copies of titles, and be sure these treasured sets stay with the program after the book club.
  • Your program “librarian” can make use of the Y4Y Text Genre Checklist to help stay organized and balanced in your offerings.

The Final Chapter

Comedian Trevor Noah said so poignantly in his memoir, Born a Crime, “People love to say, ‘Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ What they don’t say is, ‘And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.’ That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”

The literary equivalent of that fishing rod is book ownership and, according to studies, even a modest household library can make a huge difference in the life of a young person.



June 14, 2022

Conference or meeting with elementary school teachers students and parentsDo you ever feel like your 21st CCLC program is simply tapping into an already tightly woven community? This may be the case if your program has been around for a while, you lucky ducks. But if your program is new, or if people frequently move in and out of the area, you may be bringing some families together for the first time. Maybe you’re somewhere in between, serving a mix of “old” and “new” families. Whatever the case in your community, what lessons did you take away from the past program year for engaging those families? They were probably feeling torn by a strong need for supports and a healthy concern about gathering. With tips from Y4Y, reflect on your community’s greatest needs so you can plan family engagement events in the coming year that serve important purposes — including fun.

Now That’s a Fine How-Do-You-Do
Get a jump on those warm community fuzzies this fall from Day One! Staff need to be sure to know their community culture and understand the challenges that are unique to family engagement in your community. Besides tools, Y4Y offers staff training in cultural competence — try to make this important professional development a priority over the summer. (What you thought you knew about your community may have shifted dramatically.) Do you have standouts — some call them “super-volunteers” — who you can reliably go to, even after their children have graduated from your program? You know, the ones who always have their finger on the pulse of the neighborhood (in a positive way — gossips need not apply). Try to keep them on your program team through this slow shift back to “normal.” They can help you set the tone and hit the right notes as you start the program year.

Tell Me What You Need, What You Really, Really Need
Don’t let your community needs be a mystery! A crystal ball isn’t going to tell you what families are looking for when it comes to adult learning opportunities or group activities. Survey, survey, survey! Y4Y offers a family engagement survey and tips on focus groups to get a clear picture of what your families might be looking for from your program. Below are topics that just a few years ago you might not have expected to have such importance. Have potential partners lined up to offer family experiences and adult learning in:

  • Mental health resources
  • Mindfulness and other stress-reducing strategies
  • Response to trauma
  • Financial “rescue” resources
  • Childcare “co-ops”
  • Access to healthy foods

Be sure to gather this data as early as possible for the most effective planning of family engagement events. One important question on any survey: Are you more comfortable online or in person? Be ready for hybrid or parallel offerings for at least one more program year.

Did Someone Say Something About Fun?
As you work with families, you may very well be tackling some heavy topics and situations. Responding appropriately requires sensitivity and understanding. Y4Y’s Voices From the Field guest, Kathy Manley, grew up in abject poverty and later taught children who were in the same situation. She offers poignant insights into recognizing signs of poverty in children and how best to navigate those signs. She points out, for example, that children raised in poverty may sometimes laugh at seemingly inappropriate times as a defense mechanism or a way to find the lighter side of even the darkest subjects. Talk with mental health specialists on your program team about healthy ways to respond — and ways to tap into the “funny bone” as you work with children and adults.

Look for opportunities to build some laughs into your family engagement activities this year. After two years of virtual and hybrid learning, there may be more focus than ever on student learning and achievement. But who says you can’t laugh and learn at the same time? Family engagement events can be a great distraction from the heavier side of life, and you have all the room in the world to build in some fun! Consider shaping a literacy or STEAM event, for example, around:

  • A summer blockbuster comic book movie
  • Your city’s (or state’s) favorite baseball or football team
  • NASA’s 2024 mission to the moon
  • A simulated Olympics, tying academics to physical challenge stations
  • A “real-world” Minecraft or other popular video game event
  • A spin on a traditional American holiday — what celebrations around the world parallel Halloween, for example?

Are You Ready to Engage Current and Future Families?
Does your program culture and climate help you:

  • Welcome and support all students and families?
  • Foster a sense of community?
  • Consider the needs and priorities of all stakeholders (including kids!)?
  • Make room for fun?

If you can answer “yes” to these four questions, congratulations: Your next program’s already set up for a warm and wonderful start that engages all families, whether they’re newcomers or old-timers.



April 19, 2022

New York City, USA - April 28, 2019: People study in the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library's main building on Fifth Avenue (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building).Where did the street names in your neighborhood come from? Or park names? Or the names of bodies of water? Diving into local human history might lead you down the path of the language spoken by your city’s first European settlers or the Native Americans who once inhabited it. You might also discover surprising connections to other places and cultures all over the world! Who are the artists and writers influencing the local atmosphere today, and how are they themselves influenced by that atmosphere? Learning about the people, both past and present, who shaped and continue to shape your local culture will connect your students to their community on a whole new level!

Past Is Prologue

These famous words by William Shakespeare tell us to understand and learn from history. Of course, engaging students with dusty old facts can be challenging. Storytelling, however, is appreciated by people of all ages, and oral histories have been a key way for many cultures to pass along important knowledge. Who are some potential program partners in state and local historical societies and libraries? Local tribal elders, organizations like Freemasons, Shriners, and Daughters of the American Revolution? These are people with a passion for local history, and many have a gift for sharing that history in colorful story form.

Be sure to access Y4Y’s course on Student Voice and Choice to drive your place-based historical inquiry. You might work with your partners to draft a questionnaire on what interests your students most, then use the results to drive your activities. Here are some potential questions to explore:

  • What Native peoples lived in the region 500 years ago?
  • What was their lifestyle like?
  • What became of them?
  • What Europeans or other non-Native peoples first settled here?
  • What was their motivation for coming? Did they come here by choice?
  • What were they looking to “create” with the farms/towns/cities they established?
  • Who developed our specific neighborhood or community?
  • How does it differ historically from other neighborhoods or communities around town?

Keeping the ever-changing tapestry of American cities in mind, you can shift your place-based human history to the present by partnering with regional educational and city government officials. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Who are our largest immigrant populations today?
  • What are their motivations for coming?
  • What are they seeking from and for our community?

Effective place-based learning activities around your community’s human history can also help your students to realize that they are creating new history in that community, and that they have the potential to make an even greater impact into adulthood. For example, young people across the country are digging deeper into some historical facts that might not carry much pride in the modern era, and are pressing for school name changes. Although this concept may not sit well with community traditionalists, your partnerships can help your community grow and progress more smoothly through collaboration and mutual understanding.

Creative Influence

In an era of recorded music, audiobooks, online movie streaming, and mass production of art prints, how many adults, let alone young people, are tuned in to their local art and cultural scene? You don’t have to attend the philharmonic or exclusive art gallery openings to take an interest in your local creative culture and learn something about your community’s influencers, and neither do your students! Even more interesting, you can give students cultural and literacy experiences by discovering from local painters, potters, musicians, and authors how the community influences their work.

Start by again asking students what art forms appeal most to them. Then connect with your state and local art, music, and writers’ guilds; dedicated unions in any of these fields; privately operated performance companies such as local ballet, theater, and orchestra; and bookstores — especially independent stores — known to feature local authors:

  • Do any artisans have a studio in walking distance from your program? Why did they choose this neighborhood?
  • Perhaps a mural has been painted and you have an opportunity to connect with its creator to discuss how the piece came about.
  • Are the schools in your district aware of any alumni who have published? Would they be willing to work with you on a place-based literacy activity?
  • Summer street fairs are rich with local artisans of all forms. Maybe your summer program can connect with organizers to learn which artists are passionate about the region, and you can partner for a place-based art lesson.
  • Is there an accomplished local musician who can be found on the same corner of town on a regular basis, guitar in hand, their case open for contributions? Help students understand how accepting donations for performances (“busking”) differs from panhandling. Some may say street musicians or buskers enrich that neighborhood. What do nearby merchants and residents say about it?

Here are a few useful Y4Y tools to take on this place-based learning of human history and culture:

Author Paul Gruchow notes in Discovering the Universe of Home, “I read, in the course of 12 years of English instruction, many useful and stimulating books, but I never learned that someone who had won a National Book award for poetry… lived and worked on a farm 30 miles from my house…. I had not imagined, or been encouraged to imagine, that it was possible to live in the country, and to write books too…. I was left to unearth by my own devices, years later, the whole fine literature of my place.” Help your students to discover what rich human history and creative works have inspired and been inspired by the place in which they live.



March 10, 2022

As humans, our psychological need for closure is so well documented that a scale was developed to measure this need. Culminating events are an important element in 21st CCLC programs — whether you’re wrapping up a big STEAM or problem-based learning project or inviting families to celebrate a successful in-person year. Bear in mind, though, that some students could be heartbroken at losing the constancy of their time in your program. Consider these tips and tools for addressing the end of the program year in a way that enables everyone to enjoy healthy closure.

As you’re planning, keep these goals and benefits of a culminating event in mind:

  • Involve students. This needs to be their event. So much has been outside their control, especially this year. Be sure their voice is loud and proud in decisions around your culminating event.
  • Everyone loves a surprise. Just because you’ve handed over the reins on most aspects of planning doesn’t mean you can’t surprise students and families with a special guest, a small giveaway, or a performance. A surprise amplifies the festive atmosphere and tells everyone involved you think they’re special.
  • You’re tying accomplishment to celebration. Young people need every possible opportunity to reinforce that their hard work will pay off. Sometimes that hard work is just sticking with something or showing up. But even that effort deserves recognition.
  • Whenever a door closes, another opens. If your students are sad about the end of the program year, remind them that every ending is also a new beginning. You can ask them to remember some of their favorite beginnings in the past — even the first day of this program year — to demonstrate that new beginnings can lead in exciting directions.

Y4Y offers tools to help you plan for your culminating event because this is such an important step in programming. See this month’s Topical Tool Kit for other aspects of your planning.

You can visit the last strategy in each course for more ideas that relate to the focus of your programming. For example:

  • Have you been exploring career pathways with your elementary students? Have them dress as their favorite professional. (See more tips by selecting the drop-down Menu in the course and jumping to slide 107, “Celebrate Peaks and Summits.”)
  • Is supporting English learners your emphasis? Explore your students’ cultural traditions around celebrations and ask them how they’d like to bring those traditions to your event. (See more tips by going to the course and jumping to slide 119, “How Will You Celebrate?”)
  • Are you celebrating something smaller, like completing a project in civic learning and engagement? Arrange for students to attend a school board meeting and give an official report on the work they accomplished in their community. (See more tips by jumping to slide 73, “Example Celebration,” in that course.)
  • Visit other Y4Y courses like Literacy, STEAM, Financial Literacy, Social and Emotional Learning, and Family Engagement for other targeted celebration ideas.

In celebrating the 20th anniversary of Human Resources Development Quarterly, Tim Hatcher makes a poignant observation: “Celebration is an ancient ritual. It gives us a way to feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments. When we celebrate we are reinforcing something important to us. Without it we simply maintain the status quo and candidly have a lot less fun.” There are so many things you want for your students in your 21st CCLC program: academic growth, a safe space with caring adults, meaningful connections with their peers, and exposure to new and exciting opportunities. Happily, each of these can go hand in hand with celebrating and having fun!