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October 21, 2021

Will the wide receiver go long? Will the running back run it up the middle? What about a quarterback sneak? You’ve always got the Hail Mary in a pinch! Y4Y’s newest course on career pathways emphasizes that students have numerous, equally effective ways to score in the end zone. Six points are six points, however you get there!

Throw a Pass to Trades

Many young people have already discovered that going straight to college may not be the “obvious” choice it was once thought to be. An estimate of spring 2021 U.S. college enrollment revealed that 200,000 fewer women and a dramatic 400,000 fewer men were attending college from just one year earlier. The National Association of Workforce Boards notes:

“The nation’s home builders face a severe skilled labor shortage. Some of the jobs that are in highest demand are carpenters, electricians, HVAC and solar installers, plumbers, painters, and masonry workers. In the previous two quarters, unfilled positions in construction have averaged 275,000,” according to Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders.

The National Association of Workforce Boards says “it’s time for a major national focus on training new workers in the skilled building trades. First on the agenda must be a change in the perception of trade jobs. Too many high school students, and those who influence their decisions, never consider the opportunities available for well-paying jobs and promising careers in construction after graduation.”

Your 21st CCLC Goes Long

Does your program “influence the decisions” of your high school students while helping them make their own choices? You are if you’re meeting your goals! Y4Y’s new course walks you through a comprehensive and individualized approach to guiding students to the end zone. With pathways that wind through the trades, military, workforce and college, students can gain a broader-than-ever view of their options for the future. You’ll be setting up the play for both personal reflection and career exploration.

Cover the Player

Here are just a few tools you can use in your program to help students gain important insights about themselves through the first half.

After halftime, run the whole field by exploring careers and the right paths to get there with more course tools.

Texas coach Darrell Royal famously said, “There are three things that can happen on a forward pass — and two of them are bad.” Help your student complete that pass, wherever they are on the field, and keep their eye on the endzone. Your 21st CCLC program is the perfect place to help students understand that college is just one of many plays that can deliver them to a winning career and future.



September 21, 2021

Heading into what’s traditionally flu season, your host organization is likely stepping up its safety practices to ensure a healthy winter. Throughout August, the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) released resources and reminders to start the year out right. Be sure to review them along with Y4Y resources to help you “brave” the rest of the program year.

To start, check out the Department’s comprehensive list of COVID-19 resources and the Return to School Roadmap.

The Department responded to questions about enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — which promises all a free appropriate public education (FAPE) — during these unpredictable times. The Department issued a letter to state education agencies (SEAs) noting that it reaffirms a commitment to the legislation. What does this mean in your 21st CCLC program? As an entity receiving federal funds, you want to be sure your students with disabilities are not disproportionately impacted. Consult Y4Y’s resources in the course on including students with disabilities, such as the Federal State Law Fillable Document, to be sure you’re up to speed with any modifications your state might have made in response to COVID-19 measures. While you continue to make modifications to your program space with infection safety in mind, don’t forget to review the Environmental Checklist to be sure you’re still accommodating those students with disabilities.

While it does stand firm on IDEA, be sure to review the Department’s list of Waivers and Flexibility, and know that as you have pockets of students going in and out of quarantine, your state may offer generous flexibility around school-time 21st CCLC programming. Y4Y hosted and archived many webinars and published contributions from practitioners around the country who managed to meet their students where they were throughout the last school year. Check out 21st CCLC Programs in a Virtual World Part I and Part 2, and podcasts on engaging students virtually, successful virtual STEAM programming and one program’s student-driven “netiquette” policies.

In response to questions around school openings and civil rights, the Department prepared a civil rights Q&A document. Has the question of civil rights come up in your program space? Don’t be afraid of this conversation! Instead, use the opportunity to help students understand how our government works, both on the national and local levels. Y4Y’s Civic Learning and Engagement course and resources like the Investigating Issues in Your Community tool can help you turn a hot-button topic into a teaching moment.

Know that a focus on wellness — both physical and mental — is a priority for everyone this year. The Department published a list of resources, but catering to your 21st CCLC program specifically, tools within the Y4Y’s Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day Click & Go can make it easy to work with the professionals who know your students as well as you do to fill in the wellness gaps you discover together. In some cases, your program may even be connecting families with health care or other related services. Now is a good time for staff to brush up on their understanding of how important all types of family engagement are in 21st CCLC programs with Y4Y’s Training to Go on connecting families to supports.

“Wellness” means different things to different people, especially in 2021, but we know your concern for students’ wellness covers all definitions: physical, mental and academic. We’re here to help. Just take your dose of Y4Y and call us in the morning!



July 8, 2021

Some educators suggest we should resist the idea that “learning loss” is the only thing that happened to students during the pandemic. Why? They want everyone, including students, to recognize what they’ve gained over the past 18 months. For example, some gained technology skills; developed a greater appreciation for family, friends and the great outdoors; and discovered resilience they didn’t know they had. Yes, there were losses, but there were gains as well. What does this mean in your 21st CCLC program?

Focus on the Positives

If policymakers were to build from scratch a new program to support learning recovery today, it might look a lot like a 21st CCLC program. Summer and afterschool learning. Tutoring. Family engagement. Student voice and choice. Attention to social and emotional learning and positive learning environments. Increased support for underserved students in the communities hit hardest by the pandemic. These are priorities that have been emerging in all recovery plans, so existing 21st CCLC programs are ahead of the game! With that in mind, let’s set aside those negatives that are getting plenty of airtime and focus on the positives.

  • Funding. The American Rescue Plan for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER III) is disbursing funds through states and school districts. Whether you’re in a school-based or a community-based program partnering with a school district, you’re sure to be already collaborating on how your program can beef up tutoring, especially to meet shared student goals. If you missed Y4Y’s webinar on ARP ESSER III addressing how 21st CCLC programs can make the most of funding, check it out today!
  • Lessons learned. The world of education is ever-evolving. Challenging periods can provide important lessons, if we pay attention. Your program professionals have likely discovered how to be resourceful about everything from seeking out education resources to strengthening human connections — with peers and students — when faced with obstacles. Your students’ families have learned how to advocate for their children on a whole new level. And students are walking away with skill sets nobody would have imagined at such young ages.

Name and “Own” Your New Strengths

Which of these new strengths have you, your staff or students developed during the pandemic?

  • Flexibility. You had that going for you before the pandemic, but now you’re the Olympic gymnasts of education when it comes to flexibility.
  • Tech wizardry. Staff and students alike have gained amazing skill sets for navigating the virtual world. You’re making the most of a whole host of useful features on various platforms and eking out new kinds of experiences — like fascinating field trips around the world and in your own (literal) backyards — thanks to virtual learning.
  • Organization. The added workload called on staff to heighten their organizational skills. At the same time, students — even younger ones  — developed impressive skills at time, schedule and workload management.
  • Social and emotional development. The five skill domains of social and emotional learning (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making and relationships skills) got a lot of “exercise” during virtual learning. Most educators have concerns that gaps in social-emotional development are as pronounced as academic gaps. Yet being on camera every day gave many students a boost in certain aspects of self-awareness and self-management. It also reinforced an appreciation of relationships, leaving students eager to participate and be fully present for in-person learning.
  • Resilience and a growth mindset. The oyster and the pearl are the ultimate symbol that an irritant can turn into something beautiful. The resilience that all staff and students have gained sets everyone up for great future achievements.

Apply What You’ve Gained

There are so many positives and new strengths to focus on! How is your 21st CCLC program moving forward to apply what you’ve learned and make “learning loss” an obsolete term? See how many of these things you’re already doing:

  • Trying new virtual platforms. You’re no longer afraid of the brave new virtual world. The more tricks you can find, the better! Check out Y4Y’s two archived webinar series on 21st CCLCs in a virtual world (part 1 for novices or part 2 for masters). You’ll learn about dozens of platforms and how you can use them virtually or in person.
  • Leaning into the power of resilience. Keep reminding students that as things get better, as things feel better, they’ll carry with them always the muscles built when they had to be resilient. Nothing hits a message home like a good story. Y4Y offers a Teaching Resilience Book List with suggestions for read-alouds at different grade levels.
  • Counting on partners. You may be increasing the number of paid and volunteer tutors in your program. Your retired teachers association is a great resource. Be sure to map other community assets as well. To learn the basics of partnership development, see the Implementation Strategies section in Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course.
  • Making time to connect. Developing relationships is the pinnacle of social and emotional development. So even as academic focus intensifies, you’ll want to make sure that human connections stay front and center in your program. Y4Y’s Building Relationships Training to Go is a great tool for brushing up if staff are looking for fresh ideas on how to connect with students. These basic ideas carry over into ever-important peer relationships as well.
  • Bringing students along in planning. In February’s Education Week, there’s a great quote from Neema Avashia, an eighth-grade civics teacher in Boston Public Schools (and Boston’s 2013 Educator of the Year). She notes, “One important lesson I’ve learned from my students is that everything I plan with them goes much better than anything I plan without them.” Build on the self-awareness they’ve developed and consult Y4Y’s Student Voice and Choice course or accompanying tools like Student Survey: How Do I Learn Best? if you’re looking for tips on how to effectively incorporate student voice in your program and activity planning.

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, every human experience gives us a new opportunity to weigh our practices, our habits, and our ways of doing — and to weed out the things that don’t work. With that exercise comes the opportunity to view new experiences differently. Instead of focusing on “learning loss” in your 21st CCLC program, scrounge around for the unexpected opportunities brought about by the pandemic, and discover how you can build on those gems to ensure a bright future for all your students.



June 16, 2021

You’ve probably noticed that no matter how many strategies for success a Y4Y course offers, the final one is always to celebrate! That’s because celebrating is fundamental to impactful educational experiences. From STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) to civic learning and engagement, check out these ideas of what successful celebrations might look like, both virtually and in person.

  • Shout from the rooftops. If your program just wrapped up a successful project or met a milestone you’ve been looking forward to (like enrolling your 1,000th student), don’t keep it to yourself! Share the news on social media and in your regular communications with partners.
  • Don’t forget student voice and choice! Your students are bound to have their own thoughts about how they’d like to celebrate. In fact, you can use their favorite reward, whether it’s a pizza party, dance party or trip to the park, as an incentive to meet an attendance goal, for example.
  • It’s all in the family. Your celebrations are a natural fit for family involvement. Get the most bang for your family engagement buck by listening to students’ ideas about how to engage each of their family members in attendance.
  • Have a backup plan. If your celebration is a culminating event for a design-thinking project in STEAM or a problem-based solution to a community concern, have a backup illustration of your students’ successes, such as printed photos or short write-ups, in case technology or prototypes malfunction. Never waste an opportunity to show off your program or your students!
  • Play it safe. Virtual celebrations with a mix of adults and children online demand a little extra vigilance. Have staff rotate the assignment of gauging appropriate internet etiquette and being prepared to mute or turn off cameras if needed. If in person, be sure to follow your host facility’s guidelines for gatherings, such as making sure any snacks are individually wrapped, avoiding crowded spaces and masking.
  • Have fun! It doesn’t really need to be said, but don’t forget that your staff sets the tone. It can be stressful to aim for perfection in your celebration. Remember: Perfection isn’t your goal — a happy vibe is.

For more ideas, see these Y4Y tools: Tips and Tricks: Plan a Successful Culminating Event and Demonstrating and Documenting Learning.



December 14, 2020

Just as the COVID-19 virus itself is unlikely to be fully understood for many years to come, so too might the pandemic’s full impact on our youth. While unexpected upsides do exist in some communities, it has been speculated that in the country’s most impoverished communities, the disparity in access and opportunity has only grown. Some districts even report high percentages of families that have been completely unreachable since the pandemic began eight months ago. 21st CCLC programs need to expect to up their family engagement game across the board, and many Y4Y tools can help.

To begin with, programs should consider familiarizing themselves with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit. While you could simply share the link with families, wading through the resources could be a difficult task for them. Some families may be neglecting their children’s primary care medical needs like vaccinations, or oral care, out of fear of visiting a doctor’s or dentist’s office. Others could be facing dramatic financial insecurity. How can your program help to condense information about available resources, and be a support to your families most in need?

You can offer anonymous family surveys to discover areas of greatest need among your families. Consider customizing Y4Y’s Family Satisfaction Survey to include more questions about their basic needs. For example:

What community resources does your family need assistance connecting with?

  • Primary health care for children
  • Primary health care for adults
  • Food pantries
  • Employment assistance
  • Child care
  • Housing

Next, be sure to be on the same page with your school district regarding all your program’s efforts. School administrators are pursuing many of the same resources on behalf of families, but don’t have the manpower to adequately advocate for every family needing assistance. Use Y4Y’s Partnering With Schools Rubric to consider where your outreach and alignment is most needed. Explore other tools for continuous education, with particular focus on those nonacademic pieces that families need most, like the Responsibility Checklist for Principal and Program Director, bearing in mind that you can customize these tools to reflect the greatest needs of the day.

Finally, get serious about partnerships you might not have ever even envisioned. Some will be in concert with the school district, but your program might have smaller-scale partnership opportunities that aren’t accessible to the district, like with smaller grocery store chains or thrift shops. Customize Y4Y’s Community Asset Mapping tool to brainstorm with your program team about what businesses might actually be flourishing in the current circumstances. Also, begin relationship building with social services in your area, including those that don’t relate directly to children. You can use the Y4Y Collaborative Partner Request Letter to help get the ball rolling, but be sure to check out all the tools available for establishing strategic partnerships in your town.

A great reflection piece is Y4Y’s September Voices From the Field, in which subject matter expert Stacey Owens-Howard addresses the poverty mindset. “The poverty mindset can lead to the belief that it is the responsibility of others to take care of their basic needs.” By working with families, expect your engagement, alignment and partnership efforts to raise your families up throughout the pandemic and deliver them to a promising recovery on the other side.