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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.



May 13, 2022

A teacher and three of his female pupils planting seedlings in a raised bed in the school garden. All three girls are using small gardening equipment to help plant.The sun is out, fruits and vegetables are in season, you have the luxury of time, and happy moods abound! How will your summer program be intentional in addressing students’ health and wellness? What pieces of a healthy summer can be carried into the next school year? Start with your school partnership and intentional program design to be confident you’re putting health first.

Be Ambitious

When it comes to student health, your program can afford to be ambitious this summer because you’re not in it alone! Your community is invested in your students’ well-being too, so bring them along. With those high ambitions in mind, assess the greatest health needs among your students.

Make Your Intentional Plan

Box checking can be exhausting, and each year it feels like there are more boxes to check. When it comes to health and wellness, take advantage of out-of-school time’s flexibility to lean into feel-good activities that boost spirits and by extension, student well-being.

You Are What You Eat

Nutrition can play a big role in your summer program. Last summer in a Y4Y Voices From the Field podcast, Simone Miranda of the Schenectady City School District shared how her program’s partnership with a local farm led to fresh fruits and vegetables — and career exploration opportunities — for her students. Renee Starr and Megan Grubb from Brooklyn Center Community Schools took this idea one step further by braiding 21st CCLC funds with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Every region has some form of agriculture that students can take important life and career skills from. And with a strategic partnership in place, maybe they can even take home some fresh food!

  • What are your community assets? Dig deep into what organizations you can partner with by using Y4Y’s Mapping Needs to Partners, Mapping Community Assets, and Community Asset Mapping tools.
  • As you reach out to new partners in your community, it’s helpful to create an elevator speech about your program. Adapt your speech for existing partners to emphasize the health and wellness needs of your students, especially those that have crept in as a result of the pandemic.
  • With partners in place, consider all the ways good nutrition can be part of your summer. Cooking with students is a great opportunity to practice reading, math, and general problem solving as well as conversations and lessons around what constitutes healthy foods and portion sizes.

Our Friends the Neurotransmitters

Chief among the natural ways of boosting neurotransmitters associated with mental and emotional wellness are exercise, mindfulness, gratitude, novelty, goal setting, and time in the sun. Your summer program is the perfect setting for all of these, and Y4Y has tips, tools, and resources to guide you:



February 10, 2022

More than just a word, “resilience” is a measurable area of growth. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of threat.” According to research, two thirds of any given human population demonstrates resilience through a continued ability to function after traumatic events such as 9/11. Maybe some resilience comes from a natural tendency or family culture to be optimistic — it’s not totally clear yet. But professionals have little doubt that you can build resilience, in young people especially, by adopting a growth mindset. Tools from Y4Y’s Trauma-Informed Care Click & Go, and courses in Stages of Child and Adolescent Development and Social and Emotional Learning, can help your program be intentional in nurturing resilience in your students.

A Foundation of Understanding

Your staff members probably have amazing insights and observations about child psychology after working with students in your program and previous jobs. But what kind of formal training on this topic has taken place to ensure your program offers the best individualized approach to building resilience? Here are some useful Y4Y tools and short trainings to start conversations around understanding what makes students tick:

Time to Implement

Use these Y4Y tools to put interventions into practice within your program space:

Measure Success

Some of your success in nurturing resilience will be evident. The child who lost a beloved grandparent begins to smile and laugh again. The child who was in a car accident realizes that playing out his experience gains him attention and awe from peers who ask questions. Maybe he even shares his fears out loud, building his skills of self-awareness and his peers’ skills in social awareness and relationships skills through empathy. Be sure you’re noting these observations with Y4Y tools and planning for ways to measure the resilience more formally that you’ve nurtured in students.

Turn to Nature to Nurture Resilience

Just as those picture book characters show students different ways to persevere, you can turn to nature to nurture resilience in your students. Consider forest fires. In our limited view, we think of fire as needless destruction, and in many cases, perhaps it does have unnecessary human causes. However, even before forests became a habitat for humans, they had adapted to fire. They depend on a cycle of fire and regrowth to remain healthy. Every student, whether they’re living with mild stress to full-blown crisis, can remember this: From the ashes comes new, stronger growth.



February 10, 2022

Part of overall wellness is moving our bodies. This bit of obvious wisdom should play a role in everything you do in your program. Whether you’re offering alternatives to screen time, incorporating stretch breaks into your tutoring sessions, or building dance parties into your virtual programming, Y4Y has tips and tools to remind you to encourage students to “keep bouncing” to bounce back.

Get Aligned

Y4Y created an entire Click & Go on strategies for partnering with the school day in your health and wellness efforts. Your program would never offer academic supports without first checking with the school day about needs, content, and methods of delivering those supports, so why should health and wellness be any different? Check out tools to start those important conversations and initiate a partnership with your host school or district, learn about health and wellness standards that impact out-of-school time, assess your students’ specific needs, then select appropriate activities. You’ll want to be sure to get buy-in from students. After all, you’re helping them to set a lifelong habit of moving their bodies — you want to be sure it’s fun for them! Download and customize the elementary or secondary student interest inventory according to what your program can offer! Give families a voice in this partnership too with the Family Satisfaction Survey, which you can customize to fit your needs.

Take a Page From Transitions

Transitions may be those little windows in your program day when you’ve been extra intentional in building in movement. Y4Y offers a tool on transition strategies that guides you through some practices of consistency and predictability so that students can move onto something different with renewed focus. Consider using these same principles to build stretch or wiggle breaks into the middle of an activity. When there are predictable rules around those breaks, they don’t have to be an interruption, but a reset with physical and mental benefits.

Re-Create Recreation in Out-of-School Time

At the secondary level especially, recreational activities can be unique opportunities to help students bounce back. Karyl Resnick of Massachusetts shared her state’s practice of infusing social and emotional learning into sports activities. She notes, “We’ve explored research that says developing relationships can enhance student outcomes, and we’re building that finding into our sports and recreation activities. We’re doing the same with movement and mindfulness activities. To help programs infuse social and emotional learning into activities, we’re developing short videos to help grantees understand what it is, what it looks like in practice, and strategies for making it part of their activity design.” And 21st CCLC grantee Simone Miranda of Schenectady City School District noted that her program was a saving grace during school closings: “During the pandemic, students shared with staff that they needed more physical activities and to share their feelings and emotions. The program used this information to develop a sports club and art lessons to meet the students’ needs. The sports club incorporated virtual physical activities designed by the sports specialist, which included yoga, Zumba, fitness challenges, and other physical activities. In addition, literacy was embedded in the sports club by using books written by male, female, and diverse sports athletes.” Even with programs reopened, Ms. Miranda acknowledges that physical activities are the greatest draw in her popular and successful high school program.

Allow For Bouncing Differently

Just as students have different interests when it comes to how they move their bodies, they also have different strengths and abilities. Be sure the students who might need the most bouncing back have the opportunity to bounce to their greatest ability. Helpful tools from Y4Y’s Including Students With Disabilities course include an activity planner and environmental checklist. A strengths-based approach should be considered for all students. Some students are at their best in agility activities. Others may be drawn to activities that emphasize speed or strength. You don’t have to offer 100 physical activities to find something that will work for everyone.

Show the Parallels

As you’re using physical activity in your program to help students build resilience, help them to understand that’s what you’re doing! When a student falls after attempting a layup shot, applaud them for getting back up. Challenge them to think of a time they “got back up” from something that felt like an academic failure. If a student calls out a friend to spot them while attempting a new trick on the bars or lifting a heavy weight, challenge them to think of when they leaned on a friend through heartache. You can help them frame their thinking so that not only are they bouncing out negative feelings, but they are also discovering a mind-body connection they can use to bounce back for the rest of their lives.



February 3, 2022

The data are in: “Adaptation of children in disasters depends on the resilience of interconnected systems, including families, schools, communities, and policy sectors.” Throughout the U.S., in the past two months alone, communities have faced unprecedented fires, tornados, flooding, and freezing temperatures with loss of power. The entire country is facing surges in COVID-19, and with them, more school closings and virtual learning, illness and loss, and economic impacts. Who are your partners in critical efforts to buoy students through recovery? The school district? Parents? Reflections on an invited paper in the International Journal of Psychology suggest you can use Y4Y professional development resources to arrive at common language and align practices with these partners to build student resilience as a group effort.

Safety Planning and Implementation

A Y4Y Click & Go offers a mini-lesson to bring you up to speed on the basics of safety preparedness missions, alignment with your host organization, and the roles of each staff member. The Click & Go includes podcasts that further explain safety planning, host organization plans, developing and implementing a program-specific plan, and how to practice safety with appropriate sensitivity to the emotional needs of students. There are tools to help you put it all in place. If your program is already implementing a safety plan, you can use the Click & Go to ensure common language, alignment, and clear roles among partners. These steps can strengthen what the paper cited above calls “the resilience of interconnected systems.”

Partnership and Communication

Many Y4Y resources can be tapped to reinforce the strength of your community and family partnerships, both from a structural perspective — like aligned policies and practices — and from a social perspective — like shared culture and climate. Check out these partnership- and communication-building tools:

Cross-organizational trainings and regular reminders can help you keep everyone on the same page. Program leaders can review the Y4Y trainings listed below and pull out the most relevant information to share with staff and partners:

Student Well-Being

With all your adult-to-adult group efforts strengthened, you’ll be ready to decide together what student well-being looks like and how priorities are set. Remember to assign those priorities according to school- and student-level data in your district. At this moment in history, those data may well include the number of homes destroyed, loved ones lost, or students living with food insecurity. Revisit the vast collection of Y4Y data collection tools if you’re unsure how to carry out this critical step. Then, use the tools below to shape the priorities of your group effort in ways that are developmentally appropriate, honor social and emotional growth, and acknowledge the likely presence and impact of trauma:

As with building communication among partners, consider cross-organizational training on student well-being with Y4Y resources like these:

The proverb It takes a village to raise a child has evidence behind it today. The question your community needs to ask itself is: What does “raise” mean? One thing you’re sure to agree on is this: You can’t put children in a bubble. You can’t protect them from tough times. What you can do is prepare them for tough times with supports that build their resilience — their ability to learn and grow from those tough times. A look at the data confirms that when you do this as a community, you’ll have the greatest chance for success.