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March 10, 2022

Recruitment is a full-time job of your 21st CCLC program. Reaching the students you need to reach and staffing your program with dedicated members of the community are tied for first as your top priorities. With tools from the Human Resources course and Recruiting and Retaining High School Students Click & Go, as well as other tips and tricks from Y4Y, those prized people up and down your organization will vote YES with their feet.

The Role of Prized Partners

Reaching the students who need you most could range from small obstacles in getting the word out up to students “disappearing” at the beginning of the pandemic. Meanwhile, school-day teachers are beyond exhausted, and may not be your ideal “go-to” hires for out-of-school time. Like everything you do in your program, community partnerships can ease the way. Check out Y4Y’s Involving Community Partners Checklist to start thinking about fresh ways those partnerships can help you recruit students and staff. Some other tips include:

  • Reaching out to your school counselors. Share a bit about your program and leave them materials to distribute to families they feel might need you the most. Also ask them about services in the community they have been connecting families with, and whether you can share in those efforts — both to avoid duplication and to make new connections.
  • Connecting with faith-based organizations. Ask if they’d be willing to run a blurb about your program in their bulletin. For example, “The local grant-funded afterschool and summer program is inviting students of King Middle School to participate in a fun, academic-based enrichment environment. They’re also recruiting passionate community members to work with students directly, or to partner in new ways, according to you or your business’s strengths. Email the program’s director, Jane Doe, at [insert email address here] today. Thank you!”
  • Performing an internet search. Use key words and phrases like “social services for children and families,” “foundations supporting children and families,” and supports for children and families,” and add “near me.” You might be surprised at the resources you’ll discover, especially in urban centers. Rural communities can search “foundations/services/supports for students and families in my state.” There may be organizations in your nearest urban centers or university towns that are eager to partner with rural programs. Ask these new partners if they have a volunteer or donor base they can reach out to for your staff and volunteer recruitment efforts.

Upper Grade Challenges

Most elementary programs have little or no difficulty recruiting students. You may be among those many programs having to turn students away! Recruiting for upper grades, however, can be challenging. Some tips include:

  • Checking in regularly with your students to assess their ever-changing interests and to be sure your activities and program emphasis reflect those interests.
  • Viewing current students as your ambassadors; try offering incentives for a “bring a friend” day, such as entering a drawing to choose the theme for your culminating event. Related Y4Y tools include the Youth Ambassador Action Plan Template and Job Description Template.
  • Checking out Y4Y’s Click & Go on recruiting and retaining high school students, which offers further guidance and additional tools for reaching the older students that need you most.

Winning Recruitment of Prized Staff

Your program is in fierce competition to attract qualified and enthusiastic people. A few ideas include:

  • Reviewing the Y4Y Human Resources and Managing Your 21st CCLC Program courses, especially tools like the Human Resources Planning Checklist, to help choose your recruitment team and work together to identify candidates.
  • Starting with families. Many family members will jump at the chance to work around their child. They can also get the word out to trusted neighbors and friends, which offers a little instant confidence in those recommendations.
  • Setting up a job-sharing child care co-op or looking into whether one already exists in your community. If parents who are interested in joining the program have children at home too young to be in school or in your program, but have no means to pay child care, connect them with other parents in the same boat. You’ll also be amplifying their program buy-in!
  • Dialing up the college engagement. Look into setting up a table at your local college activities fair and sell the program! Bring sample activities and event photos, and post a list of majors that relate directly to the job, such as education, social services, ethnic and women’s studies, all things STEM, city/urban planning, and management and communications, just to name a few.

Even before the pandemic, the spirit of prizing people and relationships was at the center of your 21st CCLC program. Keeping that spirit alive for adults and students alike is more important today than it’s ever been. And when new people discover the value you place on community through that process of recruiting them to your program, they’ll be invested in helping you maintain that sense of community. Retaining those you recruit will be your ultimate prize.



January 4, 2022

Accelerated learning rules all during this academic year. Place your students on their right-sized thrones with tips from Y4Y’s new Click & Go on homework and tutoring sessions and Human Resources course. But partnering with the school day doesn’t end with academics! Your program also has agency to address student health and wellness as their school days are jam-packed with other duties. Ensure that your palace of learning is perfectly appointed for whole child support for the rest of the program year with help from Y4Y’s crown jewels.

The Data in Your Kingdom

Updated Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) measures for 21st CCLC have you keenly aware of the importance of data in your community. You can glimpse those updated measures in Chapter 2 of the Introduction Section of Y4Y’s updated course, Introduction to 21st CCLCs. The data you captured at the outset of this program year should be informing how you structure your homework and tutoring time to be sure you support the school day with accelerated learning. But some midyear checks might have you considering a little restructuring. Go back to the Y4Y Five Key Strategies tool and Homework Help vs. Tutoring tool for the basics, beginning with what your staffing should look like.

The Right Hand of the Throne

If you’re going to place each student on their right-sized throne of learning, the staff member who sits by their side will make all the difference. Taking tips from the mini-lesson on what your staff numbers and qualifications need to be, consult the Y4Y Human Resources Planning Checklist for guidance on possible midyear hires, or better still, your summer program planning. If you have new leaders who have their own learning curves to accelerate, the staff training on conducting an effective interview is a great place to start. In 21st CCLC programs, you can never lower those shields against turnover! Also train leaders on employee retention to ensure continuity for student learning.

A Royal Wedding

The school-day partnership your 21st CCLC program enjoys is always going to be at the heart of your program’s success. You’ll need to satisfy those student data needs, communicate about homework, and access school-day staff and academic resources when you consider that program success is measured, in part, by students’ school-day success. Y4Y offers many more tools to build and strengthen this relationship, whether you’re part of the fabric of your school district or a community-based organization still proving your worth. Remember: In out-of-school time, you have the unique opportunity to support other aspects of student success. But it can’t be done alone. Partner on student health and wellness and understand everyone’s roles and responsibilities as you align social and emotional learning goals with school-day initiatives.

Her/His Royal Highness

The students in your program may not have many opportunities in life to feel special. At the end of the day, if your 21st CCLC program accomplishes nothing else, building self-esteem, contributing to healthy growth and development, and helping students see that you will always treat them with the dignity of royalty can still make or break the long-term outcomes for these children you cherish. Y4Y offers many resources to help you implement these less tangible goals, including a new course on stages of child and adolescent development, which includes training on understanding development and connecting with children. Plus, the course on creating a positive learning environment includes quick tips for implementing basic strategies.

Beloved Princess Diana said of her role in the royal family, “Nothing brings me more happiness than to help the most vulnerable people in society.” Never forget that you are royalty, too. Your place in your 21st CCLC program may carry great duty, but it also offers great rewards.



July 19, 2021

There are many moving parts to your program. Here are some quick and easy ways to support your staff and keep a light but steady grip on your program and its success.

Your Best Resources Are Your Human Resources

The term “human resources” is so common that we don’t often stop to think about the meaning. If your program isn’t doing everything in its power to invest in staff, it’s guaranteed that you’re not getting the most you can out of your greatest asset. There are many ways you can invest in staff. Here are just a few:

  • Provide direct benefits. Many programs are revisiting their funding, budget and payroll structures with added funds from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER III). Passing some of that funding on to staff directly demonstrates that their nose-to-the-grindstone grit and perseverance throughout the pandemic hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated.
  • Support professional development. Making full use of free resources like Y4Y’s dozens of Trainings to Go and online courses means offering staff paid time to hone their knowledge and skills. Increased personal investment in your program and improved job performance are sure to result.
  • Create opportunities to recharge. Students aren’t the only ones in the process of recovery. As the old saying goes, you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip. Many 21st CCLC educators feel like root vegetables right now. A year of virtual programming has permanently blurred that line between home and work, making it all the more difficult to recharge at home. Now that programs are back in person, leadership needs to insist that staff give themselves the quiet or family time they deserve. As your program is able, you can even build on this effort by offering staff activities around socializing, mindfulness or whatever they express an interest in doing together as a team.
  • Delegate and empower. While the above offer ways to give something to your staff, don’t underestimate the ways your staff and your program can benefit from taking—with the right kind of framework. Take staff’s thoughts, ideas and advice about new policies or activities. And take their offers to show initiative on projects or committees. The good news is: This kind of taking also builds confidence, rapport, skills and passion in your greatest resources.

For more ideas on this important topic, be sure to check out Y4Y’s Employee Retention Training to Go.

That’s a Great-Looking Staff. Whatever Will You Do With Them?

Moving beyond your methods for valuing and keeping the staff you have, good 21st CCLC management also means having a program culture and policies in place that allow them to realize their full potential. How will you work as a cohesive team to achieve optimal outcomes?

  • Centralize. Has one member of your staff chased down access to online resources to align with the school day? Has she shared that access with her peers? Has another forged a partnership in the community for his high school students’ tech club but hasn’t had a chance to tell your sister sites about it? Are student files, program policies and schedules in SharePoint or a central, protected website so that any information that might be needed is appropriately accessible to everyone in your program? You can all work more efficiently and effectively by pooling your information and making access simple. Centralizing can also benefit your program fiscally. You might get bulk discounts from partners, or have materials you no longer need but another site can use.
  • Communicate. Many of the concerns around centralizing can be addressed when you implement adequate communication methods. Debriefs provide an excellent opportunity for in-the-moment “what worked, what didn’t” conversations, which are essential to continuous improvement. Weekly team meetings that share important and not-so-important updates and solicit contributions from every member will ensure no resource goes unused. An open-door policy by leadership and opportunity for anonymous feedback are critical. Not only will both parties benefit from an easy mode of exchange; the policy will reassure staff of their value.
  • Continuous improvement. Your program is bound to enjoy some degree of improvement with efforts to invest in staff, centralize information and resources, and communicate generously. But don’t skip those management steps and choices that tie continuous improvement into the fiber of your leadership. Follow up on those passions of staff to discover how you can support progress. Put structures in place that channel all feedback, even when roadblocks are encountered, into a “lessons learned” program bank. And, of course, offer everyone, including your top employees, constructive suggestions and opportunities to improve their practice. Maybe they’d like professional development in an area of need in the program or in a topic of interest to them. Check out the Y4Y Professional Learning Feedback Survey as just one example of a tool for using staff feedback for your continuous improvement.

Strong 21st CCLC management means loosening your grip enough to give staff the freedom to be effective while holding them fast to shared goals for your students. Now is a great time to brush up, or to bring along new leadership, on basic strategies with Y4Y’s Human Resources and Managing Your 21st CCLC Program courses.  



July 22, 2020

Last month, Y4Y hosted a four-part Human Resources webinar series on identifying talent, recruiting and hiring staff, training and developing your team, and retaining staff. Are candidates proficient at engaging students remotely? Flexible and creative? Committed to the work? The following must-know tips from the series are the place to start, and the Y4Y Human Resources course will take you to the finish line in the race to hire, develop and keep top dogs.

Identifying Talent

Your program may or may not be planning to recruit this summer, but one thing’s for sure: if you ARE hiring, your priorities look a little different than in the past. You might have an even larger bank of candidates to draw from and be focused on different core competencies. Your first step should be expanding your program team. Some organizations shy away from larger deciding bodies because it’s hard to get broader buy-in. But in 21st CCLC programs, you want the perspectives of all your stakeholders, which means including those stakeholders. We’re in a different world than we were a year ago, so don’t assume that the opinions or priorities of partners like families or school-day professionals are the same as in the past. Reconvene and set a new tone. You won’t go wrong by adding local health department officials and other community members to your team. Check out Y4Y’s Program Team Roster tool if you’re building or adding to your team.

Your program leader has a lot on her plate right now. Reviewing human resource policies and recruiting staff should be a shared responsibility. Once your program team is established, develop program-wide guidelines for recruiting and retaining staff. Your sites can tailor these guidelines to their specific needs. Y4Y’s Human Resources Planning Checklist will keep your team on task.

As your sites are identifying the talent they need on staff, reflect on the hard and soft skills you’ll be looking for. Hard skills are measurable knowledge and skill sets. You may suddenly find you’re adding “extensive social media experience” to the list of hard skills on your frontline staff job description. Soft skills are less measurable, and relate to the personal characteristics that will ensure your staff’s success at engaging students and families. In a virtual or reduced-contact environment, staff members who are good at establishing relationships with students in person but require constant supervision might be less successful than candidates who are good with students AND self-directed.

Recruiting and Hiring Staff

It’s time to market your positions! Even this task looks different these days. There’s no more gathering at the water cooler and casual word of mouth, so your program must be proactive and creative to attract the best candidates. Involve those partners! Families are a great resource for bringing in talent who know the community. Also, many university students have had their internship opportunities curtailed — this is a great time to mine that resource for a win-win situation.

Be sure to have a system established ahead of time for ranking your candidates, or you may never get through the stack once resumes start rolling in. Ask yourself: What core competencies are the most important for each position? For example, if your program demands that staff be multilingual, candidates who don’t meet that criteria can be eliminated in the first round. Save time by moving to phone screening next. Ask scenario-based questions. Scenarios help you see how candidates might apply the knowledge they’ve claimed “on paper” to the real-life, in-the-moment situations they’ll encounter in your program.

Zelda Spence, 21st CCLC project director for Plainfield Public Schools in New Jersey, warns against rushing to “get the position filled.” A warm body is never your goal in out-of-school time, but especially not in the current environment. Invest the time and effort to find the right person, and that staff member will be more likely to stay with the program. She advises, “Be yourselves with candidates.” If your program has a funky personality, fly that colorful flag and bring in new staff members who dig the vibe and can see their place in it.

Training and Developing Your Team

Be sure to take advantage of Y4Y’s downloadable and customizable Sample Human Resources Packet. Firm and well communicated policies and procedures are crucial in 21st CCLC programming where there are many moving parts, judgment calls and autonomy in sensitive situations — now more than ever! The most important piece of onboarding new staff is proper training. Give thought to what training is appropriate for each position, and budget time accordingly. Examples of role-specific trainings include intentional activity design, project management, de-escalation techniques, instructional strategies, budgeting and emergency response. Be sure to check out the full set of trainings Y4Y offers that can be tailored to your organization’s needs. These PowerPoint presentations lend themselves easily to virtual trainings.

How are your staff trainings being impacted by a slow open in your state? Despite the uncertainty, you’ll want your training plan to provide a clear roadmap for staff that illustrates where your program is today, and where you’d like to take it together. Consider the four dimensions of source, delivery method, dosage and level of detail as you design that training plan. You may have other resources available to you to optimize training of existing and new staff, such as university or school district partners. Your training modes may be restricted right now, but you can host webinars, direct staff to self-paced e-learning and offer job aids. Dosage and level of detail will depend on the staff member’s position and experience level. Your training design plan will provide the clearest roadmap when you ensure that positive culture and climate are at the core of all implementation efforts.

Speaking of Positive Culture and Climate…

You’ve set your program up for success. Now follow through with staff retention efforts. Continue to offer opportunities for your staff to grow and flourish, both professionally and personally. Everyone should feel safe and supported, not just students. Hold meaningful team-building events that invite staff to share in the forward direction of your organization. Keep a staff and student “bright ideas box” to signal you want their ideas and input. Follow the continuous improvement cycle that you do for programming, and consistently assess and reflect on ways to better your efforts. Partner staff whose skills and abilities complement each other — you’re always stronger together!

The most successful organizations, whether a 21st CCLC program or major corporation, have clear, reasonable steps to be taken when it doesn’t feel stronger together. Program directors and site coordinators like Felisa Sanders, a site coordinator in Plainfield, New Jersey, spend a lot of time on their feet observing staff. Felisa offers constructive, in-the-moment feedback, always praising in public and correcting in private. In this summer’s environment, the equivalent might be popping in daily on every Zoom session or Google classroom. Annual evaluations are NOT when a manager should bring up deficits for the first time, and certainly staff should not face any surprises. Instead, missteps should be addressed as soon as they’re noticed, and treated as opportunities for staff development rather than occasions for punishment. Adopt a proportional, progressive discipline process for those worst-case scenarios where the well-being of students or your positive work environment are jeopardized by a staff member’s behavior.

In 21st CCLC programs, we know that love of children, eagerness to educate and the energy of super heroes make our staff top dogs all around. As Lewis Grizzard notes, “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” Kudos to your staff for navigating this crazy new landscape.



October 10, 2019

“Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself. After you become a leader, success is about growing others.” As a 21st CCLC program leader, you no doubt see the wisdom in this insight from business leader Jack Welch. After all, supporting and acknowledging your team’s professional growth benefits your program as well as individual staff members. It also helps you retain staff because it shows you’re invested in their success and treasure their contributions.

Y4Y’s new online Human Resources course walks you through nine key strategies you can use to manage and develop your staff. It covers everything from hiring to training to building a positive work environment to managing staff performance. Here are three tips you can start using right away:

Help staff members find their sweet spot. If Natalie loves to plan, enlist her to help plan the next Family Literacy Event or Citizen Science Experience. Once she’s had success, provide opportunities for her to grow her skills and use them in new ways. For example, ask her to lead a planning team, create an event planning checklist for staff, train others in event planning, or join a strategic planning session. If these tasks seem to take her out of her comfort zone, provide encouragement and support. Helping her find the “sweet spot” between current and potential abilities will help her grow.

Provide feedback to focus and inspire your staff. Let’s say Natalie loves planning so much that she offers to help students plan their culminating project presentations. As you observe her interact with students, you hear her say things like “Let’s do it this way” and “Here’s a better idea.” Should you call her aside and say, “Natalie, you’re making too many decisions for students instead of letting them make their own. I’d like to see you improve in this area.” Or should you say, “Natalie, I’d love for our students to develop their project planning and decision-making skills. Would you be willing to team with Linda to plan some coaching strategies to help students learn and practice these skills?” Which feedback is more likely to inspire and support Natalie in changing her approach? For most people, the second approach works best. See the Coaching My Staff section of Y4Y’s Human Resources course for ways to coach your staff (especially site coordinators) to program gold!

Recognize good work. Use formal and informal strategies to tell staff members their contributions are noticed and valued. For example, during employee reviews, be specific and give examples of what employees do well. Implement an employee recognition system to spotlight effort, innovation, problem solving and results. Recognize individual and team efforts. See Y4Y’s Employee Retention Training to Go for ideas you and other program leaders can use to keep staff engaged.

For more ideas on ways to treasure your staff and help them grow, see Y4Y’s new Human Resources course. To share your own ideas and success stories, leave a comment below.