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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. 



August 7, 2018

Could you pass a basic test of financial literacy? According to the FINRA Foundation’s National Capability Study, in 2015, 63 percent of Americans couldn’t. Can you calculate the interest you would owe on a loan, do you know the difference between a 401K and an IRA, or do you know how to improve your credit score? Because so many adults struggle with these concepts, we need to do a better job of preparing students and closing the financial literacy gap.

Where are young people supposed to learn about money and their financial future? In 2018, according to a report from Next Gen Personal Finance, only 16.4 percent of students were required to take a personal finance course prior to graduation. Out-of-school time programs that connect activities to the real world are the perfect place for students, from elementary to high school, to enhance and apply financial literacy skills. The big question is where to begin, especially when many adults may not feel confident in financial literacy.

A number of groups, such as the Jump$tart Coalition and the Council for Economic Education, have done some thinking about what financial literacy should look like at different ages. At its most basic, financial literacy can be broken down into these categories:

  • Earning
  • Spending
  • Saving and Investing
  • Credit and Debt
  • Protecting and Insuring

So, how do you help students of all ages better understand those categories and give them opportunities to explore and practice related skills? Financial literacy shouldn’t be taught through boring slides that explain compound interest. Let students truly explore financial concepts in action!

  • Students can collaborate to create a business and sell a product, such as pet rocks. Give students a start-up budget that they must manage. Let them determine their expenses, price their product, and learn about profit and loss. Have them make proposals to other students for investment money. See this Edutopia blog for more ideas about introducing entrepreneurial activities.  
  • Middle and high school students can participate in the SIFMA Foundation’s Stock Market Game, which is specifically designed for out-of-school time programs.
  • Give students a taste of life after graduation. Many online resources offer game-of-life lessons, or you can try the Finance Authority of Maine’s online Claim Your Future game. Here, students can try out various education choices, careers and other financial decisions.

Teaching financial literacy also provides great opportunities for community partnerships and high-value connections to students’ family members. Many banks offer some form of community outreach programming. This could include a speaker who would visit your program, a volunteer who would teach a series of classes, or the opportunity for your site to offer banking days complete with student savings accounts. Invite parents and other family members to build financial literacy alongside their children, or schedule events at convenient times and locations for family members who work during program hours.

To explore more resources and ideas for incorporating financial literacy into your program, visit the Financial Literacy for All section of the Y4Y website and download the Quick Guide to Financial Literacy.



May 21, 2018

Your 21st CCLC program can demonstrate success with two major indicators: student growth and student/family satisfaction. You can define both indicators in your continuous improvement plan and collect data to determine progress. When you recruit students and family members at the start of a new program session, you want to demonstrate that students will love the program activities, and that your program nurtures the whole child.

How do you accomplish that? The answer is simple: use data.

Yes, numbers can seem dry and boring. But, when you collect the right information and connect the dots across data points, magic happens — you tell a story! The U.S. Department of Education’s Y4Y technical assistance team is ready to help you weave your data into a compelling narrative with a showcase webinar and three-part web series that kicks off on June 14. Attend these sessions and you will be able to show the world that your program delivers academic enrichment with safe, supportive relationships and smiles all around.

Showcase Webinar:

Data! What is it Good for? Absolutely EVERYTHING! 

June 14, 2018, 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Join the U.S. Department of Education's Y4Y team to learn how to do the following:

  • Identify the components of a logic model and use the model to plan with the end in mind.
  • Describe the steps of the continuous improvement process.
  • Brainstorm strategies for reaching out to present and potential partners using program and outcomes data.
  • Use Y4Y tools and resources to support telling your story through data.

Register now.

Follow-Up Web Series, Dates TBA

This three-part web series will dive deeply into the following components: planning with the end in mind, interpreting data to make decisions, and crafting a story with your data.

Virtual Session 1: My Data Path

Planning with the end in mind transforms your data collection from haphazard and compliance-based to purposeful and meaningful. In this session, learn how to illustrate a plan for program outcomes using a logic model. With the model and other Y4Y resources, learn to build a clear path toward desired outcomes. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Use data to set SMART goals to plan intentional activities.
  • Use tools to collect needs assessment and outcome data.
  • Develop a logic model.
  • Implement with fidelity.

Virtual Session 2: Drawing Conclusions From Data

In this session, learn how to interpret outcome data and make timely, informed decisions. Consistent monitoring and responsive adjustments will ensure an authentic and positive story that describes successes and challenges. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Reflect on goals and understand why they were or were not met.
  • Plan for improvement if necessary.
  • Complete a reflection chart.

Virtual Session 3: Crafting a Compelling Narrative

Compelling and effective storytelling techniques will be paired with data analysis to translate a program’s progress into a captivating narrative. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Describe the successes and challenges you faced in reaching your goals.
  • Use Y4Y tools to develop your narrative.
  • Present your story in a compelling narrative.