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September 18, 2020

Comfort foods may be satisfying in substance, but sometimes we crave something different or exotic. The same can be said of program practices. How does your 21st CCLC program build on the basics of substance while experimenting with new flavor combinations to bake up the perfect recipe for your afterschool program?

Keep the Cupboard Stocked

Whether you’re a new grantee or you’ve been in this kitchen a while now, it’s important to remember your fundamentals throughout the program year — the elements of running your program that can ensure its longevity. You have reporting responsibilities, and they all come back to doing what you said you’d do in your grant, which was based on the needs in your area. Depending on your state practices, that grant might have been written before the pandemic struck, but you can still track and report your data faithfully. Y4Y’s Tool Starter Set is the butter, flour, eggs and sugar that every 21st CCLC program will need to ensure success. The Project/Program Planner brings you back to your goals in all you do. Keep lines of communication open with your state agency to understand how best to adapt and report on those goals. For this program year, that adapting may be the most important ingredient in your continuous improvement efforts.

Try Out New Flavors

Has your professional development this summer exposed you to new ideas you’d like to try in your program? Do you wonder if the time is really right to test something out? Without a doubt, you’ve come to appreciate the importance of multimodal learning, especially if you were limited to a single way of supporting your students’ learning throughout the exclusively virtual portions of your programming over the past six months. Hopefully you’ve now navigated how to support some in-person programming and can give thought to things like activities that include visual, audio and hands-on (tactile) opportunities, whether those activities are focused on STEM, literacy, health and wellness, or some other topic.

Don’t forget to fold in some new strategies for ensuring a positive learning environment. The program environment itself differs from in the past, so of course basic safety and interpersonal interactions have a new flavor. You can adapt the Y4Y Setting Up a Positive Learning Environment Training to Go to review the importance of this element of 21st CCLC programming, then brainstorm together on how you can foster the warm fuzzies that are needed more now than ever. If your program is virtual, how can you individualize your welcomes like you once did as students walked through the door? What can you carry over from the old days to keep things as consistent as possible?

Be a Test Kitchen

During Y4Y’s summer webinar series on Strategic Partnerships, in Session 3 on Implementing Partnerships, guest speaker Ms. Marcy Richardson, Manager/Director of the Anchorage School District 21st CCLC Program, shared her practice of partnering with the school district to explore innovative ideas and projects within their 10 program sites. Her background in business management and marketing prompted Ms. Richardson to use this unique approach to forming a strong, two-way collaboration. Her 900 highly diverse elementary students benefit from fresh ideas and resources that different district departments are considering for broad implementation, while the district gets a measurable “beta” test population before expanding to its 30,000 elementary student population. Examples of this kind of exploration range from new cafeteria menu items to robotics. It pays to bring those partners along on new flavor adventures!

Whatever your mix of staple ingredients and new mix-ins, being true to your audience of “taste testers” (primarily, your students) is vital to the success of your recipe for this program year. The best recipes nourish students’ bodies, minds and spirits. They satisfy students’ hunger for knowledge and connection, comfort them with routines that are familiar and safe, and introduce new “taste experiences” that challenge and delight.

Hats off to all of you 21st CCLC chefs who are working so hard to keep students engaged and well nourished, in every sense of the word!

P.S. Y4Y would love to collect and share your best recipes for 21st CCLC success. Sign into your Y4Y account and post your ideas, big and small, on the Y4Y “Recipes” discussion board.



June 16, 2020

June is for educators what December is for the rest of the world. And this academic year was certainly not what anybody expected! What worked in your program, and what “new year’s” resolutions would you like to set for next year’s program? How can Y4Y resources help you achieve those goals? To get those creative juices flowing, start by exploring Y4Y’s tools for continuous improvement, such as the SWOT Analysis Worksheet, Sample Evaluation Guide, the Continuous Improvement Process Diagram and Planner. Then, plan for a deeper dive into those areas that need particular attention.

Here are the top 2020 New Year’s resolutions set by Americans, and their translation into 21st CCLC-speak:

Exercise More

How well are you incorporating physical activity into your program? Have you caught Y4Y’s archived Showcase webinar, Expanding Quality Health and Recreation Opportunities? A summary of the resources presented is also available. Start with a good stretch: Reach out and connect with your community using Y4Y’s Mapping Community Assets tool. Get the heart pumping with engaging project-based learning. A wealth of ideas were presented during the May webinar series, and resources were shared to the discussion board. Looking for a little muscle mass? The Y4Y course on strategic partnerships offers important steps to building a stronger program and the importance of teamwork. Don’t forget the cool-down.

Save Money/Stick to a Budget

Do you know that as many 21st CCLC programs have unspent funds as those that end the year on the crumbs of their annual funding? The key to a successful fiscal year is staying right on target. Step 1: Know your grant! Step 2: Catch session 1 of the New Leaders Academy Webinar, which gives an overview of what expenditures are allowed in your program. Step 3: Go deeper and take Y4Y’s Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course. Step 4: Get out Y4Y’s Sample 21st CCLC Budget Worksheet and start the new program year fresh as a crisp Benjamin.

Don’t forget to share the importance of fiscal responsibility with your students and their families. Y4Y offers a Click & Go and an online course on financial literacy.

Eat More Healthily

“Garbage in, garbage out.” Although this expression came from the computing industry, we have come to appreciate that our bodies need the right fuel to work best, and so do our 21st CCLC programs. Nothing fuels a healthy program like the right staff! Y4Y’s Human Resources course will help ensure you recruit and retain the right folks for the job. Safety is also at the center of your program’s health. Be sure to check out Y4Y’s Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan Click & Go to safeguard the health of your program and your students.

Get More Sleep

People who set a resolution for more sleep recognize they’re trying to do too much, and probably not performing efficiently or effectively in the process. Achieving this goal often means improving self-management and decision making. These skills are at the heart of Y4Y’s course on social and emotional learning, along with self-awareness, social awareness and relationship skills. The role of your 21st CCLC program in the lives of your students extends well beyond academic support. Research tells us they’ll need social and emotional tools to be well-adjusted and to truly succeed as adults. The good news is, you can weave this theme through activities you’re already doing in your program. Look to Y4Y’s Logic Model Template, Delivery Methods, and other tools to achieve this worthwhile goal without spending time you don’t have, or worse still, time you’re stealing from other important areas. Like SLEEP!

Focus on Personal or Mindful Growth

One of the greatest luxuries of out-of-school time is the space it creates for individual attention and care. Your program can be a haven for students’ social and emotional growth — a safe space where they can explore who they are and who they want to be. Some might say you’re nourishing not just their minds, but their hearts and energies. Y4Y’s course on Creating a Positive Learning Environment can help you ensure that students feel supported. Appreciated. Special. Safe. For best practices that promote the “energy wellness” of your program and your students, also take a look at Y4Y’s Click & Go on Trauma-Informed Care. It can help in those instances where the hearts in your care need a little extra nurturing.

Tip: Planning to bring new staff on board? If they’re new to 21st CCLC programs, Y4Y’s Introduction to 21st CCLC course can help them get up to speed! Don’t forget Y4Y’s ready-to-use tools you can use to train your entire staff, whether they’re 21st CCLC novices or veterans, on a variety of topics, including project-based learning, financial literacy, college and career readiness, and more! Happy New Year!



September 16, 2019

Y4Y learned from Texas 21st CCLC program director Johanna Friedel that there are certain questions she hears from new grantees each year. If you’re the captain of a 21st CCLC program just unfurling your sails, you might have some of the same questions. Here are common questions and answers, with links to Y4Y tools that will help you navigate the waters.   

Q1: How do you recruit your staff?  

See the Identifying and Recruiting High-Quality Staff overview. You can download and customize Y4Y’s Sample Job Descriptions to post on professional sites or disseminate to organizations from which you envision hiring (such as local teacher unions or the education department at a nearby university). Y4Y also has suggestions for Getting Members on Your Program Team  

Q2: How do you structure your afterschool time?  

Consult the Effective Homework Time Training to Go to consider the role of homework time in your program. You can use the Align for Success Click & GoIntentional Activity Design Planner and Intentional Activity Design: Mapping Needs to Activities tools to start shaping your activities blueprint. 

Q3: Who’s in charge of my budget? How do I determine what percentage should be allocated to staffing, overhead, transportation, supplies, field trips, training and snacks?  

Grantees should refer to their approved grant proposal for specifics on budgeting. Consult the Sample 21st CCLC Budget Worksheet for direction on how to best allocate any funds with flexibility. 

 Q4: How and when do my staff receive training? Who’ll train my staff? What basic compliance trainings will they need at the beginning of the year? 

Use the Y4Y Training Guide and Template for guidance on training basics. This guide will be helpful whether you’re planning and conducting the training yourself, working with a partner or having staff attend training offered by a third party. As you consider basic compliance trainings, you’ll need to know the requirements of your educational partners and the institution that provides physical space for your program. Many training tools are available on the Y4Y site. Open the drop-down list under “Learn” and go to “Train Your Staff” for advanced trainings you can customize and use as your program grows and flourishes. Another way to support staff members’ ongoing professional development is to connect them with professional learning resources (see Y4Y’s Professionalization Resources page). 

Q5: What basic materials for students do I need at the start of the program year? 

The materials you’ll need will depend on the program activities you do. Leave sufficient budget for materials specific to the activities that will take shape as you intentionally design activities, including science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM) projects you may offer. Consider community partnerships as a potential source of materials. Y4Y’s Sample Procurement Packet includes a supply request form, a supply and equipment tracking form, and a partner memorandum of understanding. 

Q6: Where can I find basic forms that will help me structure my program, such as enrollment forms, transportation forms, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), lesson plan forms, supervision and observation forms, student incident reports and a staff handbook? 

Y4Y offers a library of downloadable, customizable forms. The tools in Y4Y’s Managing Your 21stCCLC Program course are a good place to start. Don’t hesitate to reach out to other programs through the Y4Y discussion board. The board for the August 2019 New Leaders Academy has ideas from some veteran program leaders as well as new grantees. A template and tool for drafting MOUs is among the Y4Y Strengthening Partnerships course tools. 

Q7: What will my year-at-a-glance calendar look like?  

Y4Y’s Program Planning Timeline tool can assist you in broad-strokes program planning. To see an example of a timeline with a detailed breakdown of tasks, visit the Sample Annual Task Timeline 

Q8: What data do I have to collect for my state and the federal government? 

The Implementation Strategies section of the Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course addresses many aspects of data reporting. Your state coordinator is your best resource for learning everything that’s required of you to maintain funding.   

Q9: What are the roles and responsibilities for my executive staff, site coordinators or managers, family engagement specialist and for me as a program director? What are the responsibilities for my frontline staff and child care workers? 

It’s an excellent idea to have roles as well developed as possible as you build your program. Y4Y’s Sample Human Resources Packet provides standard role descriptions that you can customize to fit your budget and the people you hire. It can be tempting to rest more or less responsibility with employees based on their demonstrated abilities, but bear in mind that, in the event of turnover, your hiring practices need to have solid alignment with the descriptors you decide on.  

Q10: What are the responsibilities of the parents for the program? 

As you know, family engagement is a centerpiece of 21st CCLC programs. The Y4Y Family Engagement course helps program leaders consider many aspects of programs’ critical relationship with students’ families. The Sample Calendar (Family Engagement) offers a glimpse of what that might look like throughout the year. 



August 9, 2019

Summer is the season for veteran and new grantees alike to ascend to 30,000 feet and take a broad view of their programs. On the heels of the U.S. Department of Education’s 2019 21st CCLC Summer Symposium, where leaders from 50 states gathered to move this exciting profession forward, here are “big picture” questions for all grantees to address:

Does your program vision statement reflect the sharpening focus on social and emotional learning? Social and emotional learning and building positivity among youth are high-priority areas for many 21st CCLC programs. How might a subtle revisiting of your vision statement trickle down to other components of program management?

Is collaboration the heart and soul of your program? You value the voices of your community partners and stakeholders at the planning table, but does your program provide students with ample opportunities to practice collaboration? The ability to collaborate with others is increasingly regarded as a valuable tool for professional success. How can you accommodate this skill-building priority?

Are you an experienced grantee starting a new program? You know better than most that out-of-school time programming is growing and evolving as a professional field. Refresh yourself on managing a 21st CCLC program from the ground up, and catch up on the latest regulations and wisdom around successful programs by attending the New Leaders Virtual Academy described below.

Are you a new grantee who’s worried about the deafening silence at 30,000 feet? Y4Y has a wealth of resources to help you maintain radio contact with experienced peers. Beginning August 13,  the New Leaders Virtual Academy will offer a live series of five interactive webinars to walk you through the crucial steps of program development, breaking down each step into manageable tasks. A certificate of completion for the Academy will be offered to those who attend the series. More important, you’ll emerge with a road map of available resources, connections to veteran professionals in the field, answers to your burning questions, and, best of all, companionship with fellow newcomers on the “new grantee” journey.

Whether or not you participate in the Academy, you can begin orienting yourself with the basics anytime. Budget three to four hours to take the Y4Y Introduction to Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course and explore some of its tools, like the Project Management Graphic Organizer and Managing Your 21st CCLC Program Diagram. If you don’t have a management background, these resources will give you a foundation in standard project management processes and help you manage critical tasks relevant to 21st CCLC programs. You can also review the 2018 Y4Y Virtual Institute for New 21st CCLC Grantees. This series of archived webinars is a great primer. Rest assured that the 2019 Academy sessions will be archived on the Y4Y website this fall.

Make Y4Y your partner in learning!



October 24, 2018

With a new program year under way, and your activities up and running, it’s a good time to check on staff professional learning needs. If you’ve hired new staff or made big changes in activities or partnerships, ask, “What’s one thing you’d like to learn that would help you feel more comfortable or confident in your role?”

Staff needs and responses are likely to vary from one person to another. Encourage everyone to register on Y4Y and explore what’s there. Also, be ready to point to specific Y4Y resources that can help address their needs.

Meeting staff members’ individual short- and medium-range needs. If someone says, “I wish I could do more to support students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs),” you could point to Topic Guide 8 in the Y4Y series of implementation guides on inclusion. If several people say “I’d like to facilitate project-based learning more effectively,” you might suggest that they do the Y4Y Project-Based Learning course together. For staff who are new to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, the Y4Y Introduction to 21st CCLC course could be helpful.

Aligning your program’s professional learning plan with staff needs. Consider staff responses to the “What do you need?” question as you review your upcoming professional learning events. For example, if you’ve scheduled an in-house literacy seminar for March, but staff identify it as a pressing need in September, you might want to hold the seminar earlier than planned.

Working toward long-term staff and program goals. You can inspire and motivate staff members to think about their individual long-term professional goals. Y4Y provides professionalization resources that can help 21st CCLC staff members develop a plan to help them reach those goals. Having a more skilled and qualified staff will, in turn, help your program reach its goals.

Enrolling in an online course or pursuing a formal certification program might take some staff members out of their comfort zone. Program leaders can offer coaching, support and reassurance that professional learning is the key to greater satisfaction and success.