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December 14, 2020

Whether in your program or through previous experiences, every member of your staff is likely to have had the opportunity to know and work with a student with a disability. But one or two experiences, while they may provide some valuable perspective, don’t provide enough knowledge to help you establish a truly inclusive program culture. Y4Y’s new course, Including Students With Disabilities, can help your program lay the foundation for a welcoming environment for all.

The host, Gail, will take you around the “All-In” Playground, where there’s something for everyone. Each jungle gym or playing field presents a different learning opportunity to build your program’s inclusion efforts. You’ll learn about six implementation strategies:

  1. Embrace inclusion as a core value.
  2. Know federal laws and guidelines on inclusion.
  3. Build a foundation for including students with disabilities.
  4. Build relationships with families and students.
  5. Design an inclusive program.
  6. Implement with fidelity.

Watch for helpful features throughout the course, such as a glossary, help line, menu, resources, inclusion guides and tips.

For more advanced learning, complete the Coaching My Staff section of the new course. Discover the three fundamental reasons for professional development around inclusion and advance your knowledge of the mechanics of developing or improving your inclusion efforts.

Don’t forget to peruse the comprehensive tools that accompany the new course. Just a few highlights include

As with any Y4Y course, you’ll earn a certificate of completion for each section, but be sure you’re logged into your account to save your progress! Besides that piece of paper, you’ll come away with confidence in your ability to make all students feel welcome in your program, a better understanding of how and why that’s possible, and best of all, the warm feeling of doing right by each and every student in your program.



November 16, 2020

As 2020 comes to a close, it’s nearly impossible to reflect on how differently the year has gone compared to how we thought it might. One thing is clear: a pandemic must be combatted together, even as it forces us apart.

As the midyear point approaches in a program cycle that was designed to be largely virtual, unlike last spring when all decisions were merely in reaction to the emergency, Y4Y offered valuable tips and lessons gained through the collective experiences of 21st CCLC programs in last month’s webinar series. Let’s get into a few key takeaways.

Structure and consistency have always been one benefit of your program, so give thought to adapting this priority virtually. Where simple emailed notifications of schedules or events might have once been fine, everyone is in digital overload. Consider using flashy emailed or possibly snail-mailed invitations to upcoming events or new activities to build enthusiasm. Make sure your program schedule is easy to find, whether posted on social media or partner school websites, and keep the schedule consistent. Traditions or rituals like greeting students every day by name, celebrating birthdays, creating digital name tents with “all about me” information, or holding daily reflections are more important than ever.

Reinvent homework time to help students switch gears from a day of virtual learning. Zoom will now allow students to self-select their breakout room, which you might find broadens your possible room themes or designations. As a large group or in those breakouts, give students the opportunity to socialize, play games, solve brainteasers as teams, journal or share a mindful moment to move into a headspace that eases the transition. (Speaking of “headspace,” visit the webinar discussion board for links to great online mindfulness resources.) Then, sorting homework breakout rooms by grade or by subject will allow for the small groups or individual attention that have always been essential. Be sure to offer an environment that includes parents, since the evolution of the field has left even highly educated parents struggling with the “right steps” for supporting their children’s homework.  

Building rapport continues to be critical to engaging and retaining students. You and staff can create meet-and-greet videos – maybe your students can work up to participating in this new tradition as well. Favorite games of “raise your hand if…,” “finish my sentence,” and show and tell translate well to virtual programming. In fact, suddenly pets in your “learning space” are acceptable with no allergies or discomfort to worry about! Creating opportunities for collaboration in small-group breakouts, in the chat box, or on shared websites like Padlet is critical. An exciting new trend is “gratitude bombs.” Have students brainstorm professionals or people in their circle who have gone above and beyond to ease school closures and have them write notes or record video messages of thanks. Flipgrid, with its Mixtape feature, is a great resource for compiling messages. You can still show students how proud you are of their hard work by displaying artwork facing outward in physical buildings, or posting on social media, newsletters or program websites.

Endless online resources are available for free on the internet. See part 1 of Y4Y’s webinar series on 21st CCLC Programs in a Virtual World, where the U.S. Department of Education's Y4Y Technical Assistance Team walks viewers through many online platforms that could serve different functions in your virtual programming. Be sure to catch the webinar for an overview of resources and ideas for use in your program; these include colorful or flexible academic interactivity, collecting feedback or knowledge checks to report on SMART goals, creating scavenger hunts, and socializing or other fun break opportunities. Or, do your own exploring by clicking through the links posted on the webinar discussion board for the first installment and this follow-up series. Besides handy tools, websites explored include information and activities around tolerance, stories as a tool to build global oneness and compassion, and virtual field trips.

Battle burnout with lots of physical movement in your virtual program! See all those smiling faces in gallery view in Zoom as much as possible to build a sense of community and keep an eye out for those slips in engagement. Take brain breaks, whether physically active, social or restful/mindful. Bear in mind that young people depend much more on in-person opportunities to get that social contact we humans need, so your program is critical for facilitating student-to-student engagement.

Virtual family engagement might have changed even more dramatically than your program itself, and there are some advantages to this year’s virtual efforts. Keep these strategies in mind:

  • Communicate often through multiple channels.
  • Strengthen your social media presence. Use lots of photos, and invite postings from families based on themes or activities done together (but be mindful of privacy policies).
  • Create family leaders. Every program has some parents who demonstrate a willingness to be involved. Include them in virtual planning, student activities, or even reaching out to other families.
  • Connect with other organizations for cross-support. This could be around food drives/pick-ups, flu shots, or entertainment events like drive-in movies.
  • Develop a sense of community. What kinds of virtual events can bring in the whole family? Quiz bowl? Paint night? Find a hook, but keep the structure loose to allow for socializing.

Families will feel more supported if you’ve covered some basic virtual program functions with them. Talk a little about setting up a home learning environment, walk them through some of the learning platforms you’re using, let them know they’re welcome in the homework help sessions if they’re looking for tips, and offer virtual office hours for whatever they need. Using tools like Google Voice, staff can put themselves at families’ disposal at set hours without compromising their own privacy. The “Remind” website offers many communication features, including analytics, document sharing and translating.

Right now it may seem hard to keep up with all the moving parts it will take to keep your students and families engaged, but we’re all looking for that opportunity for togetherness, granting one another the grace we need to muddle through. In those precious moments of reflection, remember that the new practices and wisdom gained this year will be invaluable for years to come, when we can truly be together again.



October 21, 2020

Y4Y’s new course on supporting English learners provides 21st CCLC programs with a roadmap for helping students succeed when their first language isn’t English. That includes helping newcomers to this country adapt to their new environment while honoring the languages and cultures they’ve brought with them. Instructional strategies and family engagement challenges set this population apart, but with Y4Y’s design and implementation ideas, you’re sure to foster togetherness among all your students. Host Katarina will guide you through a rich, colorful experience at the CultureFest, where the celebration of togetherness is vivid.

Tip: You need to be logged in to the You for Youth (Y4Y) portal in order to save course progress and receive certificates of completion. You might see a pop-up reminding you to log in or sign up. If you want to explore the course without tracking your progress, select “cancel” to dismiss the reminder.

If you complete the course introduction, you’ll take away knowledge on the four types of English learners (ELs) you’re likely to encounter in your program, the history of supporting these students, the overall benefits to your program and ways to incorporate supportive instruction. The introduction also walks you through planning for an impactful experience. You’ll examine ways to assess ELs’ needs and strengths, identify steps for designing and implementing activities that meet diverse EL language levels among EL students and families, and describe the basics for creating safe and language-rich environments that value the diverse cultures and languages of your ELs. You’ll get a Basic Level certificate when you complete this section of the course.

Want to take a deeper dive and earn an Advanced Level certificate? Move ahead to the Implementation Strategies portion of the course, where you’ll develop strategies to

  • Build your EL foundation
  • Build your EL program design team
  • Conduct an EL needs assessment of your community
  • Develop EL SMART goals for your program
  • Map your EL program and community assets
  • Consider logistics around your EL implementation
  • Intentionally design activities that address your EL SMART goals
  • Intentionally recruit students, based on your EL needs assessment of your community
  • Recruit and train high-quality staff, with a particular focus on multilingual and multicultural appreciation and knowledge
  • Engage families who may have barriers to participation
  • Implement all these steps with fidelity
  • Celebrate your achievements in supporting ELs

Looking to provide professional development on supporting ELs? You can get a Leadership Level certificate by completing the Coaching My Staff portion of the course. Investigate how your program’s collective efforts in gathering data, incorporating the proven strategy for ELs of total physical response, and building vocabularies will build comfort and confidence in your students. Work with staff to create your professional learning plan, assess the needs of your ELs, create a safe learning environment, build their background knowledge and academic vocabulary, and review coaching/learning tips to ensuring success with supporting ELs.

As with every Y4Y course, you can download many helpful tools and customize them to meet the unique needs of your staff and students. These tools range from Marzano’s Six Steps for Vocabulary Instruction to a Home Language Survey to help you home in on the specific needs of your community to a Supporting English Learners Intentional Activity Design Planner. You can also download four separate Trainings To Go for your staff, starting with Creating a Safe Learning Environment for English Learners.

There is so much more that unites us than divides us. With help from Y4Y, your efforts to support English learners will unite students and staff in a new togetherness that honors differences while moving everyone toward a common goal: reaching our full potential.



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.



May 19, 2020

This famous quote by Aesop demonstrates the role of gratitude in our mental wellness. The times we’re living in might leave many of us with a heightened sense of worry, yet others are discovering the inner gratitude they feel just for having their basic needs met. Modern-day research supports Aesop’s theory! Gratitude is good medicine for both mental and physical health. Discover how Y4Y’s new course on social and emotional learning can help you take students on a journey to this point of wisdom.

At the heart of social and emotional learning are five skill domains that serve as a framework for developing positive, healthy habits throughout life. Let’s explore how gratitude plays a role in each.

Self-awareness is the skill of recognizing and being able to articulate your own feelings, strengths and limitations. Confidence and a growth mindset result from acquiring this skill. Only those with healthy self-awareness can gratefully measure their lives by its positive elements, viewing challenges as opportunities to grow.

Self-management is the ability to self-regulate your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. With successful self-management comes goal setting and the ability to work toward those goals. When that happens, even those gaps in success at feeling gratitude can be tackled head-on with mindfulness exercises that build a positive outlook.

Social awareness is the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, no matter how big or small their differences from you might be. At times it may be tempting to view the misfortunes of others through a lens of gratitude that we are not, ourselves, in their shoes, but this isn’t true empathy. You can help students and yourself discover true social awareness. You’ll know you’ve succeeded when the misfortunes of others move you toward compassion, and you view their successes and triumphs as cause for celebration.

Responsible decision making is the ability to make constructive choices about your personal behavior. This is where Aesop really got it right! How many mistakes in our lives might have been avoided if we felt that what we had was enough? This has financial, educational, professional and relational meaning. Of course, setting goals for improving your life in any of these arenas is not a sign that you lack gratitude. Rather, gratitude can be the well from which you draw the strength to envision great things.

Relationship skills speak to the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding diverse relationships. Here, again, gratitude can be a crystal-clear reflection of how we really feel about the people in our lives. Some are there by choice, and some are not, but someone who has had a positive social and emotional education can learn to focus on the best in others. More important, their gratitude for others will nurture those relationships.

You’ll be well versed on how to thread social and emotional learning into your 21st CCLC program once you complete the new Y4Y course on the topic. Until then, you can review Y4Y resources like the Delivery Methods for Social and Emotional Learning, the Social and Emotional Learning Implementation Checklist and the Social and Emotional Learning Activity Intentional Design Planner tools. Your students will thank you.