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November 17, 2022

The Little Laptop That Barely Could

Imagine a broken laptop. Maybe the charge doesn’t last very long. The screen is slowly dimming over time, and it glitches now and then. Sure, it might (barely) work, but if the laptop continues to be used in this condition, it will eventually stop working. What the laptop needs is a good repair. But a one-time fix will be temporary without proper care and maintenance from that point forward.

We humans aren’t machines, but we do have something in common with that little laptop: We may be able to operate if we’re tired or stressed, but it’s only a matter of time before we’re in desperate need of repair. The way to avoid this situation is to implement and maintain a healthy self-care routine.

Self-care is often confused with self-indulgence, but the truth is that taking care of yourself enables you to present the best version of yourself as you go about doing your work in the world. That’s why Y4Y’s newest Click & Go, Self-Care Matters, has tools and tips to help everyone in your program improve their well-being, work together harmoniously, and effectively serve youth.

War and (Hopefully) Peace

We get it — when your to-do list rivals a Tolstoy novel, self-care might be the last thing on your mind. But take heart: Self-care doesn’t demand hours of your time. There are strategies you can fit into your daily routine, like putting your phone in “do not disturb” mode after work hours or breathing deeply any time you feel yourself becoming frustrated or anxious. The Self-Care Matters Click & Go offers many suggestions. It also illustrates how to create an out-of-school time environment that prioritizes mindfulness for staff as well as students.

A Tale of Three Coworkers

The Click & Go includes four mini-podcasts that follow three coworkers as they embark on their journey to self-care. The podcast miniseries maps out a game plan for how to incorporate self-care into your program in ways that are both realistic and effective. The first podcast introduces the coworkers as feeling stressed and burned out — emotions that may seem familiar to you and your colleagues. At first, the three coworkers believe “self-care” is too frivolous and unattainable to integrate in their schedules, but they soon find how necessary it is. The miniseries is chock-full of practical tips and tricks. Experiment to find what works for you.

A Tool Kit Fit for Zen Royalty

What’s better than learning a few self-care tricks? Having an entire tool kit to share with your staff! The Self-Care Matters Click & Go has 10 customizable tools to help you and your staff with issues like learning healthy coping mechanisms, balancing self-care with care for others, developing healthy boundaries, and coming to terms with obstacles you simply cannot control. A staff that has the know-how to cope with stress and anxiety is one that can better support one another, stay on the job, and serve students and families. There’s a hidden bonus, too: As you and your colleagues practice, model, and teach self-care, your students become more likely to develop healthy habits of their own. Self-care isn’t selfish.



September 23, 2022

Diverse group of students running in a parkThe school dismissal bell is a phenomenon that should be studied. The second that the sweet chimes grace the ears of students, a sort of shapeshifting happens. Children and youth transform from slow-moving students to track stars hurtling toward the finish line! As they rush out the door to their buses, chaos ensues. Imagine a slow-motion replay of their exit as Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube,” plays in the background as they improvise their “school dismissal dance.” You get the picture.

But not all students head out the door. For some, their out-of-school time (OST) programs are just getting started. This is where the learning continues. This is where it’s all happening.

America After 3PM, a 16-year study published this spring by the Afterschool Alliance, confirms that parents and communities truly value OST programs. The findings below highlight some advantages of OST programs and ideas for making them even better. But wait — there’s more! You already have an OST program that supports student success and values family engagement. Why keep that all to yourself?! Read to the end for some tips on connecting with policy leaders in your school district, reaching out to colleagues in neighboring communities, and expanding your program’s outreach to spread the word on the value of your OST program.

Not Just “Another Brick in the Wall”

The OST programs of today are not where imagination and creativity go to die, and just like students, they’re not “one size fits all.” According to the Afterschool Alliance study, parents recognize a wide array of benefits:

  • Technology is great, but unproductive screen time is a real problem. More than eight in 10 parents in the study agreed that afterschool programs provide opportunities for young people to live beyond the screen by learning life skills and building confidence. Sounds like a recipe for a productive member of society!

Try this: Not all screen time is created equal. Building digital literacy is important to ensure that students can successfully navigate the digital age. That’s why Y4Y created the Digital Literacy Click & Go especially for you. Learn about digital literacy and what your program can do to teach digital literacy skills to youth. Let’s face it — the last thing parents want to do is play the part of FBI agents when it comes to tracking down their children and monitoring their every move. Luckily, most of the parents surveyed (84%, to be exact) agreed that OST programs help to reduce risky behaviors.

  • Physical activity and nutritious foods are super important factors for parents. In fact, these OST benefits were cited by 84% and 71% of parents surveyed, respectively. These factors only grow in importance when considering low-income families, families living in urban communities, and Black and Latinx parents.

Try this: See the Y4Y Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day Click & Go for tools and detailed information to help you make health and wellness a priority for you and your staff!

Let’s Give the People What They Want

You know that OST programs like yours provide students with the tools they need to be successful in and out of the classroom. However, there are areas of opportunity for OST programs to support families as well. Consider the following findings as you seek to fill any gaps you may have in your program to ensure that families feel valued!

  • One of the most important factors in fostering student success is bringing families into the conversation. Children tend to model their attitudes and self-image after family members, so it’s critical that families feel included in their student’s OST journey. However, the Afterschool Alliance study found that only 43% of parents reported that their child’s program offered parent and family activities.

Try this: Y4Y recognizes that children thrive when families are valued, so we created an entire course on family engagement, complete with useful tools!

  • Even though helping your students strengthen relationships in their community can also positively impact their “health outcomes, educational achievement, feelings of connectedness to the community, and economic prospects,” only 36% of the parents surveyed stated that their child’s OST program prioritizes this. Including service learning and community service is a great way to make sure your program is meeting the needs of students and their families.
  • Some parents and families believe that enrolling their child in OST programs might expose their child to “negative influences, experiences, and values, such as bullying and peer pressure.” Unfortunately, only one in four parents said they feel there’s substantial information on OST programs within their community. Parents want to be in the know! Keep them updated with newsletters and social media, and encourage open communication about your program.

Shout It From the Rooftops

Wait, you’re telling me that you already have an OST program that caters to students’ needs, prioritizes family engagement, and provides opportunities for service learning — and you’re not performing a song and dance about it? The world needs to hear about your program! Thankfully, there are ways to make this happen.

Try this: Check Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course. You and your staff will get an in-depth understanding of how to identify strategic partners in your area and develop an outreach plan to engage them and to develop strong partnerships. To convey the value of your program, you’ll also need a killer elevator speech that lets potential partners know what your program is all about and why your program is the one they should work with! The Y4Y course also comes equipped with an abundance of tools that cover important topics such as community asset mapping, conveying needs to partners, and developing an effective memorandum of understanding. We know you’ve got a hectic schedule, so we tried our best to think of everything!

Out-of-school time programs really are a priceless gem that sets students up for success — and parents already agree! So use this knowledge to your advantage! An open and continuous dialogue between families and your staff will only enhance what your program can do. Furthermore, learning how to make the most of partnerships (and the resources and connections they provide) is a surefire way to take your program to the next level.



August 25, 2022

bookshelf with booksDo your students have unlimited access to the school library? Do you depend on donations of books, or do you use your 21st CCLC grant money or other braided funds to keep that bookshelf stocked? What role do books play in your program schedule? These back-to-basics reminders point to research about why books in hands are so important for all children.

Start With Staggering Stats

A 2019 study of 31 countries found that individuals who grew up with a home library demonstrated greater adult literacy, adult numeracy, and adult technological problem-solving. While researchers looked for a relationship between library size and these skills, they discovered that the greatest returns from book ownership came from smaller libraries — and that’s good news for your families! Another literacy study makes the shocking claim that the likelihood of being on track in literacy and numeracy almost doubled if at least one book was available at home compared to when there was none. One book.

A Revolving Library?

Consider stocking a program library with the hope of sending books home permanently with students and families. This goal means high volume, so get creative in how you bring books into the program. You might

  • Partner with local stores — bookstores, thrift stores, grocery stores, and even clothing stores. Have the students make posters for a “Why I’d Like My Own Books To Keep” campaign theme.
  • Speak with the school and public libraries about taking their “hand-me-downs.” Sometimes public libraries hold fundraisers with the titles they’re retiring. You can schedule a family outing around one of these very affordable events.
  • Reach out to faith-based or parent organizations in private schools or more privileged districts — especially if you’re in a larger city — to gauge their interest in a book drive for to benefit students who don’t have home libraries. Again with the posters!
  • Research regional and national grant funding for books, such as the National Book Fund (for promoting adult literacy) and book giveaway programs like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
  • Educate families on the relationship between book ownership and lifelong success. Be sure to stress that they don’t need to bring an encyclopedia into the home! Each family member should make selections that match their own interests.

How Y4Y Can Help

Y4Y has a number of tools that can help you ensure that what you have on your bookshelf honors everything that’s great about books!

  • Read this month’s Voices From the Field interview with Amy Franks of Book Harvest to appreciate the importance of students being able to see themselves in literary characters.
  • Keep in mind that the stories in books can be used to support many aspects of growing up healthy and well. The Y4Y Student Trauma Book List gives examples of titles to help students overcome trauma. As other titles come through your program, give them a skim and consider whether they might be earmarked for helping students through any kind of life challenge.
  • Y4Y has also developed a Financial Literacy Book List that can serve a similar purpose.
  • Book clubs gained traction during virtual learning. Download Y4Y’s tool, Literacy Book Clubs, to keep them alive in your program! Depend on those partnerships to get multiple copies of titles, and be sure these treasured sets stay with the program after the book club.
  • Your program “librarian” can make use of the Y4Y Text Genre Checklist to help stay organized and balanced in your offerings.

The Final Chapter

Comedian Trevor Noah said so poignantly in his memoir, Born a Crime, “People love to say, ‘Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ What they don’t say is, ‘And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.’ That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”

The literary equivalent of that fishing rod is book ownership and, according to studies, even a modest household library can make a huge difference in the life of a young person.



June 14, 2022

Two men shaking hands at a Farmer's MarketMost U.S. cities and towns are alive with activity in the summer, and potential partners will be making the most of it! Street festivals, community events, and outdoor movies and concerts abound. Put on your networking hat while having fun in your leisure time, and think about how each new encounter is a partnership opportunity. With Y4Y tools at your fingertips, new partners will come as easily as a summer breeze.

Think Network
Most 21st CCLC program directors and site coordinators have experience in seeking program partners to meet a specific need. A perfect example is an ambitious STEAM project that will go much more smoothly if you can convince the local hobby shop to donate a few robotics kits. While this is an important practice to keep in place, just remember that there’s no partnership quota! Your program can and should develop community relationships that might have nothing to do with an immediate need. Those relationships stand to be even stronger, in fact, if you don’t have your hat in hand the moment you make a new acquaintance. Instead, you’re building a network — learning as much about your community members as you can, sharing as much about your program as they’ll let you, and noticing any shared goals. 

Broaden Those Horizons
If you’re blanking out on how the summer’s leisure activities could put you in the path of potential program partners, brush up on the basics of seeking out partners with Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course and related tools. Pull up the Identifying Partners tool and brainstorm with colleagues about how you could add even more ideas to the list of businesses, artisans, organizations, and leaders that you might encounter. If immediate program needs come to mind, great! If not, tuck those new network friends into a mental file and a physical one for revisiting once the new program year begins. The Mapping Needs to Partners tool will help. Here are a few ideas:

  • Art fair vendor: possible art activity leader
  • Political candidate: possible guest speaker on government
  • In-home water delivery rep: possible donor of water bottles
  • Face painter: possible culminating event special guest
  • Livestock winner: possible field trip host

What’s Stopping You?
Chances are, one of three things gives you the greatest pause in reaching out to new partners.

  1. I just know they’ll say no. Why bother?
  2. Call it Mom’s lessons: I’m uncomfortable talking to strangers.
  3. If I were any good at selling, I’d be rolling in my Lamborghini commissions.

Let’s break it down.

  1. Maybe they will say no. Or get that cringy face that tells you they want you to walk away. Here’s the good news: It costs you zero dollars to ask, and Y4Y can boost your confidence when you realize that all you’re really doing is planning for developing program champions! YOU are the first champion of your program and advocate for your students, and you simply want to recruit more members of that cheering squad!
  2. Mom wasn’t wrong: You should be leery of strangers. Bring a friend and never share personal information when meeting new potential partners in nonacademic environments. Tip: Ask questions that might lead you to find acquaintances in common. They might be able to tell you more about your new program friend.
  3. Fair point on the Lamborghini commissions. Except there are sales jobs that fill much more than your bank account. Your 21st CCLC work fills your soul. Use all the tools you can, like the Y4Y Creating a Program Elevator Speech tool to make finding new partners just one more task that you can develop strategies for. Remember to be brief, informative, positive, and results-oriented. 

Y4Y hears it often: Even seasoned program leaders may drag their feet when it comes to forming new partnerships. Try carrying this quote from Charles de Lint’s Memory and Dream with you to your summer leisure activities:

“She had felt straight away that she wasn’t meeting a new friend, but recognizing an old one.”

If you stay alert for shared goals, interests, and connections, finding new friends for your program will be easy as a summer breeze.



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: