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September 28, 2020

This election season marks 100 years of the vote for women. What actions did Susan B. Anthony and her contemporaries take to achieve this goal, and how can 21st CCLC students continue that legacy of working toward equality, whether for themselves or others? Drawing on basic lessons and tools in the Civic Learning and Engagement Course, discover how your students can take up the torch of civic action today and work toward equity for all.

Consider these eight strategies set forth in Y4Y’s Civic Learning and Engagement Implementation Checklist, and how remarkably they track with the suffrage movement!

Strategy 1: Identify and Engage Stakeholders

As early as 1850, the suffrage movement had a strong alliance with the abolitionist movement.

Whatever priorities you settle on for your civic learning and engagement activities, there will be partners in your community that share your common goals. These may be educators in your school district or at your local university. What about nonprofit organizations in your area dedicated to ensuring equity? These potential partners are probably just as eager to form partnerships as your 21st CCLC program is. Sit your program team down to discuss who those potential partners could be. Don’t be afraid to involve families in this search — they may already have community connections you haven’t established. Y4Y’s Involving Community Partners Checklist can guide these efforts.

Strategy 2: Define Needs, Goals and Assets

In 1848, the first Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. “The Declaration of Sentiments,” written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, set a long-term agenda for suffragists.

There will be many elements that factor into your needs and goals. Is your civic learning and engagement primarily intended to meet the social and emotional needs of your students? To support learning in their school day? The Y4Y tool for Brainstorming Civic Engagement Topics can help you systematically weigh the needs of your students and your community to direct you toward worthy initiatives.

Strategy 3: Prepare for Civic Learning and Engagement Activities

From 1866-68, when members were able to refocus after the Civil War, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) and began publication of a weekly newspaper, The Revolution, to re-formalize their structure and message.

Just as team-building and leadership were crucial in the suffrage movement, so, too, do you need to foster these in your program to succeed in civic engagement. A good place to start is the Y4Y tool on Team-Building Activities.

Strategy 4: Set the Foundation for Civic Learning and Engagement Activities

In 1869, national suffrage was divided on logistics: The National Women’s Suffrage Association replaced the AERA and continued to press for a constitutional amendment, while the American Woman Suffrage Association worked on a smaller scale to affect state constitutions.

One goal can have different pathways to achievement. When you establish your foundation for civic learning and engagement activities, you’re giving thought to the learning approach that best suits your students and to logistics such as budget, schedule and materials. Look to the Y4Y Committee and Club Planning Worksheet to ensure that your efforts are defined early.

Strategy 5: Intentionally Design Activities

Susan B. Anthony and many like her remained unmarried throughout their lives just to ensure their rights around property ownership and autonomy. To further their cause, many were arrested, tried and jailed for voting illegally.

Intentionality demands SMART goals. Y4Y’s Service Learning Toolbox and Intentional Activity Design: Mapping Needs to Activities tool can help you shape the best activities to achieve your civic learning and engagement goals. They’re unlikely to be as drastic as the activities of the suffragists, but tailored to impact the lives of your students and their community in a constructive way.

Strategy 6: Use Best Practices for Student Engagement

The Progressive Era played out from the 1890s through 1925. The increasingly public role of all women brought the suffrage movement to the front and center of American politics.

The women and men of the suffrage movement understood that engagement was key for their mission to maintain momentum through adversity. How will you keep your students engaged in their civic initiatives? You’ll map their knowledge and wonders on relevant topics, and capture and account for student voice and choice in all you do, especially as you foster student interest in promoting equity in the world around them.

Strategy 7: Implement With Fidelity

In 1915, Mabel Vernon and Sara Bard Field collected over half a million petition signatures around the country, but states like New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania continued to reject women’s suffrage. In 1917, dedication to the movement even led to hunger strikes by jailed picketers.

Implementing with fidelity is doing what you said you’d do, and that’s exactly what leaders of the suffrage movement did. You have all your pieces in place to implement an engaging and impactful experience for your students to play an active role in shaping their community. Y4Y’s Implementing With Fidelity Guide can help you ensure that your adherence, dosage, engagement and delivery are all on target.

Strategy 8: Celebrate and Sustain Your Initiatives

In 1919, the 19th Amendment was finally passed, and it was ratified on Aug. 26, 1920. Women legally cast their ballots across the country for the first time in the 1920 general election. But the fight for women’s rights had only just begun.

The success of the suffrage movement is a perfect illustration for your students to appreciate the slow rate of progress, but the importance of persevering. Your 21st CCLC initiatives in civic learning and engagement, on a smaller scale, should have successes to celebrate, but leave your students wanting more. More learning. More equity. More engagement. More success.



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.



August 7, 2020

Every day, your students make choices that affect their future. You want them to understand that their choices matter — and enlarge their view of what’s possible. Here’s some valuable information you can use to make sure they consider career options that involve science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).

Let students know that

New opportunities are opening up. Cultural shifts and initiatives to offer equal opportunities in STEM careers mean greater gender and ethnic diversity than in the past. “Increase diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM” is a goal in America’s Strategy for STEM Education. Outdated ideas like “girls aren’t good at math” and “science isn’t for everyone” have been exposed as myths. Increasingly, STEM fields are attracting more people like Shuri, the fearless young woman who’s the chief science and technology officer of the high-tech nation Wakanda in the movie Black Panther.

STEM is opening up. You might have a student with the potential to create a new tool or product that will benefit humanity. But if no one in his family has gone to college, he doesn’t know any scientists or engineers, and he’s struggling in math class, he might think a STEM career is beyond his reach. Leaders in STEM education, however, say STEM is much more than the sum of its parts. Modern STEM education also incorporates the arts and design as well as skills like problem solving and behaviors like perseverance and cooperation. Students can tap into their strengths and interests to create their entry point. In his book Curious, for example, Ian Leslie says Apple founder Steve Jobs was “a merely competent technician” but it was his broad range of interests (including music), combined with a drive to succeed, that led his company to launch the first successful MP3 player.

Your 21st CCLC program is the perfect place for students to explore STEM because you can

  • Introduce interesting STEM experiences in a low-stress, high-support environment.
  • Tap into student voice and choice and give young people time to play or “tinker” with STEM ideas and materials.
  • Use project-based learning to help students connect STEM topics they’re learning in school with real-life problem-solving opportunities.
  • Engage local organizations and people with STEM connections so that students see that STEM is all around them — and is a possible career pathway for people like them.  

Y4Y is your “go-to” for STEM because it has resources like

These days, STEM is at the forefront as the world looks to research scientists for a vaccine that will end the coronavirus pandemic. Take advantage of this moment to gather students (virtually, if need be) around the idea of STEM as something that’s relevant to their lives — and a career path filled with as much potential as they are.



April 20, 2020

On March 12, Y4Y hosted a Showcase webinar to spark ideas around the ways 21st CCLC programs can advocate for student wellness. This idea has all-new meaning in light of the pandemic currently gripping the nation. The webinar synopsis below will get you thinking about wellness when your program reopens. It also includes resources you can share with families to support exercise and wellness right now, even though you’re not meeting in person.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Y4Y Technical Assistance team was joined by the following specialists in this field:

Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Carri Russell, Social and Emotional Wellness, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley

Jordana Lorenzo, LMSW, Program Manager for Healthy Schools and Community Programs, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Heather Erwin, Ph.D., Department Chair and Professor, University of Kentucky, Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion

Showcase Goals

One in three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese. Y4Y recognizes that promoting well-being and success in life demands a “whole child” approach. An important way afterschool programs can help students meet academic standards is by increasing engagement in physical health. Studies demonstrate that maximizing physical activity, not just in designated gym or recess times, but also throughout classroom time, improves academic performance. What can your 21st CCLC programs do?

  • Promote exercise and healthy food choices in ways that are fun and engaging.

  • Build quality health and recreation activities specific to your students’ needs.

  • Integrate movement into your current program without sacrificing academic goals.

To facilitate these goals, the webinar

  • Identifies resources for national standards on healthy eating and physical activity.

  • Shares best practices for effective activity facilitation.

  • Discusses how to promote healthy behaviors through your program schedule.

Let’s Dive In

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation offers a health index and an assessment tool specifically designed for afterschool programs. This is the place to start thinking about what your students need, which might be very different from a program in another region. Here’s a great opportunity for student choice! Y4Y’s Elementary and Secondary Student Interest Surveys can be customized with a range of activities that will keep your students moving. Don’t assume all boys love basketball and all girls love to dance. Connect with the school-day gym and classroom teachers and counselors to play off what they already know works and doesn’t work to get your students moving.

In It Together

The Alliance and many successful programs they serve take the approach of the “whole school, whole community, whole child” model, which ensures there’s an entire team behind your efforts. Ms. Lorenzo described a healthy afterschool initiative in South Florida made possible through a partnership between the City of Miami Gardens, a community organization called Concerned African Women, and afterschool programs. Currently 30 sites are participating, and there are plans to expand. The site faces the usual program challenges like staff turnover. But sustainability, wellness and solid training are built into the organization to handle these challenges seamlessly. With the goal of teaching kids to grow up healthy, sites each receive a budget of $3,000 for what they need most, whether that’s more nutritious food or space to move, for example.

Lucky for your 21st CCLC program, you don’t have to do a lot of guessing at what kind of goals are realistic around wellness. In 2011, the YMCA of the U.S.A., the National Institute of Healthy Out-of-School Time and the University of Massachusetts at Boston partnered to develop the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards. The four content areas of these standards are quality, staff training, program support and environmental support. Guidance is offered on how to measure and improve your efforts.

Healthy living is a goal for the long haul, and staff can model that by not being daunted by setbacks or slow progress. Teach students that incremental goals are meaningful and that positive changes, however small, are a victory. Practitioners have been delighted to discover the huge impact that initiatives around lifelong wellness have had, not just on students, but also on staff and parents. Adults show they’re taking seriously the responsibility to support students’ learning and suggestions by making their own better choices.

An effective community framework is set up and maintained through a steady stream of positive messages at home. Keep that multigenerational goal in the forefront of your mind and your planning. You know your families best: What kind of simple recipes or activity ideas can you send home to reinforce your program goals? Establishing this consistent information stream will be all the more valuable during school closures. Don’t forget that social media platforms can be a great place to get families engaged and keep them engaged. You can centralize your communications and celebrate individual and group achievement. It’s also a good opportunity for your partners to watch your program shine! Those relationships may need leveraging from time to time, so a running advertisement of your success is a helpful tool.

In fact, partnerships are key when it comes to wellness initiatives. Mr. Hatcher mentioned a STEAM program in DC that’s hosted by a children’s hospital and implemented by local libraries. A program in Ohio partnered with a hunger alliance. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation developed a set of healthy out-of-school roadmaps aligned with national physical fitness standards, one of which focuses on building program and social supports in the community. Make local experts your friends, such as professionals at the health department. They probably need your program as much as you need them, and can get you in touch with even more great professional resources in your area. Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course offers even more ideas on identifying community partners and recruiting them into your program.

Experts Agree

Dr. Erwin researches and teaches the practice of maximizing physical activity in our youth. She advocates for all student programs, including school-day academics, to carve out time for students to play games or engage in some form of physical activity. The benefits are undeniable. A well-known study encouraging at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, with aerobic exercise three of those times each week, demonstrated participants had a reduction in diabetes and cancer, strengthened muscle and bone, and better overall mental health.

Studies have shown that intermittent physical activity also improves information retention and attention. Students who are coming to school healthier are in a better frame of mind to learn. A new initiative shows that walking while learning content has yielded positive results. And a benefit of free play is the development of social skills. These are all great arguments to keep kids moving.

But how can programs find the time in an already jam-packed day? Talk with school-day teachers about ways to incorporate physical activity into what they’re already doing. They might make content homework an active assignment. Even if not assigned that way, afterschool programs can have students do their homework actively. For example, they might use a standing desk, sit on a stability ball or take frequent activity breaks. Another possibility is to make interactive lessons require a physical response, like “jump up whenever the teacher mentions the name of a continent.” Students could stretch into geometry shapes with their bodies, or act out different learning about animals. Teachers and staff can be creative with transitions — for example, by taking a longer route or performing a crazy walk.

Physical activity is a must for marketing your program to your community. Not only are families eager for their children to get their wiggles out, but you may be in competition with sports or other programs that keep up with your students’ energy level. Don’t think of incorporating physical activity into your program as a barrier. Simply make it part of the culture. Soon, finding ways to effortlessly keep kids moving will be second nature in all your planning. Dr. Erwin urges professionals to work smarter, not harder.

More Success Stories

As Director of Social and Emotional Wellness at the Boys & Girls Club of Tennessee Valley, Ms. Russell presented her thoughts on what matters most when incorporating healthy practices into your 21st CCLC program environment. She said centers need to emphasize teamwork, persevere, put relationships first and model self-control to be successful. Some crisis management will always go into afterschool programs. Just remember to support kids every day, and the tough days won’t seem so tough.

How can sites support their staff members around building social and emotional skills in students? “Ready Set Action” through the Pear Institute is one example. This Harvard-designed program is offered in one-hour increments to make it easy for staff to help students design a healthy life for themselves. A typical session includes check-ins to gauge students’ highs and lows, maybe using simple physical action to express those highs and lows. Then, students engage in fast games where they incorporate teamwork and problem solving, all of which reinforce focus and self-control. Soccer for Success is another resource that offers great ideas, like Circle Up – an activity that emphasizes team-building opportunities. A cool-down might include shaking up a jar of glitter in water and watching it settle to the bottom — reinforcing the mind-body connection. Resources like these build in mindfulness and arm students with the coping skills they’ll need in school and in life.

The Boys & Girls Club has discovered that being active together and feeling good together nurtures relationships. Students can further build their confidence by taking a leadership role, however small, in their afterschool activities. The broader the approach to physical activities, the more likely programs are to give each student an opportunity to shine. Not everyone will view themselves as athletes, but with the right mix of activities, different and perhaps unexpected leaders can emerge.

Learn more about this program and the resources they use at the Boys & Girls Club website.

Support Your Staff and Students

Be sure staff members are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to run activities effectively. For example, do they know the rules of the sport they are supervising? Institute routines for consistency, such as rules about student help with cleanup. Offer activities that are fun for staff as well as students — enthusiasm is infectious! Consider providing staff with the modifications and adaptions in advance that will allow ALL students in your program to be successful. Try something new, even if it means modifying for one or all students, like having everyone do seated yoga or volleyball to accommodate a student with a disability. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) is an invaluable resource if your program is looking for ways to be more inclusive. When offering student choice, bear in mind that a list of activities to choose from as opposed to open-ended suggestions means you can be thinking about possible modifications and have them at the ready. It also allows for variation in the physical fitness of your students. Around that central concern of childhood obesity and fitness, a real consideration may be students who are uncomfortable participating in physical activities. Remember to start small. Focus on wellness, not weight. Getting up and getting moving is task number one.

Staff retention is greatest when you set staff members up for success, and ensure positivity and enjoyment. Work with them to define healthy choices for themselves, and empower them to convey that message to students. Everyone’s load can be lightened when students are asked and expected to interact in a substantive way. Never assume students are too young to have responsibility or to be leaders. Rather, responsibility makes tasks more meaningful to them. The positive climate you’re building will carry over to family engagement.

Encourage and support self-care among your staff. You might ask them to take turns bringing ideas about self-care to the group, or hold staff meetings outdoors or have a walking meeting if weather and circumstances allow.

The Audience Speaks

Participants in the webinar were asked, “How are you incorporating healthy eating into your programming?” Popular ideas included planting gardens (which inspires students to participate in the process of growth and fosters an attraction to healthy, fresh food); partnering with local grocery stores, farm-to-table restaurants, or farms; food festivals with donated produce for students and families to sample; and cooking demonstrations and activities.

When asked “How has your program modified activities to increase student participation?,” webinar participants’ clever responses included having older students design an activity and then teach it to younger ones; offering different expertise levels for activities and letting students select the level at which they feel most comfortable participating. Hands down, the most common response was simply “Provide student voice and choice!” Check out Y4Y’s customizable Student Interest Survey to make sure student voice is heard loud and clear. 



January 22, 2020

The Y4Y team thanks Shannon Browning, 21st CCLC Program Director at Macomb Public School in Oklahoma, for her heartfelt answers to questions about food insecurity faced by so many Oklahoma students. Ms. Browning offers great ideas on how 21st CCLC programs in other states can also help.

Y4Y: Food insecurity is not an uncommon challenge among 21st CCLC students. Can you share how prevalent this is in your state, and what that insecurity looks like?

SB: According to the Oklahoma Health Equity Campaign, one out of every four Oklahoma children lives with food insecurity. From the small, rural, high-poverty perspective, it feels even more prevalent. Our school offers breakfast and lunch to all of our students at no charge, and now we are able to provide a snack before and supper following our 21st CCLC afterschool program. What does this look like for us? We have several children that have approached me before 9 a.m. at school asking me what we would be serving for supper. One moment that will forever stand out in my mind is when I had a student in the first grade start crying one day when school was releasing early and we had to cancel afterschool programming because of a storm coming into our community. I walked into the elementary to make sure we had contacted all of the parents, and the student was sobbing in the hallway. I sat down with him and tried to comfort him, explaining that it was just a precaution and we would all be OK. He told me he was crying because he would not get to eat supper that night. The only meals this child ate were at our school. Food insecurity is a very real thing to these children.

Y4Y: Funding from 21st CCLC grants cannot be used for food, yet you have described food security as a priority in your programs. How have grantees worked creatively to address this concern?

SB: Our leadership team, led by our superintendent, Matt Riggs, placed food security as a top priority and focus of our program from the very first day. It was never an option to “not” provide this service. Our cafeteria manager is very actively involved in making sure we meet all the child nutrition guidelines for this service. We have an outstanding 21st CCLC Oklahoma State Department of Education team that connects us with the right resources. While the supper program is not a 21st CCLC-funded program, we work hand-in-hand to make sure that it works for all of our students who need it.

This past July, the Oklahoma Partnership for Expanded Learning and Representative Monroe Nichols from District 72 hosted a gathering of leaders in Oklahoma City. The conference was designed for leaders across the state to explore several topics facing Oklahoma students, with a focus on the role out-of-school time programming plays in supporting those students. Topics included Oklahoma’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan, addressing food insecurity and healthy living, adverse childhood experiences and outlining a collective legislative agenda. The topic most heavily discussed was food insecurity.

Y4Y: Can you describe specific examples or anecdotes along your path to ensure that your students are well nourished that would be useful to other states facing the same concerns?

SB: We work together with several organizations to provide food and resources for the families in our community. We partner with the Avedis Foundation, Department of Human Services, Chickasaw Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Absentee Shawnee tribe, local churches and community members to help find resources suited to each of our families’ needs. We had a student-led group that initiated providing boxes of food for students every Friday that would last them through the weekend. While this started out as a small initiative, it snowballed into an enormous resource for our community. At one point, we were sending home boxed meals for over 40 students. Because of space, two of our local churches took this over to better serve our community. This program is still running today, three years later.

Y4Y: Please share any additional benefits or surprising outcomes that resulted from your state placing a priority on food security for its students.

SB: One benefit was a wonderful response to our afterschool and summer programs. Our attendance is well above our targeted 65 students each day, usually ranging from 70 to 85 students daily, and continues to grow each year. Our community is supportive of what we are doing for the students. The Macomb community, like so many small rural communities in Oklahoma, had become very disjointed from the school and each other. This program has helped to restore a conversation between the school and community that had been deficient in past years. I think the community understands that the school and partners are working with the families rather than against them. Food insecurity is real not only with our children, but also with our adults. Placing emphasis on this need in their personal lives seems to help reinforce this common goal.

Y4Y: Did we miss any important points around this issue? If so, please share any other wisdom on the topic.

SB: Food insecurity and the results thereof are among several issues slowly degrading small communities in rural Oklahoma. If we can help even a small portion of this problem by addressing the food needs of the family and giving them a resource lifeline, we can make a difference in our community, our state, and our world.