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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.

December 12, 2019

“Trust is like a mirror, you can fix it if it’s broken, but you will [always see the crack in its] reflection.” ―Lady Gaga

The special role of 21st CCLC professionals is to act as a center of gravity for the students you serve, bringing together the efforts of families, community partners and school-day educators in a positive and constructive way. Gimmicks, manipulation, and pretending to care don’t work in the long run, and you know that. You want to be the real deal.

Nothing could be more important than earning the authentic trust of your school, community and family partners, but life is full of people who are slow to trust.

Patience is essential to building trust. Trust can’t be rushed. Take the time you need to avoid serious missteps, which can be hard to correct, as Lady Gaga so poignantly observes. Even when time feels so preciously limited, it never hurts to take a beat before you speak or act.

Transparency is also key. Hiding “bad news” from partners has been debunked in personal as well as professional partnerships as ultimately damaging to building true trust. You demonstrate that you have faith in a partner when you honor that partner with the truth.

Remember that keeping your word, following through, and demonstrating that you value relationships are additional key elements to building trust. Y4Y’s Supporting and Engaging Families tool has ideas on when and how to achieve this with families. The Y4Y Partnering With Schools Rubric has insights on what a strong school relationship looks like, and the Partnership Evaluation Rubric in Y4Y’s new Strategic Partnerships course examines healthy elements with community partners. All of these tools can help you build trusting partnerships.

Also at the center of a trusting partnership is mutual understanding of goals. The Responsibility Checklist for Principal and Program Director is a helpful tool to maintaining a trusting partnership with your school-day counterparts. The Memorandum of Understanding Tool spells out considerations you’ll want to take into account at the beginning of a community partnership to maintain trust for the life of that relationship and beyond. Understanding Program Families and other Y4Y family engagement tools set the stage for open dialog on program expectations, illustrating that activity planning is a joint effort.

Finally, a critical practice in building trust is demonstrating that you appreciate the individuality of your partners — that they’re more than their roles. Here’s an example: When you take your child to Dr. Goodhealth, does the doctor call you by your name, or does she call you “mom” or “dad”? If Dr. Goodhealth refers to you only by your role, do you wonder if she leaves the room and refers to your child as “the GI bug in exam room three” instead of the one-and-only “Sarah”? Changing your practices with something as simple as calling students’ parents by their names and learning a little about them will demonstrate that you care about them for more than their role in your life or program, and thereby foster trust. Use the ideas in Y4Y’s Reaching Out to Families tool to help you connect. Also, be aware of the challenges your students’ families may be facing. Understanding and Overcoming Challenges to Family Engagement is a Y4Y tool that can broaden your awareness.

Just like that mirror, never forget that broken trust can and should be repaired.

December 12, 2019

The concept of mentoring has been infused into all levels of society, from elementary school buddy programs to Fortune 500 executive training. A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. Being mentored can be powerful.

According to research cited by The National Mentoring Partnership, young adults who were at risk for falling off track but had a mentor were 55% more likely to enroll in college, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions than their peers who were not mentored. Also 90% are, themselves, interested in becoming mentors. You’ve undoubtedly recognized the benefit to students of bringing mentors to your 21st CCLC program. Now it’s time to put together your elevator speech for adults in your community to educate them on what mentoring does for them on the two-way street called Mentor Way.

First, take a minute to reflect on the people in your life whom you consider mentors. Do you have a formal mentoring relationship? Probably not. For most people, our mentors are just people with more experience in some facet of living, even as fundamental as how to breathe (think swimming or Lamaze). The thing that made them special was, yes, their knowledge and wisdom, but equally important, their approachability and their desire to be useful to others. No doubt, there are people in your community with these characteristics. Finding them and connecting them with your program is one of the most valuable things you can do for your students, and for the “mentors in waiting” who respond to your call to serve.

Y4Y’s new course on strategic partnerships includes many tools that can help you map your community assets and link those assets to your program needs. For example, what if the greatest need in your program is support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities? Can you approach a local university to solicit student volunteers who might be wooed with the promise of a resume builder, improved communications skills, confidence boosting, networking opportunities and gratitude for their help? Factor these benefits for mentors into a targeted elevator speech for this potential partner.

What if your greatest need is literacy support? The retired teachers association in your area is a great resource for men and women who are hardwired to help and teach young people, and have the time and skills to do it. Your elevator speech for these potential volunteers might emphasize the liberty of leaving in the afternoon with no papers to grade, the emotional satisfaction of helping young people, the health benefits of contributing in a meaningful way, and the intellectual stimulation that comes from keeping up with their profession.

If strengthening social and emotional support for students is high on your list of program needs, check out community resources for mentors who can offer that extra adult guidance. These resources might run the gamut from veteran organizations to Big Brother/Sister programs to graduates of your program or programs like it. What does the other side of the street look like in this mentor-mentee relationship? This mentor has opportunities to reflect on the choices they’ve made in their own lives, to watch another life grow and change with their involvement, and to rest easy that they’ll be leaving the world a little better than they found it.

November 18, 2019

The gift of identifying and engaging strategic partners only comes to those 21st CCLC professionals who can break free from scotch tape and pretty bows, roll up their sleeves, and apply some creative thinking. Join Detective Dave and go undercover in the newly updated Y4Y professional learning course, Strategic Partnerships. Together, you’ll unwrap five key strategies for making partnerships successful and effective:

Strategy 1: Identify Needs. This basic element in all facets of 21st CCLC practice ensures that your efforts correspond with desired outcomes. The course walks you through using school-level, student-level and student voice data to determine partnership needs. Y4Y offers a Strategic Partnerships Planning Checklist to help you develop your needs statements and set goals.

Strategy 2: Use Community Asset Mapping. Is your program in a rural or an urban setting? In what areas does your program need additional resources to accomplish its goals? Are there potential partners that can support an area of identified need? What does your program have to offer a prospective partner? These are just a few of the questions the course helps you consider in your quest to effectively recruit new community partners.

Strategy 3: Implement an Outreach Plan. Your new partners will fall somewhere on the continuum of engagement: networking, coordinating, cooperating, collaborating or integrating. Wherever you start, you’ll aim to move along the continuum as you collaborate.

Strategy 4: Execute Your Partnerships. Detective Dave steps you through the skills and tools you’ll need, such as negotiating and developing memorandums of understanding, or MOUs, to formalize new strategic partnerships.

Strategy 5: Preserve Your Partnerships. A marriage only begins when you say “I do,” just as a strategic partnership only begins with an MOU. The course offers important tips on routine communications to maintain and grow the partnership.

As with other Y4Y courses, the Strategic Partnerships course includes a Coaching My Staff section to help you prepare staff and stakeholders to identify, develop and sustain strategic partnerships that contribute to program success and sustainability. In this section, you’ll also get help to create a professional learning plan for your staff and stakeholder team, and integrate effective coaching techniques as you implement the plan. Trainings to Go support this important phase of implementation as you and your new partners prepare to walk off into the sunset.

November 18, 2019

Some students find school-day learning about government and civics to be dry as dust, and it’s no wonder. Studying the three branches of the U.S. government, the Electoral College and tariffs on trade with other countries can seem pretty remote from young people’s everyday lives. They might not know how federal, state, and local policies are made, or how those policies can affect things that matter to them, like social justice, clean air, and the price of groceries and video games. Also, they might not know how to make their voices heard. Here are some ideas to help you brush the dust off to make civics interesting.

Use Y4Y resources. See the Introduction section of the Project-Based Learning course and the Introduction to Civic Learning and Engagement Training to Go for ideas on connecting with local civics activities. Service learning and citizen science also offer entries into local, real-world policies in action. See the Citizen Science course and the Service-Learning Toolbox.

Engage students in virtual-hands-on activities. Take advantage of game-based activities to introduce cross-disciplinary learning and thinking as students encounter and grapple with problems related to science, ecology, history, agriculture and government. Choose from a group of virtual environments funded by grants from the Institute of Education Sciences. You can also explore civics, social activism and world governments through virtual tours, primary documents, and connections with students from around the world. Common Sense Education has collected links to 30 Best Government and Civics Websites and Games, all created by government, education and civic sponsors.

Recruit local partners and experts to bring civics to your site. Start by gathering student voice data on social issues that interest them. The Student Voice podcast in Y4Y’s Developing a Needs Assessment Click & Go offers tips on this step. Then find experts to help students explore one or more of these issues. The local chapter of the American Bar Association, a nearby law school or professors at a local college might help conduct a mock trial. Local advocacy organizations or individuals might help students explore an issue or event and conduct a reenactment. Local writers and theater groups might help facilitate student development of a play, video or other event related to a social issue or historical event. When it comes to civics, your neighborhood is a real-world textbook that offers plenty of teachable moments.