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February 10, 2022

Part of overall wellness is moving our bodies. This bit of obvious wisdom should play a role in everything you do in your program. Whether you’re offering alternatives to screen time, incorporating stretch breaks into your tutoring sessions, or building dance parties into your virtual programming, Y4Y has tips and tools to remind you to encourage students to “keep bouncing” to bounce back.

Get Aligned

Y4Y created an entire Click & Go on strategies for partnering with the school day in your health and wellness efforts. Your program would never offer academic supports without first checking with the school day about needs, content, and methods of delivering those supports, so why should health and wellness be any different? Check out tools to start those important conversations and initiate a partnership with your host school or district, learn about health and wellness standards that impact out-of-school time, assess your students’ specific needs, then select appropriate activities. You’ll want to be sure to get buy-in from students. After all, you’re helping them to set a lifelong habit of moving their bodies — you want to be sure it’s fun for them! Download and customize the elementary or secondary student interest inventory according to what your program can offer! Give families a voice in this partnership too with the Family Satisfaction Survey, which you can customize to fit your needs.

Take a Page From Transitions

Transitions may be those little windows in your program day when you’ve been extra intentional in building in movement. Y4Y offers a tool on transition strategies that guides you through some practices of consistency and predictability so that students can move onto something different with renewed focus. Consider using these same principles to build stretch or wiggle breaks into the middle of an activity. When there are predictable rules around those breaks, they don’t have to be an interruption, but a reset with physical and mental benefits.

Re-Create Recreation in Out-of-School Time

At the secondary level especially, recreational activities can be unique opportunities to help students bounce back. Karyl Resnick of Massachusetts shared her state’s practice of infusing social and emotional learning into sports activities. She notes, “We’ve explored research that says developing relationships can enhance student outcomes, and we’re building that finding into our sports and recreation activities. We’re doing the same with movement and mindfulness activities. To help programs infuse social and emotional learning into activities, we’re developing short videos to help grantees understand what it is, what it looks like in practice, and strategies for making it part of their activity design.” And 21st CCLC grantee Simone Miranda of Schenectady City School District noted that her program was a saving grace during school closings: “During the pandemic, students shared with staff that they needed more physical activities and to share their feelings and emotions. The program used this information to develop a sports club and art lessons to meet the students’ needs. The sports club incorporated virtual physical activities designed by the sports specialist, which included yoga, Zumba, fitness challenges, and other physical activities. In addition, literacy was embedded in the sports club by using books written by male, female, and diverse sports athletes.” Even with programs reopened, Ms. Miranda acknowledges that physical activities are the greatest draw in her popular and successful high school program.

Allow For Bouncing Differently

Just as students have different interests when it comes to how they move their bodies, they also have different strengths and abilities. Be sure the students who might need the most bouncing back have the opportunity to bounce to their greatest ability. Helpful tools from Y4Y’s Including Students With Disabilities course include an activity planner and environmental checklist. A strengths-based approach should be considered for all students. Some students are at their best in agility activities. Others may be drawn to activities that emphasize speed or strength. You don’t have to offer 100 physical activities to find something that will work for everyone.

Show the Parallels

As you’re using physical activity in your program to help students build resilience, help them to understand that’s what you’re doing! When a student falls after attempting a layup shot, applaud them for getting back up. Challenge them to think of a time they “got back up” from something that felt like an academic failure. If a student calls out a friend to spot them while attempting a new trick on the bars or lifting a heavy weight, challenge them to think of when they leaned on a friend through heartache. You can help them frame their thinking so that not only are they bouncing out negative feelings, but they are also discovering a mind-body connection they can use to bounce back for the rest of their lives.



February 3, 2022

The data are in: “Adaptation of children in disasters depends on the resilience of interconnected systems, including families, schools, communities, and policy sectors.” Throughout the U.S., in the past two months alone, communities have faced unprecedented fires, tornados, flooding, and freezing temperatures with loss of power. The entire country is facing surges in COVID-19, and with them, more school closings and virtual learning, illness and loss, and economic impacts. Who are your partners in critical efforts to buoy students through recovery? The school district? Parents? Reflections on an invited paper in the International Journal of Psychology suggest you can use Y4Y professional development resources to arrive at common language and align practices with these partners to build student resilience as a group effort.

Safety Planning and Implementation

A Y4Y Click & Go offers a mini-lesson to bring you up to speed on the basics of safety preparedness missions, alignment with your host organization, and the roles of each staff member. The Click & Go includes podcasts that further explain safety planning, host organization plans, developing and implementing a program-specific plan, and how to practice safety with appropriate sensitivity to the emotional needs of students. There are tools to help you put it all in place. If your program is already implementing a safety plan, you can use the Click & Go to ensure common language, alignment, and clear roles among partners. These steps can strengthen what the paper cited above calls “the resilience of interconnected systems.”

Partnership and Communication

Many Y4Y resources can be tapped to reinforce the strength of your community and family partnerships, both from a structural perspective — like aligned policies and practices — and from a social perspective — like shared culture and climate. Check out these partnership- and communication-building tools:

Cross-organizational trainings and regular reminders can help you keep everyone on the same page. Program leaders can review the Y4Y trainings listed below and pull out the most relevant information to share with staff and partners:

Student Well-Being

With all your adult-to-adult group efforts strengthened, you’ll be ready to decide together what student well-being looks like and how priorities are set. Remember to assign those priorities according to school- and student-level data in your district. At this moment in history, those data may well include the number of homes destroyed, loved ones lost, or students living with food insecurity. Revisit the vast collection of Y4Y data collection tools if you’re unsure how to carry out this critical step. Then, use the tools below to shape the priorities of your group effort in ways that are developmentally appropriate, honor social and emotional growth, and acknowledge the likely presence and impact of trauma:

As with building communication among partners, consider cross-organizational training on student well-being with Y4Y resources like these:

The proverb It takes a village to raise a child has evidence behind it today. The question your community needs to ask itself is: What does “raise” mean? One thing you’re sure to agree on is this: You can’t put children in a bubble. You can’t protect them from tough times. What you can do is prepare them for tough times with supports that build their resilience — their ability to learn and grow from those tough times. A look at the data confirms that when you do this as a community, you’ll have the greatest chance for success.



December 6, 2021

Do you ever feel like you dove into your 21st CCLC program midstream? You could be a new frontline staff member joining midyear, a site coordinator hired with lots of “this is how we do it” rules, or a program director who’s handed a funded grant and asked to make it happen. It can feel like a game of catch-up, but the other side of that coin is: Coming in midway means some groundwork has already been laid for you! Whatever your program role, Y4Y’s updated Introduction to the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant Program course (Intro to 21st CCLCs) can help you from beginning to middle to the end, if that’s where you happen to be coming in! The new course breaks 21st CCLC programs down into three phases: planning, implementing and sustaining.

Beginning: Planning

Planning includes everything from deciding to apply for a grant to gathering stakeholders to reviewing legislation, performing a needs assessment, considering how to leverage your partnerships and assets, understanding your state’s application (or request for application — RFA) and applying or reapplying for a grant. Your role in this phase depends on your role in the organization.

A few things to know about planning if you’re a frontline staff member who just came in:

  • You should have an idea of the who, what, where, why, when and how of 21st CCLC programs. The introduction section of the new course is a great primer on the spirit of 21st CCLCs.
  • Ask your supervisors or peers what aspect of 21st CCLCs your program emphasizes (or plans to emphasize, if it’s a new grant). Examples include general academic enrichment, career exploration, STEM/STEAM projects, community engagement, or social and emotional learning (SEL). Remember: (1) there’s not a single “right” answer — your program is designed around the needs of your community; (2) your program might emphasize more than one area of need; and (3) your program’s priorities have probably shifted over time. Try to understand these shifts and when and how they might happen again. Embrace a flexible mindset about shifting priorities. These priorities can inform your interactions with your students.
  • As you become comfortable in your role, recognize that you’ll be a key player in data collection and setting priorities! If you’re providing academic support but discover half of your students aren’t able to focus on academics because of difficult situations or traumatic experiences in their personal lives, your frontline feedback will be critical in moving the needle toward more emphasis on SEL.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about planning if you’re a site coordinator who just came in:

  • Whether a new grant or an existing one, get to know the elements of programming for the grant(s) you’re managing. What are the regulations around areas like staffing, expenditures and recruitment? Whether a pre-existing or new position, you might ask your program director to connect you with other programs in your area or state to speak with peers in the field about their own hard-learned do’s and don’ts. Remember to continue to crosswalk these discoveries with your program’s grant proposal and regulations.
  • Begin to think about the relationships that will be key for you to establish and maintain as a site coordinator. What will your role be in interacting with school or district administrators? With families? Within the organization?
  • Consider your role in training staff, and bearing that role in mind, acquaint yourself with the initiatives and priorities your stakeholders are calling for as they prepare the grant, or that have been documented in an existing grant.
  • Review the full Intro to 21st CCLCs course, especially the section on coaching my staff, to gain a better understanding of where to find the resources you need.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about planning if you’re a program director who just came in:

  • For a new grant, begin by bringing together serious stakeholders (folks who are ready to work!) from every aspect of programming — partners and parents from around the community and local education agency (LEA). Train together with the full Intro to 21st CCLCs course before moving forward with the grant planning strategies described there.
  • For grants that are funded but not yet implemented, forge an open line of communication with the team who contributed to its writing.
  • Your 21st CCLC state coordinator is your new best friend. Look to them with any questions you have along the way.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

Middle: Implementation

Phase 2 is implementation. Anyone joining a 21st CCLC program midstream is likely in this phase of the grant, which lasts for most of its lifespan. A new team member will have a “getting to know you” period, which hopefully leads to a “helping the program improve” period. Consider what’s been done for you versus what lies ahead, depending on your role.

A few things to know about implementing if you’re a frontline staff member who just came in:

  • Review your program’s policies and procedures, including those around safety. It’s best to direct any questions to your site coordinator or program director to be sure you’re honoring the grant.
  • “Off book” advice from peers can also be helpful. Just be sure to understand official practices set forth because it’s always possible that other frontline staff don’t fully understand the guidelines or have fallen into bad habits. An example of this could be poor handling of student privacy or ways of addressing behavior management.
  • Be sure to understand all aspects of activity delivery. If you don’t fully understand why an activity was designed a certain way, don’t be afraid to ask. You’re a much more effective facilitator when you’re invested in the process.
  • Offer real-time feedback to peers and supervisors to ensure the most effective program delivery.
  • Remember that relationships are the foundation of your work with students. Regularly foster appropriately warm and engaging personal interactions with each young person in your group.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about implementing if you’re a site coordinator who just came in:

  • You’re an important bridge between the program director, who has a high-level view of activities and budget, and the frontline staff who put activities in motion. Be sure your communication style and advocacy for appropriate allocation of time, space and resources makes sense up and down the organization.
  • Understanding how to intentionally design activities is an absolute must. Revisit the grant as often as needed to carry out this key role.
  • If you’re coming into a previously existing position, ask your program director and frontline staff what they liked about how your predecessor coordinated the work. What changes would they like to see?
  • Communication outside of the organization is just as important. Gauge where the program is with recruitment, family engagement efforts and data collection, and try to be consistent with your predecessor if you’re coming in midstream. After your stakeholders have gotten to know you is the time to make improvements to that system, unless they make you immediately aware of problems that existed before you entered the program. In that case, assure them of your commitment to the grant and the students it serves.
  • Staff training should be a priority. You may discover that staff training in your program is little more than being handed a policies and procedures guide. Explore the Y4Y courses and Click & Go’s, and determine which ones your staff can benefit from right away. Consider asking staff members to take different courses and share their takeaways during staff meetings.
  • Engage in Y4Y’s Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about implementing if you’re a program director who just came in:

  • Observation is going to be a top priority. Spend your nonprogram hours catching up on everything about planning that has been documented, and spend your program hours visiting sites.
  • Be sure that, in addition to the day-to-day aspects of your program’s implementation, you understand the components that went into its planning. This knowledge will help you remain true to the program goals and understand its “roots” so that you can revisit all aspects of planning as needed.
  • You might consider an informal survey of your stakeholders via email to assure them that you want to honor their voices as the program takes a little different shape under your leadership. Assure them that changes will be made only to benefit students or to ensure that the program follows the letter of the grant.
  • Continue or establish a culture of positivity and improvement. This includes encouraging sites to budget time and resources for staff to feel safe about giving honest feedback and for training.
  • Ensure that systems are in place for recruiting students and staff, choosing and designing appropriate activities, and collecting and managing data for the duration of the program. Be sure to look ahead to your reporting requirements so that there are no surprises at reporting time.
  • Engage in the Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course, and meet with site coordinators to understand existing delegation and to discuss any changes in responsibilities.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

End: Sustaining

Continuing and sustaining is the last phase of the 21st CCLC grant process, though there are elements of this phase throughout the life of the grant. The hallmarks of this phase include culminating events, final data collection and reporting, fiscal reconciliation and reporting, planning for continuous improvement of the program, and sustaining your initiatives beyond the period of grant funding. And yes, it’s possible to be a new frontline staff member, site coordinator or program director coming in at this phase. While you’ll have a flurry of catch-up to do no matter what your role, you can make the most of your circumstances by focusing on your assets — any and all groundwork that has been laid for you. Your investment in wrapping up loose ends will pay off in the role you’ll get to have planning for the next year or grant cycle.

A few things to know about sustaining if you’re a frontline staff member who just came in:

  • Sharpen your skills of observation! The qualitative data you can provide about the growth of specific students and the success of activities will be important.
  • Don’t forget that culminating events are a wonderful opportunity to fully engage families. As your resources allow, budget the time, space and funds for something truly special.
  • Recognize your role in family and community partnerships. As your site coordinator or program director seeks to strengthen and leverage these partnerships, be sure that your interactions with families and community members are respectful and enthusiastic. You can inspire their support!
  • The same goes for student interactions. Program recruitment depends heavily on student word of mouth, especially in high school programs. You might be coming in at the end, but leave students with a great feeling about the future of your 21st CCLC program!
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about sustaining if you’re a site coordinator who just came in:

  • Your program director will depend on you for end-of-cycle data collection. Quickly familiarizing yourself with related staff, budget and data needs will be key.
  • Reassure partners about the future of the program, even if leadership is undergoing shifts. Be future-oriented in your conversations, and don’t be shy with specific asks for upcoming cycles. Grant funding is limited, but creative solutions can lead to sustaining programs indefinitely.
  • Continuous improvement is essential at this stage. Give staff and students a safe opportunity to provide feedback, and collaborate with your program director on how to honor that feedback.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about sustaining if you’re a program director who just came in:

  • Accurate reporting will be your most important task if you’re joining a program at this phase. Relationships with SEAs, LEAs and site coordinators will be essential. Their investment in your program by this stage is significant, so don’t be shy about enlisting their help!
  • It’s never fun to jump in the moment decisions need to be made, but if you have to, be sure that in your continuous improvement of the program you’re bringing all stakeholders to the table. Some of your program’s initiatives, such as STEAM or including students with disabilities, may have dedicated program teams. If not, now might be the time to assemble those teams in order to have the voices you need to feel confident in your decisions about future years/cycles.
  • Ideas about sustaining your program (or at least some of the enrichment activities your program has offered) beyond your 21st CCLC grant may be one of the reasons you were hired at this phase. Don’t waste any time putting those ideas in motion, connecting with old partners and new, and thinking creatively about leveraging those partnerships.
  • Throughout this “end” phase of your grant year, keep in mind that all the information you’re collecting truly serves these multiple purposes. Bearing that in mind can help you from feeling overwhelmed.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

Whatever your role in your 21st CCLC program, don’t let the game of catch-up get you down. There will always be folks who want to help, both up and down the organization and among your community partners. Taking a few beats to focus on what’s already been done for you will help you get your bearings, and it might even lift your spirits about the future of the program and your place in it! And, of course, Y4Y will be there right by your side with tools and resources. Before you know it, you’ll be the seasoned afterschool professional lending someone else a hand. Won’t that be the flip side of the coin!



August 23, 2021

For generations now, educators have invited parents into the classroom to speak about their work in hopes of both engaging families and sparking professional inspiration. Meanwhile, virtual learning has opened many creative avenues. Consider how you might investigate virtual opportunities to bring a physician or researcher or entrepreneur who looks like your students into your program virtually, and make a surprising impact on your students’ lives.

Start by Asset Mapping

You always want to start with your own community when it comes to guest speakers, though we’ll move on to expanding that thinking in a moment. Guest speakers are nothing more than a new type of partner, and Y4Y’s course on Strategic Partnerships, and specifically, tools for identifying partners, community asset mapping, (and then mapping community assets to partners) can help. Reach out for guest speakers in your own geographic community if your goals include

  • Highlighting professionals who have walked in the same shoes as your students.
  • Featuring adults with an intimate understanding of your community.
  • Establishing a longer-term relationship that might lead to field trips or internships.
  • Providing a resource to families.

Reach out and Touch Someone

The quest for a guest speaker doesn’t have to be limited by geography. What goals of your program might demand expanding your horizons and reaching out to touch professionals outside your community?

  • A desire to connect students to a highly specific profession such as astronomer or neurosurgeon.
  • Inspiring students with a minor celebrity such as a lesser-known children’s book author or minor league athlete.
  • Offering a vision of life beyond your community.
  • Connecting with any professional areas that you can’t tap into in your own area, such as an active military member, farmer, marine biologist or TV producer.

Where Should I Start?

Follow these tips to empower your program and bring exciting guest speakers to your program.

  • Think big. The worst thing that happens is that your emails go unanswered or told no. It hurts nothing to ask.
  • Do your research. If a public figure, local or otherwise, is inclined to work with youth groups, you’re bound to find traces of that on their social media. If not, you can always note that you might be asking them to reach outside their comfort zone, and will keep their visit out of social media yourselves.
  • Reverse-engineer it. Build buzz about a lesser-known author or professional by introducing students to their books or work, then approaching the author or scientist (or athlete, etc.) with tales of the students’ enthusiasm over their contributions.
  • Make no promises. Speak in general terms with the students about the kinds of guest speakers they’d like to have in your program so you’re sure to include their voice, but don’t let them in on specifics until you have firm commitments.
  • Have an elevator email. Remember the 1-minute elevator speech you’ve been advised to carry around on the tip of your tongue? Modify it to a 1-minute email. Be dynamic! Be funny! Be shameless! But be professional. Guilt trips are never a way to go. Instead, keep it light and positive, focusing on how inspiring it might be for them to meet your students. Don’t forget to include a catchy, informative subject line – you’re a marketer now! Something like, “Our urban students love your book, Ms. Love,” or “Please take our rural students to the Phoenix Cluster, Prof. M!”
  • Be prepared. Once you have a commitment, make sure students have questions prepared. Offer them areas of wonders they could draw from, such as the guest’s own childhood, education or training, inspirations and even guilty pleasures.
  • Follow it up. If you’re lucky enough to get an exciting virtual guest for your program, be sure every student sends an old-school thank you note. “Package” the experience with a digital scrapbook to use for future guest and student recruitment. Most important, have a meaningful reflection project for your students.

Something to bear in mind as education shifts into recovery mode is that we have many areas of strength and resilience to draw from after the pandemic. One power of virtual learning is the ability to bring every corner of the world right into your program space. Prospective guests are sure to respect your focus on the positive. And why not show your students there’s a lesson to learn in every setback?



August 6, 2021

A sense of purpose drives most success in life, whether that success is as a parent, a home health aide or president of the United States. By tapping into that human instinct in every one of your students, you can make an immeasurable impact on their lives. Two Y4Y courses, Citizen Science and Civic Learning and Engagement, offer ways to help students find a path to community participation that can give them a sense of greater purpose well beyond their years in your program.

Citizen science means that everyday members of the community can make impactful contributions to scientific advances. This crowdsourcing of information takes little training or even deep understanding of all the principles at work, though often participants in a citizen science project gain significant knowledge through their involvement. Have your students felt like bystanders for the last 18 months, helpless as a new virus wreaked havoc on the world? Biomedical scientists are always looking for volunteers to advance their work. CitizenScience.org has a full list of projects soliciting help in all aspects of COVID-19. Explore many other topics, ranging from studying water quality to space feature hunting, at CitizenScience.gov or through your own internet searching. Just keep these simple tips and tools at hand:

In a similar way, Y4Y’s Civic Learning and Engagement course offers helpful guidance for channeling students’ interest in their community into meaningful contribution. Youth of today are increasingly engaged in the world around them. Whether this is because of social media, cameras on cell phones that make more human experiences universally accessible, or a less tangible raising of collective consciousness, there’s no denying that young people today are aware of the problems around them and they’re eager to fix them. Public figures like climate change activist Greta Thunberg, education advocate Malala Yousafzai, and gun control activist David Hogg may very well reflect the passion and drive you see in the students in your program.

It’s never too early to start sowing those seeds of community purpose in your 21st CCLC program. Start by

Citizen science and civic engagement aren’t mutually exclusive. You may opt to offer both kinds of opportunities to your students to expand the breadth of your program. Studies tell us that they’ll expand their skills, feel empowered, grow into responsible and productive citizens, and even live longer by establishing the practice of being contributors. Most famously, the Harvard Grant study, now 83 years running, demonstrates that “people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community are happier, they’re physically healthier and they live longer than people who are less well connected,” according to Harvard psychiatrist Robert Waldinger. Your program, along with the school-day, may be the first communities your students are experiencing. Help them expand that vision of community beyond your walls, your city and even the country. Your students will benefit, and so will the world.