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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.



June 18, 2019

Could a few minutes of forethought now prevent hours of stress later? When it comes to planning the start-up of a new program year, the answer is YES! These quick tips will help you prepare now for a smooth re-entry this fall.

To avoid the last-minute hiring scramble:

  • Prepare job descriptions. Have job descriptions ready in advance — especially if you’re looking for certain skills or expertise. Y4Y’s Sample Human Resources Packet has sample job descriptions and templates for inspiration.
  • Keep a list of potential candidates. Maybe you’ve encountered an enthusiastic summer intern from the local college, a community volunteer with a knack for teaching young children, or a retired grandparent with experience in youth development. Keep a list of names and contact information. You can also ask program staff, school personnel and others for recommendations.

To avoid the “oops-I-wish-I’d-planned-a-staff-training-on-that” syndrome:

  • Look back. What training topics would have benefitted staff last year? What topics should be repeated? Put those on the list for this year.
  • Look forward. Will you have several staff members who are new to the 21st CCLC program? Do you plan to use project-based learning or another strategy for the first time? Add essential topics to your list, then check on available training, resources, and expertise from the school and community, and from Y4Y. If you’re a new 21st CCLC grantee, take a look at Y4Y’s virtual professional development series for new grantees.

To avoid starting the fall without the partnerships you want and need:

  • Make new friends. Piggyback on community events to connect with potential partners who have the right kind of expertise, skills and resources to fill gaps or support new initiatives. Be ready to “make your ask” by clearly stating how partnering can benefit the partner as well as the students and families your program serves.
  • Keep old friends. Strengthen current partnerships by expressing appreciation, providing support, and refocusing time and effort as necessary to make sure all parties are satisfied with the partnership arrangement. See Y4Y’s Strengthening Partnerships course for ideas.

To avoid the letdown of targeted students not enrolling:

  • Include success stories in outreach materials. Name potential benefits to students and their families, and include real-life examples whenever possible. Feature recent activities and successes, with quotes and photos from students’ families (with their permission, of course). Let your program’s inclusive culture, areas of expertise and concern for individual growth shine through! See Y4Y’s recent Showcase webinar for ideas and tools for effective communications and outreach.
  • Team with the school to personalize invitations. If you know certain students would benefit from your program, enlist help from the school staff. Teachers and counselors who’ve established trust with students and their families can help recruit students and steer them in your direction.

Could a staff member or volunteer help with some of these tasks? Enlist their help right away. Taking time this summer to plan and prepare for fall can give your program (and your spirits) a rocket boost!



December 11, 2018

Dedicated 21st CCLC practitioners like you have three things on their wish list for the coming year:

✔ Activities that target student needs.

✔ Activities that advance program goals.

✔ Activities that students love.

Fortunately, a magic wand called “data” can help you make these wishes come true. You can use data to assess where you are versus where you want to be and make targeted changes. It doesn’t have to be painful or time consuming. Here’s a fun way to do it as the calendar year winds down:

Make a red wand:

  • Gather your program team around the fireplace and provide hot cocoa.
  • Pull out the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time bound) goals you set earlier for your program and for specific activities.
  • Review the goals and, together, rate your success in reaching them.
  • For each goal you didn’t reach, ask the team, “What’s one thing can we do differently in the coming year to reach this goal?” If you did reach a goal, decide whether to set a new one.
  • Write your red-hot ideas on red paper, and wrap the paper around a stick. You can use this “data wand” in future planning meetings.

Make a green wand:

  • Survey students and families on what they liked about the fall session and what they want in the future.
  • Review the responses with your team, and put results in categories like “student choice,” “outdoor activities” and “social skills.”
  • Write your green-for-growth ideas on green paper, and wrap the paper around a stick. Use this “data wand” along with the red one as you plan your spring activity schedule.

You can pull out your data wands in the coming months to remind the team of their findings and conclusions. This “data magic” can help them focus their talents and efforts on making a positive difference for students. Best wishes in making your 21st CCLC wish list reality in the coming year!

P.S. Consider setting a date in January for Y4Y’s Training to Go, Identifying and Addressing Program Strengths and Weaknesses. This customizable training can take your team deeper into program improvement.



November 16, 2018

So John, the Title I coordinator in your school district, enthusiastically agreed to share his expertise as a Master Gardener. He’s working with students to build a community garden in a nearby spot that was formerly an eyesore. The local newspaper did a story about it last week.

Mari, an insurance agent, meets with students once a week to prep for a beginner’s rock-climbing expedition in the spring. They’re learning about equipment, rope work, climbing techniques and safety checks. Mari works with each student on a customized physical and mental training program. As a result, some are trying yoga or weight training for the first time. Mari has a knack for getting even the most reluctant students to try new things.

Everyone agrees that things are going great! Your work as a volunteer coordinator is done, right? Not so fast.

Don’t assume that once you’ve recruited expert volunteers, they won’t need or appreciate your support. Support from the 21st CCLC program is vital to maintaining volunteers’ commitment, energy and momentum over time. Try the Triple-A approach: ask, assist and acknowledge.

Ask what you can do to support volunteers. Do they need more flexibility in scheduling? What about supplies, equipment or extra help from other adults?     

Assist and assess to ensure success. Being a Master Gardener doesn’t mean being a master teacher, activity planner and youth developer. Being a rock-climbing enthusiast doesn’t mean knowing how to address behavioral issues or modify activities for students with disabilities. Meet with volunteers up front to share specific information about your students, their interests and ways to engage them, and use the Y4Y Sample Volunteer Skills Grid. Invite volunteers to share their ideas and input. Agree on a plan, then observe and participate in activities. Assess what’s working, what could be improved, and what’s needed to keep things on track. Offer encouragement and feedback. The Y4Y Working With Volunteers Training Plan can help you and your staff ensure volunteers’ success.

Acknowledge volunteers’ contributions. Be specific when you recognize these valuable members of the 21st CCLC team. At a public event, you might say, “Before our students worked on the garden, some thought potatoes grew on trees. Others didn’t know what organic meant. This project has opened up a new world for them, and raised interest in healthful eating, too.” Privately, you might say, “Samantha uses your mental training tips from rock climbing to manage her anxiety better. Even her teachers at school have noticed a difference!” Acknowledgements like this go beyond “thank you.” They appeal to people’s desire to contribute something useful and meaningful.

These are just a few ways to support volunteers who share their expertise. Add your own ideas, and put them to work!