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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!



May 22, 2019

With initial design of your summer learning program complete, you’re ready to recruit staff and partners, then cultivate skills and knowledge so your gardeners can deliver activities that help students grow and prevent summer learning loss. You may have a core team in place but probably need to fill some gaps. Where do you start? Here are some tools and tips from Y4Y resources.

Select the Right Gardeners

To nurture strong, successful students, plan staff and partner recruitment to identify candidates with qualities you need.

  • Recruit staff. Some will be school-day teachers, who understand academics and know how to support student learning. Others will be school-day paraprofessionals, college students and community volunteers. You want candidates who reflect your students’ diversity, can support social and emotional learning, and bring skills and knowledge that will enrich the learning environment. Create a recruitment structure by developing job descriptions and preparing for interviews. See the Y4Y Sample Human Resources Packet and the Identifying and Recruiting High-Quality Staff tools for help with those processes.
  • Recruit partners. Use Y4Y tools to put two things in place: a community asset map that identifies potential resources, and an elevator pitch that explains your 21st CCLC program and its goals for summer learning. These resources help you prepare the soil for successful collaborations.

Fertilize and Water Frequently

Start by including everyone — your staff and appropriate partner staff — in orientation training, so everyone knows the garden design. As the summer session progresses, follow up with group and individual coaching. To ensure that everyone thrives, use the Y4Y Observation Checklist and Summer Learning Training Planner tools to focus ongoing coaching and professional learning activities. For ideas from 21st CCLC colleagues, listen to the podcasts on recruiting staff and leading your organization in the Organizational Culture Click & Go.

A Little Weeding and a Lot of Joy

Your summer learning garden can produce glorious blooms — just be sure to use your continuous improvement process to weed out ineffective practices. See the Y4Y Continuous Improvement Planner and the Continuous Improvement Process Diagram for more information. At the end of the summer session, bring everyone together to celebrate your garden’s bounty!

Other Y4Y Resources

Summer Learning Initiative. Get inspiration, ideas and tools from this two-year Department project.

Summer Learning Course: Implementation Strategies. See Step 4: Logistics, Planning Professional Development.

Managing Your 21st CCLC Program Course. Find the information and tools every program director needs.



January 24, 2019

Happy new year! Chances are, you already have several program activities, meetings, appointments, deadlines and to-do lists on your new calendar. Before all the blank space is filled, here’s a reminder: Don’t forget to put yourself on the calendar! Taking time for personal and professional renewal is important to your success and well-being. Here’s some advice:

Look both ways. As a child, you probably heard this line often from the crossing guard and from Mom as you approached busy intersections. It’s also good advice for crossing into the new year. First, look back at the past year, and reflect: What went well? What didn’t? Which habits, activities and goals do you want to keep? Which will you ditch? Then look forward and consider what you’d like to have, do and be in the coming year. What habits, activities and goals will get you there? A SWOT analysis can help you “look both ways” and consider your options. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Put on your own oxygen mask first. This pre-takeoff advice from flight attendants reminds us we can’t help others if we ignore our own needs. Sure, you’d love to spark students’ interest in reading and math, and help them prepare for successful college and career experiences. But maybe you first need to build your skills through training and tools in those areas. The links in this paragraph can help. See Y4Y’s professionalization resources for other ideas you can use to build your skills and your resume.

Keep your balance. The examples above focus on professional renewal, but time for personal goals and interests is equally important. Maybe you love nature photography or trips with family or friends but haven’t taken a photo or a trip for months. Or maybe you daydream about an afternoon of downtime. Decide what you need, and put yourself on the calendar. Seeking work-life balance and taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It’s essential.



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.



August 21, 2018

The start of the program year always brings a mad scramble to get staff. You know you need the right number of people and the right qualifications to be successful. But what does “right” mean? You may be tempted to hire anyone who is interested, so you have enough adults for the number of students you plan to serve. However, many program directors would advise you to take time to be selective. If you truly get the right people, you will have a higher quality of programming and fewer turnover issues.

Define the Job and the Qualifications

Do you have job descriptions for every position in your program? If not, don’t worry; job descriptions don’t have to be long and complicated. Sit down with your planning team and discuss what you need for each role you want to fill. If you need an algebra tutor, your ideal candidate would most likely be a math teacher. For a gardening class, teacher certification is not vital; this person needs to know how to connect with young people and grow plants. Be sure to describe any work outside of the actual program. For example, does the position require creating lesson plans? Be very clear about the schedule and time commitment. Explain how long each class or program day is, how many days per week are needed, and how many weeks the commitment will last. If all staff are required to attend weekly staff meetings, spell that out. Being clear and specific in your description makes it more likely you will find the right person.

Look Beyond the School for Candidates

When you have defined qualifications, think outside the box about where to look for staff. If the math teachers in your school are not interested in algebra tutoring, think about other teachers. Is there a science or special education teacher with experience teaching algebra? Because your position is different from what they do all day, they might enjoy the change. A retired math teacher would know the content and how to work with students, and might enjoy a fun, part-time connection with youth. For a gardening position, ask around the school for avid gardeners, check with families about their gardening skills, or talk to a local Extension agent. The math teacher who turned down the algebra tutoring might love to lead a gardening club. Explore hobbies and other interests to discover new ways school staff can engage with students. High school and college students are other great resources. While not all students can create lesson plans, many can implement existing curriculum and bring fresh excitement and energy to activities. An education or math major might be a great fit for that algebra position.

Consider Motivation and Engagement Style

You want your staff to have skills that match your needs but you don’t want the extra money they will make to be their sole motivation. You want people who are excited to engage with your students and will contribute to a positive program culture. To get a feel for fit, many programs use scenario-based interviewing. Ask an applicant how they would respond to situations that occur in an out-of-school time setting. You might ask about managing behavior, engaging with families, or teaching a specific topic. Think about your program values and how you want staff to engage with students. If the program emphasizes project-based learning, ask the candidate to describe how they would design a project. Some programs will have an applicant volunteer for a day or two to see how they interact with students and other staff, or will observe them during a school-day position.

While being intentional with your staff recruitment takes some time, you will be rewarded with great staff who provide high-quality learning experiences, engage positively with your youth, and are committed to your program. To learn more about intentional staff recruitment, check out the Y4Y course on Managing Your 21st CCLC Program. The course tools include a Sample Human Resources Packet that contains sample job descriptions, interview question examples, ideas about recruiting staff and much more!