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October 21, 2021

Charming football stories, like that of real-life Michael Oher (featured in the beloved book and film The Blind Side), remind us that each teammate has a role of equal importance to play. So why should all the glory go to one? Y4Y offers numerous tools within several courses — from Including Students With Disabilities to Student Voice and Choice and beyond — that will help to ensure equity in your program and that nobody’s hogging the ball.

The quarterback leads the team, calls the huddle and ultimately decides who has the ball. This is your 21st CCLC program director (PD). To work toward greater equity, a PD should

  • Gather stakeholders to be sure the program mission reflects your team’s dedication to equity. Consult tools like the Positive Learning Environment Implementation Checklist for guidance. Knowing families and cultures is another great place to start.
  • Train staff on creating an environment that amplifies student voice with the goals of explaining how group norms can support a program culture that values student voice, and defining and developing those group norms with students. Place emphasis on equal opportunities for all voices in that training.
  • Be sure to consult your state and local education agencies for standard resources around language and initiatives relevant to you, like Minnesota’s LeadMN.

The tight ends and fullbacks might do a little catching or running, but a lot of blocking. These are your site coordinators. Their role in supporting equity in your program is to make sure that a play that was called with the best of intentions can be translated into real yardage. Your site coordinators should

  • Begin by ensuring equitable student voice and choice in practice. Check out the Y4Y Student Voice and Choice Implementation Checklist.
  • Be sensitive about all program communications, like your program’s Family Handbook (you can download and adapt a Y4Y sample), and all program forms (see Y4Y’s Process for Developing Inclusive Forms tool).
  • Advance the work around positive group norms by using Y4Y’s Group Norms Agreement. This is the student-driven aspect of your program culture, so getting student buy-in on equity is key. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised on that score. And on that note…

The wide receivers and running backs are the little guys that really get you down the field. These are your students. Not only do they need your protection at the snap; you want to be sure that each one has a turn at possession. This makes for a much livelier game and offers your best chance for a win. Really demonstrate that your 21st CCLC program is the place for students from historically disenfranchised groups to get a leg up:

Finally, your safeties, or frontline staff, are your last line of defense. Legislation around 21st CCLC programs is specific about who your program serves. You can be sure you’re within the letter and the spirit of the law when staff members ensure opportunity for enrichment and advancement to the students who need it the most. Staff should

Back to Michael Oher and the critical role of the left tackle: When a team has a right-handed quarterback, which is most common, the left tackle makes sure that when the quarterback turns for a throw, his “blind side” is protected. When it comes to ensuring equity in your program, do your best not to have a blind side. But just in case, you might have an equity warrior in mind within your organization who can serve as your left tackle. Be sure that position carries with it all the weight and power it deserves.



August 23, 2021

High school 21st CCLC programs differ from elementary and middle school programs, and not simply because students are older. The students you’re seeking to recruit and retain are those who are grappling for connections, especially in the wake of the pandemic, which isn’t necessarily the case in programs geared toward younger students. Consider how the greatest impact on the lives of your teens may be fundamental, human connections.

Look to Science

The recent work of neuroscientist, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang reveals that, “The quality of a person’s relationships and social interactions shapes their development and health, both of the body and of the brain.” The report also notes that adolescence is the most dramatic period of brain development after infancy. Finally, “Adolescents’ efficacy, agency, and sense of purpose thrive with safe, supported opportunities to explore possible social identities, tastes, interests, beliefs, and values; and to invest in tight relationships with family, peers, and trustworthy adults like teachers, mentors, spiritual leaders, and coaches.” You can read even more about her current research into the exact neurological pathways and connections being forged during this critical time that are indicators of future successes in school, relationships and life.

Put simply: teen brains are wired to reach out beyond their caregivers to make connections and begin to process the world around them in a whole new, sophisticated way. The more supportive their environment, the more effective their critical neural pathways for future success and relationship-building will become.

Enter your 21st CCLC program.

Y4Y’s Click & Go, Recruiting and Retaining High School Students offers tips and tools for finding those students who need you the most, and keeping them engaged in your program. Bear these governing principles in mind:

They’re not going to show up on your doorstep. There are those rare high school programs that thrive on word of mouth, such as the Schenectady City School District 21st CCLC teen program. Most work up to that level of enthusiasm through intentional recruitment efforts. Y4Y can help you chart your Recruitment and Retention Plan, starting with building the right team and goals.

Don’t let your program drive a wedge between students and their families. On the contrary, you should offer a space that demonstrates unity with both. Y4Y’s Multicultural Sensitivity Checklist will help you ensure that those recruitment efforts are only appreciated.

We all need a voice. A teen’s home environment may not be supportive of them developing their own thoughts and ideas. Or, maybe their natural disposition holds them back from expressing themselves or even reflecting on what their own goals for the future might be. Help students discover their own agency by surveying them about their own interests in a manner that is comfortable for them. Tools like Y4Y’s Online Survey, Student Goal Setting and Reflection, and Rubric for Assessing Social and Emotional Competencies can guide the process of discovering and capturing that student voice.

We all need purpose. Just as this month’s blog post, “Impact Through Purpose,” notes, a basic human need is to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Check out the tools for growing and keeping student leaders in your program to offer students that opportunity to make a difference. (Youth Ambassador Action Plan Template, Youth Ambassador Job Description Template, Youth Leadership Roles).

Most educators didn’t need science to tell them that demonstrating genuine interest in their students — their thoughts, feelings and goals for the future — offers those students a great advantage for success. Chances are, you could ask any successful or otherwise well-adjusted adult about their favorite teacher and you would get a detailed response on that teacher and all they offered. Out-of-school time professionals have just as perfect an opportunity to make a surprising impact in the lives of young people through connections that students will take with them always. More than an educator, you can also be a friend, a mentor, a safe place and, as it turns out, a builder of neural pathways.



June 16, 2021

Early summer is the perfect time to get a jump on student recruitment for the fall. High school students are the trickiest of all, but we know how eager teens are to get back together. With tips from Y4Y’s new Click & Go, Recruiting and Retaining High School Students, and field notes from a California program that had great success with all-virtual programming, you can learn how to market your program and really show off all you have to offer.

  • Y4Y’s Recruitment and Retention Plan tool will give you a great idea of where you are and where you need to be going with your recruitment efforts, month by month. Now is exactly the time of year to get up and running for a successful fall program.
  • Happy days are here again! Returning to in-person programming hopefully means you can gain access to buildings during school hours. A great way of recruiting students is just talking with kids in the cafeteria at lunch, but if social distancing is still required, the Y4Y Idea Wall/Board Tool will help you create visuals of your program to more passively entice students to the exciting offerings of your program. If class is out for the summer, you can adopt many of the same creative ideas for your website. Drive students to your website by partnering with school administrators on their end-of-year communications.
  • Your students are your greatest asset! Many tools in this Click & Go offer guidance for building effective student leadership in your program. Your student ambassadors are the key to successful recruitment. Check out the Youth Ambassador Plan Template, the Youth Ambassador Job Description Template and the Youth Leadership Roles tool. If you don’t already have a strong student leadership plan in place, this is where you’ll get started to ensure next year’s recruitment efforts get a boost. Meanwhile, it will strongly reinforce your retention efforts by increasing student buy-in.

Speaking of student retention, participants in Y4Y’s winter listening session on virtual learning shed light on some critical steps in retaining teens in any environment:

  • Games are universally popular. But not all students enjoy the same kind of games. Be sure you can offer a combination of video games, board games and interactive computer games to engage every student. Remember that differences in academic levels are likely to be apparent during game play. The last thing you want to do is exclude anyone from something that is meant to be fun.
  • Nothing beats the great outdoors! Just as is highlighted in this month’s Voices From the Field on forest kindergartens, young people are often happiest outdoors. Teens are no exception. Being forced on screen so much has demonstrated that anything that can be taken outside should be taken outside!
  • Connection is at the root of all you do. Teens who find themselves in 21st CCLC programs are often the students that don’t quite fit with a sport or other afterschool activity but crave those human connections. It’s the job of your program to discover and accentuate the greatest common denominators. Soon, investment in each other will become that very thing!
  • Honor perseverance. Academic standards drive your students’ school-day sense of achievement more than ever as they become teens. You can provide them the opportunity to develop the feeling of success they deserve by celebrating effort and resilience as well.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow noted that youth comes but once in a lifetime. You have tremendous power in helping your teens make the most of it. Your 21st CCLC program is in a unique position this summer and fall as more teens are vaccinated and policies are opening up to offer a renewed sense of community at a time when they need it most. So don’t be shy: Get out there and show off that program!