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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!