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November 22, 2021

The world of business offers a lot more research on the value of gut-level decision-making than the world of education, but your students may well find themselves in that world one day. Trusting your gut takes a unique kind of confidence. Young people can learn how to develop and trust their instincts by matching their cultural learning with self-awareness and self-management, social awareness, leadership opportunities, and more. Tools from Y4Y courses can help you build student intuition and confidence through a variety of strategies so they’ll be ready for times when snap judgments — and trusting those snap judgments — are a must.

It Starts With a Positive Learning Environment

Creating a positive learning environment opens the door to everything from baby steps to giant leaps in each of your 21st CCLC initiatives. Consult the Y4Y list of strategies for creating a positive learning environment to make sure that door is wide open. Simple practices around how you interact with your students and your stakeholders — like one-on-one exchanges, focused listening and appropriate personal openness — ensure the safety and trust that lead to strong work in confidence building.

The Role of Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) gives students the tools needed to become well-adjusted adults. The Y4Y research brief on this subject expands on how the emotional competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making build on one another. An effective, evidence-based SEL curriculum can help this process. It might be tempting to consider “responsible decision-making” only those decisions that have been deliberated with a textbook list of pros and cons. But researchers are finding that sometimes responsible decision-making means knowing when to abandon that method.

An effective SEL program should be “SAFE” (sequenced, active, focused and explicit) and provide (1) purposeful design that leads to skill development; (2) opportunities for practice; (3) time devoted to developing one or more social and emotional skills; and (4) a plan that targets specific skills. A few Y4Y tools to get you started are the SEL Competencies Matching Game to get to know the competencies, and the Delivery Methods for SEL and SEL Learning Activity Intentional Design Planner to implement your focused practice of those competencies. Researchers advocating for the benefits of snap decisions note, “Another interesting finding in this study is that intuition can be improved over time, suggesting that the mechanisms of intuition can be improved with practice.” Your program might consider self-awareness skills the perfect place to begin a focused practice. After all, solid self-awareness is the foundation for all emotional competencies and the best assurance of trusting your gut!

The Art of Reflection

Y4Y offers many more opportunities outside of the SEL course for students to build their self-awareness skills, and reflection is at the heart of them. The course on student voice and choice includes tools for middle and high school students to reflect on what they’re learning, how they learn and how to connect that learning with their lives. The full set of voice and choice course tools contains tools specific to grades K-1, 2-3, 4-6, middle school and high school that help connect reflection and goal setting. It’s easy to see how a lifetime of reflection and goal setting could develop a strong neurological pathway for making quick, outcome-oriented decisions!

Put Confidence to the Test

Once you’ve invested time in building student confidence on the inside, there are plenty of opportunities to put that confidence to the test in your 21st CCLC program space. Help students grow into leadership with tools from the Recruiting and Retaining High School Students Click & Go, such as the Youth Leadership Roles ideas. Group brainstorming calls for quick, free-flowing ideas, as does the Concentric Circles Discussion Format. These practices are ideal for out-of-school time to prepare students for the professional world and to exercise emotional competencies beyond self-awareness, such as social awareness and relationship skills. More broadly, these group activities are essential for design thinking (at the center of the Y4Y STEAM course) and other kinds of project-based learning.

The Future of Intuition?

The linked article suggests that “the ability to quantitively measure intuition could be a boon to many different fields, especially when it comes to workplace hiring.” It cites research on a growing ability to scientifically measure intuition, which could lead to hiring practices based more on those measurements than on candidate questionnaires that merely “test people’s opinions about their own feelings of intuition.” Your 21st CCLC programs are the perfect environment to help students develop strong intuition through self-awareness and reflection exercises, and just as important, to trust that intuition as you help them build their confidence through leadership and collaboration.



October 21, 2021

Will the wide receiver go long? Will the running back run it up the middle? What about a quarterback sneak? You’ve always got the Hail Mary in a pinch! Y4Y’s newest course on career pathways emphasizes that students have numerous, equally effective ways to score in the end zone. Six points are six points, however you get there!

Throw a Pass to Trades

Many young people have already discovered that going straight to college may not be the “obvious” choice it was once thought to be. An estimate of spring 2021 U.S. college enrollment revealed that 200,000 fewer women and a dramatic 400,000 fewer men were attending college from just one year earlier. The National Association of Workforce Boards notes:

“The nation’s home builders face a severe skilled labor shortage. Some of the jobs that are in highest demand are carpenters, electricians, HVAC and solar installers, plumbers, painters, and masonry workers. In the previous two quarters, unfilled positions in construction have averaged 275,000,” according to Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders.

The National Association of Workforce Boards says “it’s time for a major national focus on training new workers in the skilled building trades. First on the agenda must be a change in the perception of trade jobs. Too many high school students, and those who influence their decisions, never consider the opportunities available for well-paying jobs and promising careers in construction after graduation.”

Your 21st CCLC Goes Long

Does your program “influence the decisions” of your high school students while helping them make their own choices? You are if you’re meeting your goals! Y4Y’s new course walks you through a comprehensive and individualized approach to guiding students to the end zone. With pathways that wind through the trades, military, workforce and college, students can gain a broader-than-ever view of their options for the future. You’ll be setting up the play for both personal reflection and career exploration.

Cover the Player

Here are just a few tools you can use in your program to help students gain important insights about themselves through the first half.

After halftime, run the whole field by exploring careers and the right paths to get there with more course tools.

Texas coach Darrell Royal famously said, “There are three things that can happen on a forward pass — and two of them are bad.” Help your student complete that pass, wherever they are on the field, and keep their eye on the endzone. Your 21st CCLC program is the perfect place to help students understand that college is just one of many plays that can deliver them to a winning career and future.



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.



September 12, 2021

The country’s collective consciousness and conscience are waking up to inequity. Institutions are eager to address this societal albatross, and there are many very different ideas on how to do it. Resources such as Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan ask educators to shift thinking from deficit-mindedness to asset-mindedness. “Street data is the qualitative and experiential data that emerges at eye level and on lower frequencies when we train our brains to discern it. Street data is asset based, building on the tenets of culturally responsive education by helping educators look for what’s right in our students, schools, and communities instead of seeking out what’s wrong.” While your 21st CCLC program will continue to require evidence-based intervention methods, how can you begin to shape the culture and implementation in your program around student strengths rather than perceived deficits?

Authors Safir and Dugan, who were featured at the 2021 Summer Symposium, offer guiding principles and core stances for each chapter of their groundbreaking book. These are crosswalked below to Y4Y resources that can help your program shift its framework to an asset-minded approach that promotes equity.

Why Street Data, Why Now?

Guiding Principle 1: Reimagine our ways of knowing and learning. Core Stance: Holism.

How can your program give value to learning that’s emotional, spiritual, and physical as well as that which is cognitive?

  • Know the five skill domains of social and emotional learning.
  • Principles of inclusion reach beyond disabilities. Gather a full team and build an inclusive team by roles so your program can see every student for their strengths, like leadership, teamwork and clear communication.
  • Tools available in Y4Y’s Career Pathways for Students course already put you in the mindset of focusing on each individual’s strengths. Asset-based thinking takes this principle a step further and recognizes that different subcultures in your community might practice different and exciting ways of knowing and learning. 

Guiding Principle 2: See the barriers; imagine what’s possible. Core Stance: Awareness.

Is equity just one more new initiative, or is your program committed to a culture shift?

  • Your culture and climate language must reflect your commitment. Consult the implementation strategies section of Y4Y’s course on creating a positive learning environment.
  • Only with strong community champions that share your values can you make progress toward equity.
  • Team building is one more way to stress that your program is a community that values all its members.

Choose the Margins

Guiding Principle 3: Center voices from the margins. Core Stance: Antiracism.

Are the loudest voices that are front and center the only ones that are heard in your program?

Guiding Principle 4: Seek root causes over quick fixes. Core Stance: Deep Listening.

How is your program working to fully understand its students?

Deepen the Learning

Guiding Principle 5: Equity work is first and foremost pedagogical. Core Stance: Agency.

Does your program place resilience at the center of perceived success?

Guiding Principle 6: Less is more; focus is everything. Core Stance: Coherence.

Progress cannot be made in the silo of your program. How can you reach to partners to bring them along on this journey?

  • Review the introduction section of Y4Y’s course on continuous education to develop strategies for approaching your school-day partners. Aligning your efforts to foster asset-based thinking with hopes of affecting pedagogy is key.
  • Adapt the Y4Y tool to establish professional learning communities and bring all your stakeholders together from around the community to reflect on your different views of data collection.
  • Families are your strongest partner in advocating for equity. Understanding and overcoming challenges to family engagement are important first steps.

Guiding Principle 7: Mobilize a pedagogy of voice for educators. Core Stance: Symmetry.

Have you empowered your staff, many of whom were perhaps chosen for their familiarity with the community, to act on their best impulses for supporting equity?

Transform the Culture

Guiding Principle 8: Break the cycle of shame. Cores Stance: Vulnerability.

Do you strive so relentlessly for perfection in the delivery of your programming that you don’t take the risks that can lead to imperfect progress?

  • A theme we can borrow from STEAM/design thinking is undoing right-answer thinking; it’s better to try and falter, learn from that experience and try again.
  • Another Y4Y Voices From the Field guest, Marcy Richards, focuses on the “can-do’s” and not the “can’t-do’s” in her approach to equity, diversity and English learners.
  • Virtual learning in 2020 and 2021 was a stark lesson in just how quickly and effectively 21st CCLC programming can pivot. Nobody said “effortlessly.” Nobody said “easily.” And certainly, nobody said “perfectly.” But take those lessons, just as California practitioners featured in Y4Y’s March webinar series, Literacy Done Virtually, did, and consider what kind of shifts toward equity can be put into place immediately and program-wide. There may be bumps in the road, and it’s OK to be OK with that.

Guiding Principle 9: Every moment is an equity moment. Cores Stance: Warm Demander.

As the authors note, “Rather than call people out, warm demanders call folks in and up to the work of equity.” Is your program committed to a universal approach to challenging your full staff, partners and community to embrace equity?

  • By definition, 21st CCLC programs are a place where diversity is understood. You already fight for the students in the margins. Consult the Diagram of Philosophy and Practices Within 21st CCLC to guide everything you do.
  • Use the Knowing Families and Cultures tool to develop strategies for familiarizing staff and partners with the unique qualities and strengths of the families you serve.
  • Become a warm demander by creating a program elevator speech. Craft your language not around calling people out, but around calling partners in and up to the work of equity. Most important, get comfortable talking about equity with a tone of gentle insistence.

As you balance your formal and informal data collection activities with an eye toward equity and improvement, consider the book’s closing message:

“Listen deeply. Trust the people. Act on what you learn. With that invocation, I invite you to walk forward on your street data journey with clear eyes and a full heart, knowing that the biggest mistake we can make is to cling to the status quo. Be brave, be bold, be visionary. We’ve got this.”



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.