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April 22, 2021

Research demonstrates the importance of students having a say in what and how they’re learning for the most successful educational outcomes. But building the bridge between their opinions and impactful activities might require you to learn a new skill. Turn to Y4Y’s new course on student voice and choice for a quick study of this 21st CCLC best practice.

Where to Begin

Gathering student voice can be done on an individual or group basis. Each has its merits. Individual input offers students the comfort of anonymity, where a group approach fosters the kind of collaboration and idea sharing that can yield richer and more developed outcomes. Use these Y4Y tools to help you get everyone’s perspectives:

Making it Happen

Those All-Important Facilitator Skills

You can hone your staff’s role with the Using Facilitation Practices That Incorporate Student Voice and Choice Training to Go.

With the above tools and more at your disposal, staff can effectively build their skills to facilitate student-driven activities and keep these important principles at the forefront:

  • A “guide on the side” approach means students take center stage in their own learning. You’re there to provide guidance and support.
  • Adopting effective questioning techniques, and using words like “why” and “how,” leads to richer learning.
  • Brainstorming is your best friend.

The message you convey by tying student voice and choice to all you do is loud and clear: We hear you, we honor you and we believe in you.



April 7, 2021

The school day is the protein-rich foundation in your students’ day. Your 21st CCLC program is the light and sweet finish. When you align your efforts, everyone leaves the table satisfied. Y4Y’s new Click & Go, Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day, has simple tips on forming a delicious pairing.

We’re Hungry! (The Why)

This spring is an important time to commit to intentional collaboration with your school-day counterparts. This collaboration can and should intersect with staff at every level of your program.

  • School-day teachers are taking an inventory of the academic recovery each student is facing. Students’ circumstances and their responses to virtual and hybrid education during the pandemic can vary widely, even within a single virtual classroom. Students’ academic gains and losses through this academic year are also likely to vary widely.
  • Student health and wellness have suffered universally as well, but schools may be spread thin, given the high priority on academic recovery. Your program can play a key role in supporting students’ health and wellness.
  • Funds are available! The Afterschool Alliance produced a webinar, “$122 Billion for Education in American Rescue Plan: What It Means for OST Programs,” on how out-of-school time programs like yours can boost their role in recovery. Your school-day partners will be hungry to work with you to maximize access to this funding on behalf of your mutual students.
  • Most districts can’t follow their students through the summer, but your program can. Jointly, you can decide the best approach for each student.

Spread Generously. (The How)

Developing or strengthening partnerships with the school day doesn’t have to be complicated. Just intentional.

Delish PB&J. (The What)

Get ready to implement the best activities your creative, mouth-watering programming juices can muster!

Unless you’re allergic to peanut butter, the idea of the PB&J pairing of the school day and your program should strike just the right tone. Each is made better with the other right there for balance. And each nourishes students in different but important ways. “Spread” the word!



March 18, 2021

Some students walk into your program on the first day as natural leaders. Others have no vision of themselves in a leadership role. Leadership might be a concept that we hesitate to apply to young people, out of our desire to let them “come into their own.” But leadership comes in many shapes and sizes, and your 21st CCLC program is the perfect place to help all students explore and develop leadership skills. Nothing provides a greater sense of connection to the world around us than that vested feeling of active leadership.

The Texas State Safety Center offers a concise list of research-based benefits from youth leadership:

  • Leadership skills, such as personal goal-setting, problem-solving and sound decision-making
  • Improved ability to solve community problems and enhance civic participation 
  • Formation of higher career aspirations, increased self-esteem, and improved high school completion rates
  • Direct benefits to communities and organizations through a greater understanding of the problems facing other youth, and fresh perspectives on how to address these problems
  • Positive impact on adults by counteracting negative stereotypes of youth when they are successfully engaged in leadership within their communities. 

Y4Y offers a number of resources to help you guide the teens in your program to leadership roles. There are many sides to this conversation, so referencing the tools in several different Y4Y courses will arm you with a comprehensive approach.

  1. What do your students enjoy, what’s their comfort level, and what are they good at? Y4Y’s new Student Voice and Choice course offers tools such as Student Goal Setting and Reflection and SMART Goal Starter for Students. When your students better understand themselves and what they want out of your program and their lives, you can collectively find the right brand of leadership for them.
  2. What’s fair to expect? Tools in the Civic Learning and Engagement course can acquaint you with Youth Development Stages and Incorporating Multiple Viewpoints to lay the groundwork for mutually agreed upon, age-appropriate expectations as you ask students to navigate new leadership roles.
  3. What does youth leadership look like? The new Y4Y Click & Go on Recruiting and Retaining High School Students emphasizes the importance of youth leadership to the overall success of your teen program. Check out the tools on Youth Leadership Roles and the Youth Ambassador Job Description Template to dive into a framework for youth leadership in your program.
  4. What will youth actually lead? Great question! If you have non-STEM-based collaborative academic enrichment projects in mind, you can turn to the Group Roles, Youth Participation Checklist, Planner for Brainstorming and Project Planner tools, all in the Project-Based Learning course. Looking to develop student leadership skills through STEM projects and activities? Check out the new Y4Y STEAM course and related tools like the STEAM Student Self-Monitoring Checklist for Project Work, Design Thinking Task Tracker for Students and Selecting Student Roles for Group Work. Each student can play to their strengths and lead their own learning, regardless of their assigned role on a project team! Of course, if you’re looking to take that sense of community beyond the “four walls” of your program into the larger community, revisit tools in the Y4Y Civic Learning and Engagement course, like Brainstorming Civic Engagement Topics and Investigating Issues in Your Community to get student leadership on the right path to community project success.

A noted American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Adopting this guiding philosophy on the power that your students can have in their own lives and the lives of others will grow leadership in each of them. Not only will your students and your program benefit, but the ever-shrinking globe will gain the leaders of tomorrow it so desperately needs.



February 17, 2021

Y4Y’s new Click & Go, Recruiting and Retaining High School Students (RRHHS) holds the premise that in every community, there are high school students who grapple with belonging. This can be especially true for students who are new to this country. Your program can lift up and inspire them to a whole new level of engagement and maturity. Be intentional in how you support these students, and help them chart their own course to adulthood. Looking for ways to help them break through language barriers, find their own place in your 21st CCLC community, and stay physically and mentally strong? Consider combining resources from Y4Y’s new courses on supporting English learners and student voice and choice, along with the new Click & Go on recruiting and retaining high school students.

Here are some challenges that immigrant teens may face, and where you can find Y4Y tips to support them.

Making Friends

Being the “new kid” as a teenager comes with some daunting statistics about student behaviors like falling in with a rough crowd and experiencing higher rates of substance abuse and even suicide. You can lay the groundwork for countering these statistics by training staff on creating a safe learning environment for English learners. A “safe environment” may be a new and welcome experience for English learners who are immigrants, depending on the circumstances in their countries of origin. Building trust among staff and students is an important first step in helping them build friendships and connections. You’ll appreciate the Y4Y RRHHS Click & Go tools for adopting a Youth Ambassador program because they put friendship-building at the center of your program design.

Cultural Assimilation vs. Family Wishes

In one generation, the U.S. went from being referred to as a “melting pot” to a “tossed salad” as people realized the benefits of keeping unique aspects of one’s home language and cultural rather than requiring people to give up those things to create a single, blended “flavor.” You can build trust by demonstrating to students and families that your program will respect and revere the practices they’ve brought with them. From the Home Language Survey and Knowing Families and Cultures tools to the Cultural Competence Training to Go and Family Goal-Setting Survey, you’ll establish, from the inside out, that your program is a shared effort between families and staff, and that participation in your community means never putting students in the position of having to choose between their heritage and their future.

Language Barriers, Low Literacy Levels and Interruptions in Formal Education

Tips for supporting a wide array of English learners in your program range from hiring a multilingual staff, which may be feasible if your students share the same native language, to using the universal language of math, as Marcy Richards describes in this month’s Voices From the Field: Diversity, Equity and English Learners. You can engage in Y4Y’s full course on the subject for in-depth professional development, or you can brush up on some basic concepts with Y4Y tools like Instructional Strategies for English Learners, Marzano’s Six Steps for Vocabulary Instruction, and a basic Sentence Frames and Stems worksheet, all of which can be downloaded and customized to meet students where they are.

No Sense of Control

There’s extensive research on the correlation between a sense of control in one’s life, and engagement and therefore success. Teens often grapple with feelings of restriction as they desire greater freedom to make their own choices and “do their own thing.” Immigrating to a new country (and learning a new language and culture) during adolescence can add to their frustrations and their sense of “not being heard.” Y4Y’s new Student Voice and Choice course can help! Adapt the Activity Choice Form to reflect your students’ ages and English literacy level. Tools like the Concentric Circles Discussion Format and Focus Group Format give you the added benefit of group work that builds friendship and community while reinforcing student voice and choice. Use the Student Goal Setting and Reflection tool as proof to your students that they have the power to say, to choose, and to control their futures as part of their new community.



February 17, 2021

Sometimes we know exactly what we want. Sometimes we know exactly what we don’t want. In your program, you can avoid the ho-hums between these extremes with Y4Y’s new course on student voice and choice. But remember: your students need more than just a voice to be inspired. They need your help finding that voice. After all, those frontal lobes are working overtime to develop right now!

Your adventures in student voice and choice begin with a tour of the Y4Y Musicfest with young Stevie. You’ll learn to

  • Prepare staff at the Rock and Roll Stage.
  • Create a safe environment for student voice at the Country Stage.
  • Capture student voice and choice at the Pop Stage.
  • Embed student voice and choice throughout each activity at the R&B/Soul Stage.
  • Assess and reflect on implementation at the Jazz Stage.

After completing the Implementation Strategies portion of the course, you’ll receive an Advanced Level certificate and be able to

  • Define student voice and choice.
  • Describe how to create a program environment that honors student voice and choice.
  • Develop a program schedule of activities that honor student voice and incorporate academic needs.
  • Utilize strategies for honoring student choice.
  • Access tools and resources for increasing student voice and choice in your program.

Leaders who opt to complete the “Coaching My Staff” portion of the course will earn a Leadership Level certificate and be able to

  • Train staff to integrate student voice and choice across program activities.
  • Create a professional learning plan for staff.
  • Use effective coaching techniques while implementing the professional learning plan.

You’ll find the downloadable, customizable tools with this course to be inspired and inspiring!

Confucius famously noted that if you choose a job you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. What he meant was, you might work hard, but you’ll enjoy it more if it’s work of your own choosing. Offering the at-risk students in your program a voice and choice is the educational equivalent of this sage advice. Your 21st CCLC program should be painlessly fun and enriching even as your students put forth their best effort. This new course will set you well on your way while having your own fun at the Y4Y Musicfest!