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June 16, 2020

June is for educators what December is for the rest of the world. And this academic year was certainly not what anybody expected! What worked in your program, and what “new year’s” resolutions would you like to set for next year’s program? How can Y4Y resources help you achieve those goals? To get those creative juices flowing, start by exploring Y4Y’s tools for continuous improvement, such as the SWOT Analysis Worksheet, Sample Evaluation Guide, the Continuous Improvement Process Diagram and Planner. Then, plan for a deeper dive into those areas that need particular attention.

Here are the top 2020 New Year’s resolutions set by Americans, and their translation into 21st CCLC-speak:

Exercise More

How well are you incorporating physical activity into your program? Have you caught Y4Y’s archived Showcase webinar, Expanding Quality Health and Recreation Opportunities? A summary of the resources presented is also available. Start with a good stretch: Reach out and connect with your community using Y4Y’s Mapping Community Assets tool. Get the heart pumping with engaging project-based learning. A wealth of ideas were presented during the May webinar series, and resources were shared to the discussion board. Looking for a little muscle mass? The Y4Y course on strategic partnerships offers important steps to building a stronger program and the importance of teamwork. Don’t forget the cool-down.

Save Money/Stick to a Budget

Do you know that as many 21st CCLC programs have unspent funds as those that end the year on the crumbs of their annual funding? The key to a successful fiscal year is staying right on target. Step 1: Know your grant! Step 2: Catch session 1 of the New Leaders Academy Webinar, which gives an overview of what expenditures are allowed in your program. Step 3: Go deeper and take Y4Y’s Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course. Step 4: Get out Y4Y’s Sample 21st CCLC Budget Worksheet and start the new program year fresh as a crisp Benjamin.

Don’t forget to share the importance of fiscal responsibility with your students and their families. Y4Y offers a Click & Go and an online course on financial literacy.

Eat More Healthily

“Garbage in, garbage out.” Although this expression came from the computing industry, we have come to appreciate that our bodies need the right fuel to work best, and so do our 21st CCLC programs. Nothing fuels a healthy program like the right staff! Y4Y’s Human Resources course will help ensure you recruit and retain the right folks for the job. Safety is also at the center of your program’s health. Be sure to check out Y4Y’s Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan Click & Go to safeguard the health of your program and your students.

Get More Sleep

People who set a resolution for more sleep recognize they’re trying to do too much, and probably not performing efficiently or effectively in the process. Achieving this goal often means improving self-management and decision making. These skills are at the heart of Y4Y’s course on social and emotional learning, along with self-awareness, social awareness and relationship skills. The role of your 21st CCLC program in the lives of your students extends well beyond academic support. Research tells us they’ll need social and emotional tools to be well-adjusted and to truly succeed as adults. The good news is, you can weave this theme through activities you’re already doing in your program. Look to Y4Y’s Logic Model Template, Delivery Methods, and other tools to achieve this worthwhile goal without spending time you don’t have, or worse still, time you’re stealing from other important areas. Like SLEEP!

Focus on Personal or Mindful Growth

One of the greatest luxuries of out-of-school time is the space it creates for individual attention and care. Your program can be a haven for students’ social and emotional growth — a safe space where they can explore who they are and who they want to be. Some might say you’re nourishing not just their minds, but their hearts and energies. Y4Y’s course on Creating a Positive Learning Environment can help you ensure that students feel supported. Appreciated. Special. Safe. For best practices that promote the “energy wellness” of your program and your students, also take a look at Y4Y’s Click & Go on Trauma-Informed Care. It can help in those instances where the hearts in your care need a little extra nurturing.

Tip: Planning to bring new staff on board? If they’re new to 21st CCLC programs, Y4Y’s Introduction to 21st CCLC course can help them get up to speed! Don’t forget Y4Y’s ready-to-use tools you can use to train your entire staff, whether they’re 21st CCLC novices or veterans, on a variety of topics, including project-based learning, financial literacy, college and career readiness, and more! Happy New Year!



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.



May 22, 2019

Your students have spent the school year being fed and watered. It’s time to shine the bright summer sun on their budding minds, and watch those colorful petals unfurl!

Tilling for a New Crop: Reflect

As you review data to identify and invite the students who most need support during summer months, also take time to reflect on ways you and your students have bloomed over the past school year. What strategies ”fed and watered” this growth? Have you told your colleagues and students about ways you've seen them bloom, maybe by overcoming a challenging situation, learning a new skill or daring to try something new?

Try these ways to review data and identify students who most need support:

  • With your program team, use your continuous improvement process to review your program’s spring session to see what worked well for students and staff. Note any programmatic issues that disrupted growth. Grab your gloves and pull those weeds out of the mix!
  • Your stakeholders — including teachers, principals and parents — can offer valuable advice on this year’s crop. Meet early to revisit your academic and enrichment program essentials with these cultivators of young minds to strategically target recruitment.

Sowing the Right Seeds: Recruit

Be intentional about recruiting students who can benefit most from the summer program you’ve designed. Based on teacher recommendations and needs assessment results, make direct invitations to the students and their families. For ideas about structuring and managing student recruitment, start with the Y4Y Summer Learning Youth Recruitment Planner tool, and also try these strategies:

  • Take advantage of family and community activities to set up an information table where families can learn about your summer program activities and goals.
  • Advertise your program through social media. Be specific about program goals so you attract the students and families you hope to serve.
  • For more recruitment ideas, visit the Implementation Strategies section of Y4Y’s Summer Learning course. See Step 5. Intentional Design: Recruit Students.

Helping Families Harvest: Identify Local Resources

For students who don’t have access to summer programs, try these strategies to support summer growth:

  • Coordinate with community partners to distribute materials about summer activities at libraries, museums, parks and historical sites around your district.
  • Participate in spring school-based family activities to help sing the praises of community resources and offer at-home ideas such as those in the Y4Y Family Engagement Strategies tool and the Learn More Library of the Y4Y Summer Learning course. Here are some examples from the Library:


July 16, 2018

How is your summer program going so far? Are students engaged and attending? Retention can be a real challenge this time of year, when you don’t have the automatic incentive of school attendance to support program attendance.

Two keys to retaining students in summer and out-of-school time are family engagement and student engagement. Ideally, you already have some engagement strategies in place. For example, if you’re going to have an attendance contract with incentives for compliance, that needs to be set up at the outset. If you decide to have a parent liaison — a tactic proven to improve retention — you need to recruit a volunteer or part-time staff member well in advance. Here are more ways you can add to your retention toolkit if your current strategies aren’t enough.

Family Engagement

The younger the student population, the more family engagement matters. Here are some ideas for keeping parents and caregivers involved.

  • Pick up the phone. Call families of children who’ve missed more than a day or two. Let them know their child’s participation is important to the child and to the program.
  • Send materials home. Keep families engaged by showcasing what their children are doing. Suggest “conversation starters” about an aspect of program content that families can discuss together, followed by simple activities the whole family can do at home — find examples here.
  • Set up a family meeting. Involve whole families in program content with a fun, active event.
  • Recruit family members to help with programming. It’s not too late to get family members who aren’t at work during the program day to help with field trips, games, art activities, reading aloud or any activity where you could use an extra (untrained) adult.
  • Make a “good news” call. Boost retention by calling families to report children’s academic or behavioral gains.

Student Engagement

Keeping young people involved in program content and activities is important no matter the age group. It’s especially vital for high school and older middle school youth, whose parents have less influence over their attendance and who juggle other priorities that compete with program attendance. 

These ideas for engaging students are long-term strategies, but now’s a great time to start!

  • Set up a culture of high expectations. An environment in which students hold one another accountable will go further than any number of reminders from adults.
  • Get students involved in authentic work. You’ll get built-in motivation from project-based learning that delivers products with tangible benefits for the students or the community. Use this checklist with students and staff to gauge participation levels.
  • Tap into the power of peer groups. Students are more likely to show up when they know their group needs their creativity and input — and will miss them if they’re gone.
  • Support staff to build strong relationships. The quality of youth-adult relationships is an important factor for getting young people to come back. Try using positive youth development approaches and other ways to create a positive environment.

If you haven’t already built these retention tactics into your program, what can you add today? What can you put on the planning list for next year?



May 4, 2018

Guest blogger: David Mazza, Y4Y Educational Technology Specialist

If someone mentions summer vacation, do you picture yourself on a sandy beach with an adventure story in hand? Nothing wrong with that! But the laid-back days of summer can also be a time for online adventures in professional learning. Here are four ways technology can make professional learning feel like play.  

Easy listening. Podcasts let you explore topics and perspectives without investing a lot of time. TED Talks, for example, last 18 minutes or less. Plus, podcasts are free and available on demand, so you can listen as you pack your bags and head out for that beach vacation. New to podcasts and not sure where to start? Google topics of interest (e.g., afterschool, youth development, education, teaching, career development) plus “podcast.” Hint: Try the short podcasts in each Y4Y Click & Go for professional learning specific to 21st CCLC programs.

Social hour. You can use social media to connect with educators from around the world. If you’re on Twitter, search the hashtag #MTBoS, and you’ll find the MathTwitterBlogosphere. Thousands of math teachers follow the site, contribute ideas, share resources and suggest activities. It’s a terrific place to ask questions, swap stories and get inspired. If math isn’t your thing, use Twitter’s search feature to find sites related to your professional interests, from art to productivity to zoology. 

App time. Downtime? Download an app you’re curious about. Some have interesting features with multiple uses. For example, you could try using SurveyMonkey to poll family members on where to meet for dinner. If you like the way it works, maybe you’ll decide to survey your colleagues on which professional development book or class to try next. Could the app be useful on the job — for example, to poll students about their interests? Experimentation is the gateway to ideas and expertise!

Virtual expeditions. Stuck at home? Broaden your knowledge of science, culture, history and more with a virtual tour of a city, beach, mountaintop, museum or campus. Speaking of campuses, the Y4Y professionalization resources page has a clickable map of higher education opportunities relevant to out-of-school time careers and ongoing professional development. Free Y4Y courses are available anytime you want to explore topics like citizen science, continuous education or project-based learning. Take a virtual expedition on Y4Y and explore the possibilities.

Skywriting. Unless you and your colleagues are all on the same beach, here’s one more way to use technology for summer learning — to stay in touch via your favorite messaging platform. Keep one another revved up about learning by sharing tidbits of interest from books you’re reading, messages of encouragement and links to blog posts like this one (hint, hint). Happy summer!