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July 22, 2020

Last month, Y4Y hosted a four-part Human Resources webinar series on identifying talent, recruiting and hiring staff, training and developing your team, and retaining staff. Are candidates proficient at engaging students remotely? Flexible and creative? Committed to the work? The following must-know tips from the series are the place to start, and the Y4Y Human Resources course will take you to the finish line in the race to hire, develop and keep top dogs.

Identifying Talent

Your program may or may not be planning to recruit this summer, but one thing’s for sure: if you ARE hiring, your priorities look a little different than in the past. You might have an even larger bank of candidates to draw from and be focused on different core competencies. Your first step should be expanding your program team. Some organizations shy away from larger deciding bodies because it’s hard to get broader buy-in. But in 21st CCLC programs, you want the perspectives of all your stakeholders, which means including those stakeholders. We’re in a different world than we were a year ago, so don’t assume that the opinions or priorities of partners like families or school-day professionals are the same as in the past. Reconvene and set a new tone. You won’t go wrong by adding local health department officials and other community members to your team. Check out Y4Y’s Program Team Roster tool if you’re building or adding to your team.

Your program leader has a lot on her plate right now. Reviewing human resource policies and recruiting staff should be a shared responsibility. Once your program team is established, develop program-wide guidelines for recruiting and retaining staff. Your sites can tailor these guidelines to their specific needs. Y4Y’s Human Resources Planning Checklist will keep your team on task.

As your sites are identifying the talent they need on staff, reflect on the hard and soft skills you’ll be looking for. Hard skills are measurable knowledge and skill sets. You may suddenly find you’re adding “extensive social media experience” to the list of hard skills on your frontline staff job description. Soft skills are less measurable, and relate to the personal characteristics that will ensure your staff’s success at engaging students and families. In a virtual or reduced-contact environment, staff members who are good at establishing relationships with students in person but require constant supervision might be less successful than candidates who are good with students AND self-directed.

Recruiting and Hiring Staff

It’s time to market your positions! Even this task looks different these days. There’s no more gathering at the water cooler and casual word of mouth, so your program must be proactive and creative to attract the best candidates. Involve those partners! Families are a great resource for bringing in talent who know the community. Also, many university students have had their internship opportunities curtailed — this is a great time to mine that resource for a win-win situation.

Be sure to have a system established ahead of time for ranking your candidates, or you may never get through the stack once resumes start rolling in. Ask yourself: What core competencies are the most important for each position? For example, if your program demands that staff be multilingual, candidates who don’t meet that criteria can be eliminated in the first round. Save time by moving to phone screening next. Ask scenario-based questions. Scenarios help you see how candidates might apply the knowledge they’ve claimed “on paper” to the real-life, in-the-moment situations they’ll encounter in your program.

Zelda Spence, 21st CCLC project director for Plainfield Public Schools in New Jersey, warns against rushing to “get the position filled.” A warm body is never your goal in out-of-school time, but especially not in the current environment. Invest the time and effort to find the right person, and that staff member will be more likely to stay with the program. She advises, “Be yourselves with candidates.” If your program has a funky personality, fly that colorful flag and bring in new staff members who dig the vibe and can see their place in it.

Training and Developing Your Team

Be sure to take advantage of Y4Y’s downloadable and customizable Sample Human Resources Packet. Firm and well communicated policies and procedures are crucial in 21st CCLC programming where there are many moving parts, judgment calls and autonomy in sensitive situations — now more than ever! The most important piece of onboarding new staff is proper training. Give thought to what training is appropriate for each position, and budget time accordingly. Examples of role-specific trainings include intentional activity design, project management, de-escalation techniques, instructional strategies, budgeting and emergency response. Be sure to check out the full set of trainings Y4Y offers that can be tailored to your organization’s needs. These PowerPoint presentations lend themselves easily to virtual trainings.

How are your staff trainings being impacted by a slow open in your state? Despite the uncertainty, you’ll want your training plan to provide a clear roadmap for staff that illustrates where your program is today, and where you’d like to take it together. Consider the four dimensions of source, delivery method, dosage and level of detail as you design that training plan. You may have other resources available to you to optimize training of existing and new staff, such as university or school district partners. Your training modes may be restricted right now, but you can host webinars, direct staff to self-paced e-learning and offer job aids. Dosage and level of detail will depend on the staff member’s position and experience level. Your training design plan will provide the clearest roadmap when you ensure that positive culture and climate are at the core of all implementation efforts.

Speaking of Positive Culture and Climate…

You’ve set your program up for success. Now follow through with staff retention efforts. Continue to offer opportunities for your staff to grow and flourish, both professionally and personally. Everyone should feel safe and supported, not just students. Hold meaningful team-building events that invite staff to share in the forward direction of your organization. Keep a staff and student “bright ideas box” to signal you want their ideas and input. Follow the continuous improvement cycle that you do for programming, and consistently assess and reflect on ways to better your efforts. Partner staff whose skills and abilities complement each other — you’re always stronger together!

The most successful organizations, whether a 21st CCLC program or major corporation, have clear, reasonable steps to be taken when it doesn’t feel stronger together. Program directors and site coordinators like Felisa Sanders, a site coordinator in Plainfield, New Jersey, spend a lot of time on their feet observing staff. Felisa offers constructive, in-the-moment feedback, always praising in public and correcting in private. In this summer’s environment, the equivalent might be popping in daily on every Zoom session or Google classroom. Annual evaluations are NOT when a manager should bring up deficits for the first time, and certainly staff should not face any surprises. Instead, missteps should be addressed as soon as they’re noticed, and treated as opportunities for staff development rather than occasions for punishment. Adopt a proportional, progressive discipline process for those worst-case scenarios where the well-being of students or your positive work environment are jeopardized by a staff member’s behavior.

In 21st CCLC programs, we know that love of children, eagerness to educate and the energy of super heroes make our staff top dogs all around. As Lewis Grizzard notes, “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” Kudos to your staff for navigating this crazy new landscape.



July 22, 2020

The youth of today are facing a number of learning experiences from the dog-eat-dog world around them that we adults never fathomed at their age. Besides supporting their social and emotional development, you can arm them with the knowledge and skills to become active and engaged citizens of the world. Y4Y’s new Civic Learning and Engagement course offers many of the tools you’ll need.

Set in a virtual courtroom, your guide, Wayne, will step you through strategies for designing meaningful, high-quality projects to help students develop leadership and citizenship skills and connect to the community they live in. When you implement with fidelity, these projects will have a high impact and keep students engaged even after the program ends by raising their awareness of community issues, basic democratic principles and, most important, how these impact their own lives.

You’re familiar with the foundations of professional learning in the Y4Y environment, so connecting civic learning and engagement to your program will be a snap. The course covers eight key strategies:

  1. Identify and engage stakeholders.
  2. Define needs, goals and assets.
  3. Prepare for civic learning and engagement activities.
  4. Set the foundation for civic learning and engagement activities.
  5. Intentionally design activities.
  6. Use best practices for student engagement.
  7. Implement with fidelity.
  8. Celebrate and sustain your initiatives.

The course also has a module on Coaching Your Staff to ensure that your civic learning and engagement initiative is robust. Look for downloadable and customizable tools such as checklists for Brainstorming Civic Engagement Topics and Building School-Day Civics Into Out-of-School Time Projects, as well as Civic Learning and Engagement Project Examples. It may be a dog-eat-dog world, but developing today’s students into the conscientious leaders of tomorrow is our best defense against complacency. You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks!



June 16, 2020

What if brain scans showed actual thoughts, including ideas, opinions, interests, hopes, dreams, beliefs and assumptions? Just think of all the ways you could use that knowledge! You’d better understand your students. You could design activities to help them examine and improve their thinking, learning and communication skills. Those skills could serve them well in school and throughout their lives. If only there were some way to make thinking visible.

Good news: There is! Even better news: You don’t need a brain scan or high-tech equipment to make students’ thinking visible. According to Harvard’s Project Zero Visible Thinking initiative, simple but powerful “thinking routines” will do the trick.

Thinking routines are structured ways to help students ask quality questions, listen (to themselves and others), and document thoughts and thought processes to make them “visible.” Once thinking is made visible, students can more easily spot things like unexamined assumptions, factual errors, missing information and faulty reasoning.

Thinking routines can be used with students of all ages and ability levels. Writing isn’t the only way to make thinking visible. Students can draw their ideas, speak them into a voice recorder, or have an adult or fellow student act as a scribe.

Y4Y has several ready-to-use tools you can use to engage students in activities that will activate their growing minds and make their thinking visible. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Mapping Knowledge and Wonders has two mind-map layouts — one for students to map what they already know about a topic, and another for what they wonder about the topic. This is a great tool for project-based learning.
  • Planner for Brainstorming is a checklist you can use to plan brainstorming sessions and to follow up later on those elements that need improvement or revision. If students are leading the sessions, share the checklist and techniques with them ahead of time to help them build their leadership and facilitation skills.
  • Incorporating Writing Into Citizen Science Activities has ideas for creating a “culture of thinking” by incorporating writing into citizen science activities.
  • Comprehension Checklists include questions you can use to make reading comprehension problems “visible” so you can help students understand and analyze text during the reading process. There’s a checklist students can use to monitor their comprehension and “make visible” the reading strategies they used.
  • Rubric for Assessing Social and Emotional Competencies is a self-assessment students can use to identify (“make visible”) their strengths, and think about which ones they’d like to improve, across five categories of life skills: social awareness, self-awareness, self-management, relationship management, and responsible decision making.
  • Effective Questioning has questions to use when reading aloud to or reading with students. Model self-questioning strategies to help students internalize these practices so that they can access them as needed while reading. Teaching questioning techniques can help students become more engaged and active readers.

Tip for getting started: Pick a tool or routine mentioned above, and try it out with your peers at your next staff meeting.

Thinking can seem like a mysterious process that’s internal and invisible. “Thinking routines” are a low-tech way to uncover hidden thought processes so they can be examined, assessed and improved. Make them part of your repertoire, and your students will be better thinkers, planners, creators and lifelong learners. And who knows? Maybe one day those brain scans will catch up with your visible thinking practices and “bright idea” will have a whole new meaning.



June 16, 2020

Independence Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate how countless cultures come together to share the unique identity of America. Are we a melting pot? A tossed salad? Whatever your choice of metaphor might be, how is this practice reflected in your program’s culture and climate? Check out Y4Y’s Creating a Positive Learning Environment course to do that self-check.

Mission, Vision and Values

When was the last time your program team sat down to reflect on what your program is all about? If your celebration of diversity isn’t woven into the fiber of your stated values, consider shaping new culture statements to guide your program’s mission and vision of what you plan to achieve. It might be something as simple as “We will honor the diversity of our staff, students and families.” Check out Y4Y’s Positive Learning Environment Implementation Checklist to walk you through the essential steps. When you incorporate the idea of celebrating diversity into the very foundation of your program, you have a much better chance of meeting that goal.

Celebrating Diversity in Practice

Once you’ve established the celebration of diversity as a goal on paper, how can you demonstrate to students and families that you’ll “put your money where your mouth is,” as the saying goes? Here are a few simple ways to foster a positive learning environment by celebrating the many cultures that make your program and our country a rich tapestry:

  • Take a virtual tour together of a museum that celebrates an artist or culture outside the U.S., such as Museo Frida Kahlo in Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico, the Pinacoteca de São Paulo in Brazil or the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi, Kenya. Thousands of other virtual museums are available online.
  • Listen to music from different countries and have students identify something they like about it.
  • Invite students to take turns sharing a game or sport that’s a tradition in their family, whether their family recently immigrated or has been in the U.S. for generations.
  • Choose a simple word or object as a class, such as “dog,” that you’ll look up in 20 or 30 different languages. Have students compare the sounds or spellings or symbols.
  • Explore picture books that tell traditional stories from other countries.
  • Design a web of inclusion. On a whiteboard or online, you can ask a student, “What’s something that’s interesting or unique about yourself that you’re willing to share?” Listen to the response, then ask the next student to connect this to his or her own life. For example, if the first student says, “I’m right in the middle of five children,” the next student might say, “I’m the oldest, but when I was little, I had an imaginary older brother and that would make me a middle child.” The third student could then connect with birth order or imaginary friends. Encourage questions and pose some of your own that demonstrate your interest in different backgrounds and experiences.
  • Offer an art project around flags of the world. Students might wish to create a flag from a country of their family’s origin or a place they hope to visit one day.

Don’t Forget the Warm and Fuzzies

Your positive learning environment will be complete when you follow these simple strategies as you connect individually with your students. An educator can never be sure what messages a student experiences in life outside your program, but it’s fair to guess they may not always be affirming ones, especially if they have cultural barriers to overcome. You wouldn’t be a 21st CCLC professional if you weren’t already a warm and caring adult to children, but some days you may just be looking for a little extra help in forging those more difficult relationships. Try Y4Y’s questionnaire for building student/educator relationships

The poet Maya Angelou once said, “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” What an uplifting way to view our unique country and the safe space you’ve created for students.



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!