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February 14, 2019

You already know that making your program meaningful, memorable and motivational can engage students and families. You can also use the “triple M” strategy to engage community members and partners. Their support can energize your program and ensure its success over time. Are you ready for the sustainability dare? Answer these questions to find out.

Is our program valued (meaningful) in the community?

If community members think your program creates value, they’re more likely to support your work. Pay attention to informal feedback from students, families, school staff, partners and community members. In conversation, listen for phrases like “I learned,” “I noticed” and “I appreciate.” Also watch for nonverbal feedback. Is participation high in your students’ winter coat drive? Do people in local organizations and businesses often say yes when invited to contribute their time, talents or expertise? Are student showcase events well attended? If you do a survey, what can you learn from the response rate and feedback?

Is our program visible (memorable) in the community?

It’s likely that more community members would value and support your program — if they knew more about it. What are you doing to make your program and its work visible in the community? Does your communications plan include outreach to local media so people learn about student projects and accomplishments? Do you conduct purposeful outreach to community leaders and social service providers? Do program activities like service learning, job shadowing and field trips connect students to local people and organizations? Do your solicitations for funds or donations include stories or statistics that show your program’s purpose and value?

Is our program attractive (motivational) to the community?

If people are knocking on your door to get involved with your 21st CCLC program, congratulations! You can motivate even more people by making a “call to action.” A general call to action might be an open invitation (e.g., a newspaper notice and flyers) to a student-organized Community Fitness Night. A personal call to action might be speaking to a local trainer: “Our students could really use your expertise to create a 15-minute Zumba routine for Community Fitness Night.”

As you consider meaningful, memorable and motivational (triple-M) ways to engage community members and partners, students can be powerful ambassadors. Emanuel Betz, 21st CCLC state coordinator in Vermont, says, “Have students share what participation in your 21st CCLC program means to them. Provide opportunities for them to speak and write about their experiences. I know of a program with a youth newspaper that has students interview community members. Sometimes students attend school board meetings and report on them. Activities like these build visibility in the community and demonstrate your program’s value in terms of youth leadership.”

Dare to think outside the “grant funding” box as you consider ways to sustain your program over time. For more ideas, see the Y4Y webinar It’s Never Too Soon to Think About Sustainability, or read the summary.



May 21, 2018

Your 21st CCLC program can demonstrate success with two major indicators: student growth and student/family satisfaction. You can define both indicators in your continuous improvement plan and collect data to determine progress. When you recruit students and family members at the start of a new program session, you want to demonstrate that students will love the program activities, and that your program nurtures the whole child.

How do you accomplish that? The answer is simple: use data.

Yes, numbers can seem dry and boring. But, when you collect the right information and connect the dots across data points, magic happens — you tell a story! The U.S. Department of Education’s Y4Y technical assistance team is ready to help you weave your data into a compelling narrative with a showcase webinar and three-part web series that kicks off on June 14. Attend these sessions and you will be able to show the world that your program delivers academic enrichment with safe, supportive relationships and smiles all around.

Showcase Webinar:

Data! What is it Good for? Absolutely EVERYTHING! 

June 14, 2018, 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Join the U.S. Department of Education's Y4Y team to learn how to do the following:

  • Identify the components of a logic model and use the model to plan with the end in mind.
  • Describe the steps of the continuous improvement process.
  • Brainstorm strategies for reaching out to present and potential partners using program and outcomes data.
  • Use Y4Y tools and resources to support telling your story through data.

Register now.

Follow-Up Web Series, Dates TBA

This three-part web series will dive deeply into the following components: planning with the end in mind, interpreting data to make decisions, and crafting a story with your data.

Virtual Session 1: My Data Path

Planning with the end in mind transforms your data collection from haphazard and compliance-based to purposeful and meaningful. In this session, learn how to illustrate a plan for program outcomes using a logic model. With the model and other Y4Y resources, learn to build a clear path toward desired outcomes. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Use data to set SMART goals to plan intentional activities.
  • Use tools to collect needs assessment and outcome data.
  • Develop a logic model.
  • Implement with fidelity.

Virtual Session 2: Drawing Conclusions From Data

In this session, learn how to interpret outcome data and make timely, informed decisions. Consistent monitoring and responsive adjustments will ensure an authentic and positive story that describes successes and challenges. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Reflect on goals and understand why they were or were not met.
  • Plan for improvement if necessary.
  • Complete a reflection chart.

Virtual Session 3: Crafting a Compelling Narrative

Compelling and effective storytelling techniques will be paired with data analysis to translate a program’s progress into a captivating narrative. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Describe the successes and challenges you faced in reaching your goals.
  • Use Y4Y tools to develop your narrative.
  • Present your story in a compelling narrative.


April 20, 2018

As more people use mobile devices to stay connected, texting seems like a natural way to inform and engage families. If your 21st CCLC program is considering it, here are some things to keep in mind:
 
Have a plan. Meet with your program team to discuss whether texting might be a good tool for your communications toolbox. Discuss possible pros and cons. Who will be in charge of setting it up, creating and sending messages, and responding if a family member sends a message in return? 
 
Select a texting platform. A texting platform, also called a short message service or SMS, lets you send messages to multiple subscribers at once. With most platforms, you can import contact information from a spreadsheet, which makes messaging easy and quick. Some platforms let you store messages to be sent automatically. It’s smart to test the platform with team members to work out any kinks and to make sure everyone knows how to use it.
 
Get family members’ permission. On your program’s student enrollment form, where it asks for family members’ cell phone numbers, also ask for permission to send text messages from the program. Remind families about this option periodically in letters or newsletters, or in person.  
 
Use texting to remind about actions or deadlines. Texting works best for quick reminders like “We hope to see you Friday at 7 p.m. at the high school for the ABC Program’s student showcase!” Texting isn’t the best tool for explaining concepts like why it’s important for students to present their work to an audience.  
 
Keep it short. Messages that get to the point respect families’ time. Also, if your message is longer than 160 characters, some phone carriers will break it into two parts. Be specific, but not wordy. 
 
Limit the number of texts you send. If parents know you’ll send texts only to share important or useful messages, they are more likely to pay attention when you write. 
 
Personalize when possible. Some texting platforms enable you to personalize messages you send to a group. Also, sometimes, you might choose to send an individual message to just one or two families.   
 
Proofread before you send. Double-check times, dates, spelling and grammar. If you’re not sure about something, ask a colleague to take a look.  
 
Don’t over-rely on texting. Some families might not have a mobile device, and some might choose not to sign up for text messages from your program. So don’t make texting your only form of communication. Delivering a message multiple times in multiple formats is a good practice, no matter what you’re communicating. That’s why major companies often advertise their products in a variety of ways.       
 
Y4Y’s Family Engagement course points out the importance of making information available in a variety of formats and languages that families can understand. Texting is just one of many possible tools your staff can use to overcome common challenges in communicating with families. Also take a look at the recent Family Engagement Virtual Institute for a wealth of resources.
 
Does your 21st CCLC program use texting? What has the experience been like? What benefits and drawbacks have you seen? What other strategies have worked for you? Please share your ideas and strategies with peers on this Y4Y discussion board so that others may benefit from what you’ve learned!


February 23, 2018

Driving Students Toward Success: Project-Based Learning! That’s the title of the next Y4Y Showcase webinar. It’s free, as always, so register now to get it on your calendar. You’ll get insights from frontline 21st CCLC practitioners as Y4Y walks you through the newly updated Project-Based Learning course. You’ll learn about the three phases of a project (introduce and prepare; design and implement; and celebrate, reflect and assess), steps for facilitating an authentic experience that students will enjoy and ways to deal with common challenges.

But wait. Why not invite a colleague (or your entire team) to attend with you? Participating with others is a great way to get more out of the experience. Before the webinar, tell your teammate(s) you’d like to huddle briefly after the webinar to discuss the following questions:  

  • What was new or surprising?
  • What idea would you like to try?
  • What would you like to know more about?

Having these questions up front, and knowing each team member will be called on to contribute to a postwebinar discussion, encourages active listening. That means your team will be more likely to pay attention, take notes and ask their own questions during the webinar. It also sets the expectation that team members will act on what they learn. That 10-minute discussion after the webinar could be the most important part of the experience, as information gets translated into action steps. Like this one, for example (hint, hint):

So yes, register now for the Showcase, but also forward the webinar invitation to your team, along with the three questions listed above, and invite them to join you. After all, driving students toward success is what it’s all about, and project-based learning is a terrific way to do it!



January 19, 2018

As you select and plan student activities, what guidelines help you decide what to do, and how? Hopefully your answer isn’t “Whatever I can pull together in the next five minutes!”

Designing effective program activities requires a clear understanding of what you hope to accomplish. That means asking four questions:

  • Does the activity align with program goals?
  • Does it target student needs?
  • Does it build skills and knowledge that will help students succeed?
  • Will it engage students?

Addressing these questions during the activity design phase can make the difference between an activity that “fills up time” and one that moves students toward meaningful goals. The questions help you focus on the purpose or intent behind the activity.

Here’s how Y4Y defines an intentional approach to activity design:

intentional activity design: The process of designing engaging activities that align with program goals and target identified student needs to help students build the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

Intentional design of activities fits within the larger framework of intentional program design:

intentional program design: The process of assessing student needs; designing a set of delivery strategies, interventions and activities that will engage those students while helping them build skills and knowledge they need to succeed; and recruiting the targeted students for which the program activities were designed.

The Y4Y Intentional Activity Design Diagram reminds you to consider data sources, overarching program goals, and strategies for aligning student needs and program goals as you plan activities. You might decide to develop a similar diagram based on your particular program goals and student needs to help guide staff as they plan and implement activities.

For a deeper dive into intentional activity design, go to the Y4Y Virtual Institute for New Grantees and see the webinar and PowerPoint for Week 2: Intentionally Designing Activities.