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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.

 


February 14, 2019

Author Marie Kondo is known for her advice on “tidying up” your space and getting rid of things that don’t “spark joy.” Regardless of whether you agree with her approach, the advice to keep it simple is nothing new. The KISS principle (“Keep It Simple, Stupid” or sometimes “Keep It Short and Simple”) has been around for years. 

Keeping things simple means clearing out the clutter so there’s more room for what you truly care about. Sometimes the clutter isn’t in your home or office. It’s in your brain. If worries and to-do lists take up too much of your mental space, you may find it hard to focus at work, enjoy your job and feel a sense of accomplishment. Sound familiar? One way to pare down brain clutter and self-imposed pressure is to reduce the day’s to-do list to one item:

  • Deliver something of value today.   

You get to define what the “something” is, and to whom it’s valuable (e.g., yourself, your colleagues or students, the world, or all of the above).  It could be working one-on-one with a student who has attention deficit disorder to show him how to organize his homework, or getting a community organization to partner with your program. At the end of the day, write down what you delivered, the people it affected and how it made you feel.  

You might think of this method as a stripped-down way to set a personal or professional SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goal. Simply put, it’s a way to work smarter and love it more.

Here are some Y4Y “work smart” resources:

Activity and Program SMART Goals

This tool has examples and guidance on developing goals that ensure common understandings and drive results.

Positive Youth Development Rubric

This tool will remind you of the five C’s of positive youth development and ways to help students — and staff — develop competence, confidence, connection, character and caring.

Project-Based Learning Research Brief

Summer Learning Research Brief

STEM Research Brief

Learn more about one of these learning approaches so you can help students get the most out of program activities and encourage parents and partners to become more involved.

 

 


November 16, 2018

In 60 seconds or less, can you explain what your 21st CCLC program does and why it matters? To make sure you’ll always have the right words on the tip of your tongue, create an elevator pitch. That’s a ready-made speech short enough to give on an elevator ride. You can use it to persuade your veterinarian to take part in your program’s career exploration day, to get a youth counselor to join your planning team, or to tell Aunt Aggie about your work when she visits during the holidays.

Here’s an example of an elevator pitch for Y4Y:

The U.S. Department of Education created You for Youth to help people working in 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs deliver quality out-of-school time education and enrichment to more than 1.6 million students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. You for Youth provides free online professional learning resources on topics like program management and summer learning. We also collaborate with other federal agencies like NASA to expand staff and student learning opportunities. This work is important because research shows students who attend high-quality out-of-school time programs are more likely to do better in school and beyond.

Customize your pitch for different purposes. If you’re talking with parents, you might emphasize student benefits. If you’re recruiting community partners, you’ll want to mention “what’s in it for them.” If a reporter gives you the microphone for 10 seconds, you’ll have to strip things down to the basics: “The U.S. Department of Education’s You for Youth initiative provides professional learning experiences for 21st Century Community Learning Centers program staff to help young people succeed in school and beyond.” If you’re lucky enough to keep the microphone longer, cite data or tell a story to support your point.

Resist the urge to say too much, and practice your pitch on family and friends. When we tested our Y4Y elevator pitch, someone asked, “What’s a 21st CCLC program?” So we added “out-of-school time.” It gets the idea across without a lot of extra words.    

For tips on creating and using an elevator pitch, download Y4Y’s Creating a Program Elevator Pitch. This one-page tool makes it easy for you and your team to get the job done. Aunt Aggie will be impressed.

 


November 16, 2018

So John, the Title I coordinator in your school district, enthusiastically agreed to share his expertise as a Master Gardener. He’s working with students to build a community garden in a nearby spot that was formerly an eyesore. The local newspaper did a story about it last week.

Mari, an insurance agent, meets with students once a week to prep for a beginner’s rock-climbing expedition in the spring. They’re learning about equipment, rope work, climbing techniques and safety checks. Mari works with each student on a customized physical and mental training program. As a result, some are trying yoga or weight training for the first time. Mari has a knack for getting even the most reluctant students to try new things.

Everyone agrees that things are going great! Your work as a volunteer coordinator is done, right? Not so fast.

Don’t assume that once you’ve recruited expert volunteers, they won’t need or appreciate your support. Support from the 21st CCLC program is vital to maintaining volunteers’ commitment, energy and momentum over time. Try the Triple-A approach: ask, assist and acknowledge.

Ask what you can do to support volunteers. Do they need more flexibility in scheduling? What about supplies, equipment or extra help from other adults?     

Assist and assess to ensure success. Being a Master Gardener doesn’t mean being a master teacher, activity planner and youth developer. Being a rock-climbing enthusiast doesn’t mean knowing how to address behavioral issues or modify activities for students with disabilities. Meet with volunteers up front to share specific information about your students, their interests and ways to engage them, and use the Y4Y Sample Volunteer Skills Grid. Invite volunteers to share their ideas and input. Agree on a plan, then observe and participate in activities. Assess what’s working, what could be improved, and what’s needed to keep things on track. Offer encouragement and feedback. The Y4Y Working With Volunteers Training Plan can help you and your staff ensure volunteers’ success.

Acknowledge volunteers’ contributions. Be specific when you recognize these valuable members of the 21st CCLC team. At a public event, you might say, “Before our students worked on the garden, some thought potatoes grew on trees. Others didn’t know what organic meant. This project has opened up a new world for them, and raised interest in healthful eating, too.” Privately, you might say, “Samantha uses your mental training tips from rock climbing to manage her anxiety better. Even her teachers at school have noticed a difference!” Acknowledgements like this go beyond “thank you.” They appeal to people’s desire to contribute something useful and meaningful.

These are just a few ways to support volunteers who share their expertise. Add your own ideas, and put them to work!

 


November 16, 2018

Excitement builds just before holiday break as students anticipate time off. You can tap into that energy by engaging students in a creative project they’ll enjoy, like producing a multifest that highlights the history, cultural traditions, music, and foods associated with seasonal celebrations and festivals like Boxing Day, Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Start by getting students to think about what they already know about seasonal celebrations and what they’d like to know. Y4Y’s Mapping Knowledge and Wonders tool will help you structure the discussion. 

Once you’ve primed the pump, let students take the lead in deciding on the multifest’s focus, format and activities. You can guide them through the process of exploring the possibilities, forming groups or committees to do certain tasks (like online research, event planning or food prep), and deciding when and where to hold the multifest and whom to invite.

Visit the Y4Y Project-Based Learning course for ready-to-use tools and guidance. With just a little planning, you can turn the week before holiday break into prime time for learning.