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August 23, 2021

High school 21st CCLC programs differ from elementary and middle school programs, and not simply because students are older. The students you’re seeking to recruit and retain are those who are grappling for connections, especially in the wake of the pandemic, which isn’t necessarily the case in programs geared toward younger students. Consider how the greatest impact on the lives of your teens may be fundamental, human connections.

Look to Science

The recent work of neuroscientist, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang reveals that, “The quality of a person’s relationships and social interactions shapes their development and health, both of the body and of the brain.” The report also notes that adolescence is the most dramatic period of brain development after infancy. Finally, “Adolescents’ efficacy, agency, and sense of purpose thrive with safe, supported opportunities to explore possible social identities, tastes, interests, beliefs, and values; and to invest in tight relationships with family, peers, and trustworthy adults like teachers, mentors, spiritual leaders, and coaches.” You can read even more about her current research into the exact neurological pathways and connections being forged during this critical time that are indicators of future successes in school, relationships and life.

Put simply: teen brains are wired to reach out beyond their caregivers to make connections and begin to process the world around them in a whole new, sophisticated way. The more supportive their environment, the more effective their critical neural pathways for future success and relationship-building will become.

Enter your 21st CCLC program.

Y4Y’s Click & Go, Recruiting and Retaining High School Students offers tips and tools for finding those students who need you the most, and keeping them engaged in your program. Bear these governing principles in mind:

They’re not going to show up on your doorstep. There are those rare high school programs that thrive on word of mouth, such as the Schenectady City School District 21st CCLC teen program. Most work up to that level of enthusiasm through intentional recruitment efforts. Y4Y can help you chart your Recruitment and Retention Plan, starting with building the right team and goals.

Don’t let your program drive a wedge between students and their families. On the contrary, you should offer a space that demonstrates unity with both. Y4Y’s Multicultural Sensitivity Checklist will help you ensure that those recruitment efforts are only appreciated.

We all need a voice. A teen’s home environment may not be supportive of them developing their own thoughts and ideas. Or, maybe their natural disposition holds them back from expressing themselves or even reflecting on what their own goals for the future might be. Help students discover their own agency by surveying them about their own interests in a manner that is comfortable for them. Tools like Y4Y’s Online Survey, Student Goal Setting and Reflection, and Rubric for Assessing Social and Emotional Competencies can guide the process of discovering and capturing that student voice.

We all need purpose. Just as this month’s blog post, “Impact Through Purpose,” notes, a basic human need is to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Check out the tools for growing and keeping student leaders in your program to offer students that opportunity to make a difference. (Youth Ambassador Action Plan Template, Youth Ambassador Job Description Template, Youth Leadership Roles).

Most educators didn’t need science to tell them that demonstrating genuine interest in their students — their thoughts, feelings and goals for the future — offers those students a great advantage for success. Chances are, you could ask any successful or otherwise well-adjusted adult about their favorite teacher and you would get a detailed response on that teacher and all they offered. Out-of-school time professionals have just as perfect an opportunity to make a surprising impact in the lives of young people through connections that students will take with them always. More than an educator, you can also be a friend, a mentor, a safe place and, as it turns out, a builder of neural pathways.