As Y4Y’s lead education specialist, I hear from practitioners that program sustainability is a constant concern. I think the key is to keep students, families and community partners engaged by providing a responsive, quality program. How?
1. Develop a strong 21st CCLC team. Let staff members use their strengths, take the lead and be in the limelight. Express appreciation. When people find their work meaningful and rewarding, they are more likely to stay on board.
2. Follow through on promises. If you tell children and families to expect a welcoming environment, hands-on activities and homework help, don’t disappoint them. Earn their trust.
3. Be flexible in how you achieve your vision. The heartbeat of the program is the children. Keep your finger on the pulse of student and stakeholder responses to program activities. If you’re not getting the participation or results you want, make a change. Also pay attention to what’s coming down the pike. For example, if interest moves from STEM to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), look for unique ways to make the arts part of your program. Ask “What will interest and benefit students as well as partners or funders?”
4. Remember that funding is necessary but not sufficient to sustain a high-quality program. Partners and contributors can provide valuable goods, services, expertise and other resources besides money to help you meet program goals and objectives. For example, grocery store managers, pharmacists, plumbers, teachers, nurses, artists, city planners, mechanics and others can help students understand the training and skills needed for various careers. Tip: For formal partnerships, customize your Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) so that sustainability is cooked into the stew. Y4Y offers MOU samples, tools and templates as part of our Strengthening Partnerships training module.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what it takes to sustain a quality 21st CCLC program. Please share your ideas below!
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