Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers

Working With Diverse 21st CCLC Program Grantees

An Interview With Erin Busk, 21st CCLC Grant Specialist


In late 2019, the Y4Y Technical Assistance team caught up with Ms. Busk to ask what it’s like to work with diverse 21st CCLC program grantees, including a large number of community-based and faith-based organizations (CBOs and FBOs). The State Coordinators Corner in the December 2019 issue of the Y4Y newsletter included her tips for state coordinators on making the most of state grantee conferences. The Voices From the Field segment in the February 2020 newsletter included her insights relevant to practitioners working at the program and site levels. Here’s her full interview.


For State Coordinators

Y4Y: We first want to ask you about areas that might be of interest to other state coordinators. How would you generally categorize the composition of Indiana’s grant applications with respect to faith-based organizations (FBOs) versus academic or other community organizations? 

EB: Currently we fund 78 subgrantees: 29 local education agencies (LEAs), 46 community-based organizations (CBOs)/faith-based organizations (FBOs), and three universities.


Y4Y: What challenges, if any, does it present at the state level to have so many programs operated by various FBOs/CBOs across the state?

EB: Our biggest area of growth in working with CBOs/FBOs is ensuring they are as integrated as possible into our systems and processes. As a state education agency (SEA), most of our cross-department technical assistance tools, acronyms, etc. are geared toward LEAs — this creates the need for ongoing reevaluation of resources and support to ensure our CBOs/FBOs are up to speed on initiatives and have the access they need to thrive.


Y4Y: How have you addressed those challenges?

EB: We’ve addressed these challenges broadly by assessing individual needs and ensuring all of our tools, trainings, and resources are applicable to both LEAs and CBOs/FBOs. More recently, our efforts have begun to include engaging with trainings that intentionally create common language and programming between the LEAs and CBOs/FBOs. This has allowed us to grow a culture of cohesion between our “two groups.” 


Y4Y: Tell us about the advantages of having these two groups in the unusual proportion Indiana has.

EB: CBOs/FBOs have a great perspective in the afterschool space. Their structure and approach to youth engagement inherently lends itself to the pillars that make afterschool learning so impactful. This is a large advantage to SEAs when it comes to taking traditional tools, structures, approaches, etc. and revamping them to be more expansive and malleable as time goes on.


Y4Y: What advice or “lessons learned” would you offer to other states as they work with FBOs/CBOs, or consider working with FBOs/CBOs? For example, are there special considerations in terms of providing support? 

EB: I would encourage SEAs to engage with CBOs/FBOs. Their unique perspective offers a more robust 21st CCLC community and adds an additional layer of accountability on SEA staff to provide high-quality access to all afterschool programs. Supporting them through the duration of the grant generally does require the invention and/or revision of “traditional programming and pathways”; however, the payoff for their inclusion in the 21st CCLC is abundant. We see so many of our LEAs learn from our CBOs/FBOs in an irreplaceable way. 


Y4Y: Can you share any practices in FBOs/CBOs that other 21st CCLC programs might learn from, or vice versa? Are there any overlooked opportunities, such as building stakeholder engagement and support in 21st CCLC programs or improving various academic and nonacademic student outcomes? 

EB: Our CBOs/FBOs approach programing development and sustainability a different way than our LEAs, in part due to their need for long-term financial viability. Through intensive financial stakeholder engagement, they are also able to engage a variety of community partners, which in turn give back to their youth through programming, volunteerism and hands-on experiences. Though the pressure of financial viability is greater with our CBOs/FBOs, it offers them a unique perspective not seen among our LEAs, in part because LEAs have the opportunity to support their afterschool programs through other Title funding. 

In terms of programming and outcomes, the CBO/FBO structure lends itself to a unique opportunity for project-based learning and experiences. This offers a well-rounded approach to increasing academic and nonacademic gain. 


For Program Directors and Practitioners

Y4Y: Let’s shift to what these differences mean for program directors and practitioners directly. In the formation of strategic partnerships with schools, community and parents, what advantages or unique successes do you see FBO grantees enjoy? Can you share specific examples?

EB: Our CBOs/FBOs tend to have better, layered relationships with their partners, meaning that those they engage can serve more than one purpose to their programs. This allows them to build more meaningful relationships with their community and ultimately have a greater chance at long-standing impact. 

With family engagement, our CBOs/FBOs have the advantage of more face-to-face contact with families and generally a more relaxed interaction than our LEAs experience. Because of this, they generally report better relationships with families overall. 

One of our university programs was established through a strategic partnership with various university departments, the LEA, and the local faith-based community. Throughout the years, this has evolved into an interconnected web of resources and support to youth and families. This partnership was unique from the beginning — with the university taking ownership of the grant — and remains unique, as the partnership is continually reevaluated in an effort to address the changing needs of everyone involved. Through this process of self-reflection, the grantee has been able to thrive both with long-term staff and youth retention AND with community stakeholders.


Y4Y: How can other grantees benefit from best practices established by FBO/CBO-based programs?

EB: Usually LEAs use a school teacher-only staffing model. This has incredible benefits as well as challenges, but partnering with a local CBO/FBO allows an LEA to see the approach to staffing through a different lens. Most of our CBO/FBO grantees have a blended staffing model with both school-day teachers and youth workers. By employing this approach, their staff retention tends to be a bit more consistent from year to year and ultimately, their staff feel more supported by having a consistent educator and noneducator voice at the table. 

We also see CBOs/FBOs doing a great job at telling the stories of their programs to both internal and external stakeholders. This is a huge best practice that others can learn from. Storytelling allows them an avenue to share both quantitative and qualitative data with stakeholders as a means of securing additional funding as well as stronger community support overall. 


Y4Y: Are there challenges unique to your CBO/FBO-based programs at the program level, and how have they been addressed?

EB: At the program level, there aren’t any large challenges with CBOs/FBOs from our SEA perspective. 

We hear a lot of concern from the general youth-serving community around the accountability on academic success placed on CBOs/FBOs vs. LEAs — the general question of “are the CBOs/FBOs really structured to make an academic impact in the same way a LEA can?” The answer is yes! We encourage folks not to see the perceived academic deficit within the “traditional” CBO/FBO afterschool structure as a barrier to academic success, but in fact an incredible asset to a more well-rounded learning approach. 


Y4Y: Irrespective of grantee affiliation, can you share a favorite anecdote or two of 21st CCLC program successes that Indiana is most proud of?

EB: There are SOOO many — we are very proud of our 21st CCLC programs!

Over the 2018-19 year, one of our LEA grantees worked closely with the University of Notre Dame and the Grammy Award-winning percussion quartet, Third Coast Percussion, to integrate STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] and music programming. Afterschool youth worked for several months on building chimes, whistles, and wooden drums while learning about music, sound and how they relate to math and science skills. Please check out their final project!

One of our CBO/FBO grantees, in partnership with their LEA, leveraged 21st CCLC dollars to address a lack of training for high school youth in the trade space. In an effort to increase exposure to trade-based education, they spent over 50% of their annual allocation building an incredibly intentional welding program. The program is seeing tangible results and a large surge in youth recruitment and retention in the afterschool program. 

In the 2018-19 program year, grantees applied for additional supplemental dollars from us to support a new project or initiative in one of four areas: STEM/STEAM (the “a” in STEAM refers to the arts), College & Career Readiness, Social-Emotional Learning, and Restorative Practices. A grant of $30,000 was awarded to nine of our subgrantees, and their projects turned out amazing. As a condition of the funding, grantees were required to produce a statewide artifact that could benefit all grantees throughout the state. To learn more about their projects and view their artifacts, check out the 2018 Innovation Grant Initiatives.