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June 13, 2023

block stacked to look like a staircase with the arrows pointing up stepsThroughout history, humans have demonstrated an intrinsic urge to create, and then to improve on existing innovations. We went from a horse and buggy to a Model T, from a lantern to a flashlight, and from sundials to alarm clocks on our wrists. If we foster creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, the results often improve our lives. Fortunately, we can’t seem to leave well enough alone. How often do you apply that kind of thinking to your program? Well, it can be daunting to think about how you’d “innovatively improve” if you don’t quite know where to begin. Thankfully, Y4Y’s newest Quality Program Quickstarter module, Continuous Improvement, enables you and your staff to set goals, observe progress, and monitor problems so your program flourishes to the next level.

It’s a Whole Process...

During continuous improvement planning, you and your staff may ask these questions:

  • How will we know if we’re meeting the needs of our students and families?
  • What data will tell us whether we’re on track?
  • Is there a way to make sure we implement activities with fidelity?
  • Is there a tool we can use to illustrate our plans and guide our work?

Like anything worth doing, it’s a whole process. But thankfully, it’s completely doable with a continuous improvement plan! Think of this plan as the trail markers that keep you on the right path. Just like it’s helpful to check in with nature and recenter your mind, applying a continuous improvement process helps you regularly assess your goals, outcomes, and implementation practices. This QPQ presents five steps:

  • Define
    • Do this first to give everyone a clear understanding of the purpose and goals of your program.
  • Implement With Fidelity
    • How will you know if your program is meeting its goals if you don’t regularly check in? This Implementing With Fidelity Guide will get you on the right track.
  • Collect Data
    • Program directors who work from solid evidence often make better decisions about sustainable changes. This Data Tracking Packet will help with data collection.
  • Analyze
    • Analyze your data to answer the question: “How are we doing?”
  • Improve
    • Use the data you collected to celebrate your progress and plan any necessary improvements!

The Nature of Change

Change can be unsettling, but humans have proved we’re good at adapting! With Y4Y’s Continuous Improvement QPQ, you can combine change, consistency, and good old-fashioned facts and figures to create a program that is sure to be ahead of its time.

May 18, 2023

Teacher outside gardening with studentsLocal organizations, people, and places can be tremendous assets in helping your program provide meaningful student experiences. But how can you attract these untapped resources? Sometimes, all you need to do is send out the bat signal!

Give It a Break!

It’s no secret that you and your team work tirelessly throughout the year to provide fun, enriching activities for your students. Have you thought about community outreach as a way to give yourselves a much-needed break? Engaging others is a win-win situation: You get a breather, and your students get a chance to explore new interests while building valuable relationships within their community. Not sure where to start? Y4Y’s Community Asset Mapping QPQ module gives you a rundown on how to engage businesses, organizations, individuals, and resources from your own community. Explore these fresh ideas for involving potential partners into your program:

  • Many local libraries would be thrilled to host a book club with your students. Arrange for a field trip, explore different book genres, and vote on one book for each month.
  • Museums are an engaging way to learn about science, art, local history, or other topics, and some offer free tours or events for students.
  • See if your students have a green thumb by bringing in a local Master Gardner to help start a garden at your program site. Students will “dig” learning about the role of earthworms and pollinators in the food chain!
  • Ask a local carpentry shop if they’d be interested in making your students “carpenters for the day.” Are there safe, age-appropriate ways that students can make something lasting with their own hands?
  • Create an exercise club by partnering with a local gym. Host a morning run during the summer or ask a trainer for a boxing class.
  • For some delicious fun, turn to a nearby restaurant! An on-staff chef could lead your students in learning about nutrition, practicing sequencing and fractions, and acquiring cooking skills to last a lifetime.

Use the Y4Y Collaborative Partner Request Letter for a guide on reaching out to professionals and organizations within your community!

Tip: Be sure to provide accommodations or modifications as needed to ensure that all students can participate in the activities you offer.

Let’s Follow Up

Community outreach is important, but how do you take a lesson learned and run with it? How can newly forged relationships with partners carry on, even after an event or site visit is over? Not everyone you meet will turn into a partner, but the following ideas can inspire you to make sure the meaningful ones last:

  • A strong interest can easily turn into a job shadowing opportunity, an internship, or maybe even a part-time summer job! Are a couple of your older students particularly fond of that local museum your program visited? Don’t be afraid to ask what opportunities are available.
  • A Career Day is a fun way to bring students, program partners, and stakeholders (including families and schools) together. Your students can present a project or skill based on what they learned from program partners, and you can honor the local businesses and organizations that made it possible. For example, a student might try their hand at constructing a birdhouse with skills learned at the local carpentry shop and present the finished product.
  • Parent nights cohosted with that local library can bring families to the library (maybe for the first time), get students signed up for free library cards, show students and families how to access databases and reference materials for school projects, and more.

March 10, 2023

elementary students running under parachute outside in the summerDo you remember that self-improvement promise you made to yourself at the beginning of the year? Or the follow-through that may or may not have petered out by now? Perhaps you made multiple New Year’s resolutions, and maybe one mentioned overcoming procrastination. Hey, we get it — it’s only March, but it’s been a busy year already, and it’s difficult to find time to plan for the long term. However, procrastination now will only lead to more stress later. So do yourself a favor: Don’t wait until the last day of school to start planning your summer learning program! For bite-size learning that will get you summer-ready in eight weeks or less, try Y4Y’s Quality Program Quickstarters (QPQs). Topics include everything from building a program team to mapping community assets. The countdown to summer starts now!

Pick a Card, Any Card

You can choose from five QPQ’s. If deciding where to start feels like picking a card at random from a street magician, fear not! Let us break it down for you:

  • Spring is the perfect time to start thinking about who you want on your team this summer. Building a Program Team walks you through the steps for gathering key stakeholders, managing communications, and working together effectively.
  • There are plenty of resources in your community waiting to be uncovered. Locating and securing them is one of the most important things you and your program team can do to help meet the needs of students and families. Community Asset Mapping shows you how.
  • Needs shift over time as new students and families enter your program, schools enact new programs and priorities, and community circumstances change. Reassessing those needs should be part of your yearly checklist. Haven’t gotten to it yet? Check out Conducting a Needs Assessment.
  • Maybe you’ve already assessed student and family needs. Intentional Activity Design builds your understanding of how to design activities that address those needs. Purposeful design helps everyone reach their goals.
  • Once you’ve put in the work, you’ll want to spread the word about your amazing program! From tailoring your message to reach a specific audience to discovering tools that’ll help you do so, Marketing and Outreach provides practical guidance on taking your program to the masses.

Yep, There’s a Tool for That

A Y4Y motto is “We never provide a key strategy without also providing a tool to help you get it done.” That’s why each QPQ comes with a curated list of Y4Y tools to send you on your way. Here are some “fan favorites” (one from each module):

  • There are a myriad of methods and channels for communicating with and providing feedback to program staff. The Effective Workplace Communication Training to Go is a downloadable, customizable PowerPoint that shows how it’s done!
  • Asset mapping is a helpful process, but you may be wondering where to begin. Try the Community Resource Map tool. It breaks down potential resources into distinct groups.
  • To properly conduct a needs assessment for your summer program, you need input from students and families. The Y4Y Family Engagement Survey provides the right start.
  • The Intentional Activity Design Planner provides a template for an activity plan based on SMART goals. Not sure what SMART goals are? No worries: It’s covered in the module.
  • A good social media campaign can help you recruit students and community partners to your summer program. The Five W’s of a Social Media Campaign easily lays it out!

With each QPQ module, you’ll gain vital information (and tools) that will set your summer program soaring. Don’t wait — if you devote just a little time each day, a daunting task suddenly seems much more manageable. Ready, set, go!

January 4, 2023

Do you ever feel like students and potential partners would line up around the block to be part of your program — if they just knew about the activities and opportunities you offer? It can feel like you’re shipwrecked on a vibrant island, waiting to be discovered.

Getting Off the Lone Island

Good news! There are simple ways to market your program to students and families, reach out to potential partners, and connect with the community. You don’t need a marketing degree — just some planning and creativity. And it won’t bust your budget, thanks to free or low-cost technology tools. Y4Y gathered the essential know-how and compiled it in an online professional learning module, along with a zip file of tools and templates for a quick start. Marketing and Outreach is our newest Quality Program Quickstarter (QPQ) module. In an hour or less, you’ll learn the basics of how to establish a social media presence, create eye-catching flyers, and more. Earn a Y4Y certificate of completion in the process! Keep reading for a taste of what you’ll learn.

Gathering Your Crew

To sail away from your lone island, connect, and grow your program, you’ll need to reach out and find the right crew to accompany you on your adventure. Here are some examples of how outreach strategies can help you achieve program goals:

Program goal 1: Recruit and retain staff

Outreach strategies:

  • Ask people you know, like a school principal or administrator, to help you recruit high-quality teachers.
  • Contact the education department at a local college or university to see if they have students who might want to work or volunteer in your program. Some colleges offer course credits for volunteer hours.

Program goal 2: Develop and strengthen relationships with community partners and organizations

Outreach strategies:

  • Ask partners to “donate” a guest speaker.
  • Perfect and practice an elevator speech, which is a short speech that explains your program in a compelling way and tells why a potential partner might want to join your crew.

Program goal 3: Intentionally design activities that provide what students and families need — and want.

Outreach strategies:

  • Have students and families complete an interest inventory. They’ll feel heard, and you’ll gain valuable information. Y4Y has surveys for elementary students, secondary students, and families.
  • Use a catchy title, logo, and color(s) to “brand” your program and make your marketing materials easy to recognize.

The Message in the Bottle

Outreach may help you engage a crew to help you get off the lone island, but marketing is the “message in a bottle” with a map that leads to brighter horizons. The message needs to convince people that your program has value. Here are some ways to “bottle” and deliver messages to market your program:

Social media

Email newsletters

  • Use newsletters to keep partners and families informed about program events and successes.
  • Keep it short and simple and include a “call to action” where appropriate, like “Sign up today!”

In-person events

  • Host an Invite-a-Friend Day. Encourage students to give someone a golden ticket and bring that person to your program.
  • Use an end-of-the-year awards banquet as an opportunity to show off the progress your students have made.


  • Use visual elements to tell your program’s mission, story, and accomplishments as you communicate data and information to families as well as school and community partners.
  • See the Y4Y Marketing and Outreach Tool Kit for templates and examples to get you started. If graphic design isn’t your strong suit, there are free programs and templates online, and some programs like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint have templates and graphics you can use.

On to Brighter Horizons

If you’re not sure which way to steer your ship off the lone island, make the Y4Y Marketing and Outreach module your compass. Download and customize the accompanying tools for a smooth journey. If you think marketing and outreach involves dozens of moving parts that you can’t quite pin down, don’t worry: The module breaks it down step-by-step. That means you can spend less time researching and more time putting your plan into action. On to brighter horizons!

September 23, 2022

Y4Y is excited to introduce a new online professional development option for 21st CCLCs. A Quality Program Quickstarter, or QPQ, is a self-paced learning module you can complete in about an hour. Each one highlights an essential practice for high-quality programs and includes a bundle of practical tools to take away and use. You can complete one module or all of them, in any order — and you can earn a certificate of completion for each one!

Keep reading to learn about four QPQ modules that are available right now. Find one that sparks your interest, sign into the Y4Y portal at, and get professional development that fits your needs and your schedule. Here’s your menu of QPQ choices:

Building a Program Team

This module helps you consider who all your stakeholders are, how they’ll be represented on your team, and the different roles each can serve. Y4Y knows that sometimes this “jumping-off point” in 21st CCLC programming can feel like arm-twisting, so Kathleen and her buddy, Michael, offer tips on identifying and recruiting the right people for an effective program team.

  • Tip: Create a communications plan that includes meaningful orientation and regular, planned meetings in a setting that’s conducive to getting work done together. Transparency, a shared calendar, and attention to social components are smart strategies.
  • Top reason to complete this module: By helping you keep team engagement top-of-mind, the hour or so you spend in Building a Program Team will help you assemble a diverse chorus of voices that will make your program sing.

Developing a Needs Assessment

This module walks you through the steps for conducting a comprehensive needs assessment that draws on a wealth of data. You’ll consider the purpose and benefits of conducting a needs assessment, strategies for an effective process, timing, and what types of data to include.

  • Tip: An effective needs assessment offers valid evidence to help you identify pressing needs. That way, you can focus on what matters most. But don’t stop there! Go beyond identifying weaknesses to identify strengths as well, like highly engaged partners and families. This helps you use asset-based thinking (rather than deficit thinking) as your problem-solving lens.
  • Top reason to complete this module: You’ll know how to develop a comprehensive needs assessment tailored to your program. Your findings will help you and your program team set priorities and determine next steps.

Community Asset Mapping

Are you looking for an effective way to identify, assess, and mobilize community resources to meet student needs and reach program goals? Community asset mapping may be the answer. This module guides you through the process and helps you uncover “hidden treasure” in your program’s own backyard.

  • Tip: Use your program team to help you map potential assets like local businesses and nonprofits, experts, and school and family partners. Then use your needs assessment results, program goals, and other criteria (like cost and ease of use) to zero in on assets that are a good fit and can add value.
  • Top reason to complete this module: You’ll learn an effective process for mapping available assets so that you don’t overlook hidden treasures like local expertise and nonprofit programs. You’ll also get tools and ideas to help you secure, engage, and respect program partners to ensure a sustainable program.

Intentional Activity Design

You can use the intentional activity design process to align your program’s activities with student needs and interests, program goals, and school-day learning.

  • Tip: Use a variety of learning and engagement strategies like student choice, meaningful projects, experiential learning, field trips, social interactions, individual and group components, and makerspaces to design activities that delight students and help them discover new interests, skills, and strengths.
  • Top reason to complete this module: You’ll be inspired to take a fresh look at your current approach to planning and designing program activities. Chances are, a few tweaks can yield big payoffs for you and your students.

Certificates? Yes, please!

As with Y4Y’s courses, completion of each QPQ module comes with the opportunity to download and print a certificate to demonstrate your professional growth and development. Of course, the results in your 21st CCLC program will be an even greater demonstration of all you’ve gained!

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