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April 13, 2023

With Alcohol Awareness Month upon us, it’s time to pave the way for real and age-appropriate conversations with your students. What’s more, it’s important to give families the tools they need to do the same. It can be a rocky road to navigate, so let’s gather up some tips and tricks that will help you on your journey!

An Open Dialogue

It may seem tricky to broach such an uncomfortable topic, but the fact is, kids who drink alcohol are more likely to:

  • Be victims of a violent crime
  • Have serious problems in school
  • Be involved in drinking-related traffic crashes

Even if underage drinking is not yet a concern, that doesn’t mean that children aren’t receiving pressure to drink. The best plan of action is to take charge now. Avoiding conversations about alcohol use may give children the impression that underage alcohol use is OK. Furthermore, it’s important to acknowledge the role that friends and classmates can play in a child’s life. As children approach adolescence, their peers’ opinions seem to matter more. Kids will listen, however. Study after study shows that even during teen years, parents and guardians have enormous influence on their children’s behavior. Starting a dialogue can be tough, so explore these pointers to start you on the right path:

  • Encourage constant conversation about all kinds of subjects, not just alcohol! Encourage your child to talk about whatever interests him or her. Listen without interruption. Your active listening to your child’s enthusiasm paves the way for conversations about topics that concern you.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Encourage your teen to tell you how he or she thinks and feels about the issue you’re discussing. Avoid questions that have a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
  • Control your emotions. If you hear something you don’t like, try not to respond with anger. Instead, take a few deep breaths and acknowledge your feelings in a constructive way.
  • Make every conversation a “win-win” experience. Don’t lecture or try to “score points” on your teen by showing how he or she is wrong. If you show respect for your child’s viewpoint, he or she will be more likely to listen to and respect yours.

Even when active conversations about alcohol aren’t happening, there are still many ways to continue a silent dialogue. Whether students will admit it or not, the adults in their lives serve as role models. Use this to your (and their) advantage! Here are some suggestions for modeling a healthy relationship with alcohol:

  • Refrain from using it as a stress reliever. Instead, model productive coping mechanisms.
  • Never drive after drinking. Talk about what your child should do if they’re driving with someone who has been drinking.
  • Your child probably shouldn’t be overhearing stories of a night out drinking with your friends, so keep adult conversations strictly in the company of other adults.
  • When you are entertaining adults, and kids are in the house, let kids see that you are including alcohol-free beverages and plenty of food, and that you are making sure everyone has a safe ride home.

It can be scary to acknowledge that your child might eventually do something you don’t want them to do. However, encouraging open and honest conversations and setting examples will surely communicate to your child that they don’t have to navigate rocky terrain on their own. And when they do inevitably stumble off the beaten path, they’ll have trusted adults in their circle ready to brush them off, hand them a compass, and lead them on to great things!


April 13, 2023

When you’re young, it’s easy to be carefree and not too concerned about the future. This is a concept that I know all too well. At 13, I started babysitting to earn money and my father would take half my earnings and put it into a savings account. I remember being so angry! I “earned” it, so shouldn’t I be in charge of how I spend it? It wasn’t until I was 17 and I went to buy my first car that I understood the lesson my father was trying to teach me. It felt so good to buy my used, old Nissan Sentra with the money I'd earned the past four years. Then came the lesson in paying car insurance each month. If it wasn’t paid, my car was parked in the driveway, and I was back on the bus to and from school. Much to my teenage self’s dismay, I was lucky enough to be taught the basics of financial literacy. Economic education, as early as possible, can help set children up for success later in life!

Charge It

Did you know that 38% of U.S. households have an average of $16,048 of credit card debt? It makes sense, considering I was offered my first credit card in college, so I jumped at the chance to charge a spring break trip to go skiing. I’m pretty sure it took me the remaining two years of college to pay off that one trip. Financial literacy is defined as the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage one’s financial resources effectively for lifetime financial security. I may have known how to earn and spend, but the other side of financial literacy — like protecting finances, saving, and investing — was foreign to me.

Steps to Financial Freedom

When planning, use the Financial Literacy Implementation Checklist to begin documenting how you’ll develop financial literacy programming for your students, families, and adult participants. It will help you focus on the areas needed to make the experience successful. Additionally, the Adult Financial Literacy Needs Survey is a great tool to assist you in collecting data. After you complete the needs survey, consider these three questions:

  • What do we know about the financial education activities or programs that local schools offer?
  • Do we currently use any activities or engage with partners (e.g., financial experts) that might align with financial literacy? 
  • What knowledge and skills do current staff, advisory boards, program team, and partners have that may be useful?

Coaching Staff on Financial Education

We can’t assume our staff is educated on financial literacy. The Coaching My Staff section of Y4Y’s course on Financial Literacy can assist you in preparing your staff to implement a high-quality financial literacy program and provide them with tips and tools that will help them tackle tough subjects.

Show Me the Money!

There are many fun and exciting ways to teach financial literacy. You can increase student learning and retention even further by incorporating engaging learning strategies. Use the Y4Y tool Learning Methods At-A-Glance to select which learning style might be a good fit for your program and activities. When planning and implementing your program, make sure to check out the program schedules based on the grade level(s) of your out-of-school time program. See Financial Literacy Elementary School Program Schedule, Financial Literacy Middle School Program, and Financial Literacy High School Program Schedule.

A Lesson Learned

Fast forward from my childhood and college years to the present: I never truly understood the importance of introducing financial literacy concepts at a young age until my children would ask for something. We’d talk about needs and wants but in their minds, I could just swipe my credit card or go to an ATM and the money would magically appear. Gone are the days of putting chore money in a piggy bank. To keep up with the electronic world they are living in, I ordered a debit card for each of them. They can see when their chore money is deposited on their card. Just like my father did for me, I deposit half of it into a spending account and the rest into their savings account. They are learning to spend wisely, set savings goals, and invest for their future.

Many of your students might think, “Why not just live in the present and worry about the future later?” However, one of the best gifts we can give them is to help them improve their financial knowledge today so they can build the foundation for an amazing financial future.


April 13, 2023

I aced my way through economics, business calculus, and both of my college accounting classes, yet I still felt unprepared for navigating the financial ins and outs of the real world. I remember the day it hit me, too. Last year, I made my first “grown-up” purchase: a used car from my local dealership! As soon as I held the keys, I could feel the clouds opening and the sun shining down. The white paint seemed to sparkle in the daylight. The dealership even went the extra mile and stuck a huge bow on the hood! I was in complete bliss. That is, before the salesman and my stepdad started throwing around terms that sounded foreign to me: APR, principal, amortization. To sound smarter than I felt, I quickly tried to recall lessons from my high school economics class, but I came up empty. It was like a moment from a movie when the main character has the epiphany that sets the whole plot in motion: I am so financially illiterate.

It wasn’t like I was horrible with my money; I just had no idea how to manage it properly. I used to laugh about it, almost like my lack of financial literacy was a dumb party trick. However, after I graduated from college and landed my first “big girl job”—with Y4Y, no less—I quickly had to start thinking about some very unfun things such as debit and credit, 401k, and investing. That’s when I discovered the breadth of financial resources on Y4Y’s website. Even though I don’t run an out-of-school time program, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t use Y4Y’s free tools! Check out the resources that I used on my journey to become more financially literate:

  • Financial Literacy Key Terms: I scoured Google to find simple definitions for difficult financial terms, but it turns out that I didn’t have to! This tool defines key terms to start you on your financial literacy path.
  • Adult Preprogram and Postprogram Assessments: You know the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know”? That’s where I was. This tool helped me understand what gaps I needed to fill. It asks questions that touch on credit scores, interest, tax refunds, and more. If I didn’t know the answer, I used that as a guideline for what I needed to research more! When using this tool in your program, be sure to first explore the Guiding Principles for Facilitating Preprogram and Postprogram Assessments.
  • Introduction to Financial Literacy: Though I used this tool to refresh my basic understanding of financial literacy, this PowerPoint can be used in your adult financial literacy course. If your adult participants need somewhere to start, this tool is for you. It covers earning, spending, credit and debit, insuring, and saving and investing.
  • Financial Literacy Book List: I’m a book lover and if you, your staff, and your students are the same way, this book list will be of great value to you! I spent my time reading a few of the books for adults and found myself picking up knowledge with each chapter. My personal favorite was The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke, but there are a multitude of books for every age group.

After I sharpened up my financial know-how with Y4Y’s tools, it was time for me to get down to business and make my way through the Building Financial Literacy Click & Go.

  • Podcasts: I don’t know about you, but I personally love podcasts, so listening to the three that are included in the Click & Go was a no-brainer. Podcast 1 demonstrates how to design and provide financial literacy for adults. Podcast 2 is all about learning the benefits of community partnerships such as banks and finance professionals. It will also give you ideas for building partnerships to support financial literacy. Podcast 3 discusses financial literacy resources for yourself and your program.
  • Mini-Lessons: If you only have 15 minutes to spare, catch our two mini-lessons! You’ll get an in-depth introduction to financial literacy and tips for developing age-appropriate financial literacy activities.

As a self-confessed financial literacy novice, I don’t know it all. However, with the tools I’ve found through Y4Y’s website, I feel much closer to achieving a sense of financial freedom, and that’s priceless.


March 10, 2023

Each generation has its challenges, but it’s no secret that today’s youth have become quite the softball stars, given the curveballs thrown their way. As humans, we’re designed to adapt, and no one does it quite like Gen Z. We’re not sure what’s in their water, but one thing is clear: This generation is driven by a desire to address social problems. Why not use that drive to your (and their) advantage? Cultivating a spirit of philanthropic entrepreneurship might not be part of your current game plan for student engagement, but Y4Y’s new Youth in Action course will get you and your staff excited about the possibilities.

The Name of the Game

The term “social entrepreneurship” might sound like a totally different ballgame than the one you’re playing, but it’s in the same ballpark as service learning and project-based learning. Social entrepreneurship blends a business goal of providing products or services with the desire to support a cause that improves the lives of others. It’s not a totally new concept. For example, over 100 years ago in Pennsylvania, this ideal inspired Milton Hershey to build a model community around his factory. So why pass the bat to your students? Here are three good reasons:

  • Social entrepreneurship is a natural tool for student engagement. It taps into their interests and their desire to make a positive difference in the world.
  • It benefits students. For example, projects that combine concepts from entrepreneurship and service learning let students practice real-world 21st century skills like creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication. Experiences with social entrepreneurship also help students develop important mindsets like the value of hearing multiple perspectives and the importance of empathy when developing solutions.
  • It benefits society. After all, you’re preparing the leaders, creators, and decision-makers of tomorrow!

The Introduction section of the Youth in Action course not only delves into the history and benefits of social entrepreneurship. It also shows how it can build the top workforce skills your students need to stay ahead of the curve.

Batter Up!

You need a team that’s fired up and ready to engage students in service learning and entrepreneurship activities, and that’s where the Coaching My Staff section of this course comes in handy. It provides ready-to-go trainings and tools — and it guides you through the steps to creating a professional development plan that’s a good fit for your program. You and your staff will be ready to start swinging in no time!

It doesn’t stop there, though. After staff have stepped up to the plate, they’ll need practical strategies to help students hit that home run. That’s where the Implementation Strategies section of this course comes in. You and your colleagues who complete this section of the course learn how to:

  • Describe the process for implementing a social entrepreneurship activity.
  • Facilitate social conversations amongst students.
  • Guide students as they implement their plans.

As you’ll notice while making your way through this course, it’s less about being the “sage on the stage” and more about being the “guide on the side.” If you or your staff aren’t sure what that might look like, don’t worry. You’ll get some practice scenarios, planning checklists, driving questions, and more.

Hit It Out of the Park!

As consumers, we’re often told that we “vote” with our dollar, meaning the businesses we choose to support should reflect the kind of world we want to live in. Today’s students already have an intrinsic desire to leave this world better than they found it. Putting youth in action so they can act on their best impulses is sure to be a grand slam!


March 10, 2023

High school age students taking a textDo you remember the standardized testing of your youth? It’s safe to say that most of us didn’t exactly look forward to it. The clock at the front of the bare room seemed to stare forebodingly as the minutes ticked by, the cold seats felt harder than the questions, and the mandatory silence was interrupted only by the nervous scribbling of your classmates. Who decided this environment might be conducive to good test scores?

You may not have much say about the testing environment your students experience today, but you can give them tools to mitigate test anxiety. As standardized testing season approaches, check in with your students to assess how comfortable they feel about test taking. If you hear responses like “Pass the anti-nausea medication, please” or “Frozen,” consider teaching some test-taking strategies. Having the tools to chip away the ice if they freeze up during exams can go a long way toward building students’ confidence — and improving their performance!

Buckle Up Their Tool Belts

To kick things off, consider holding a focus group discussion to gauge students’ feelings toward exams in general and how those feelings may affect their test-taking abilities. Here are some questions you might pose:

  • How do you feel about taking exams? Does the prospect of taking exams worry you?
  • Are there any physical symptoms of nervousness or anxiety that occur when you take an exam? Do your hands feel shaky? Do you ever experience shortness of breath?
  • Do you notice an inner dialogue when taking exams? If so, what does it sound like to you?
  • Do you have trouble concentrating when taking exams? Maybe you find it hard to focus on one question at a time, or perhaps it’s difficult to focus when reading a passage.

Wherever your students’ anxieties may stem from, it’s important to let them know they’re not alone! Reassure them that test anxiety is common, and even adults can have it.

Add One Tool at a Time

Once you’ve fostered an open dialogue, encourage students to bounce ideas off each other. Encourage them to choose the ones they think might work for them and add those tools to their Test Anxiety Tool Belt. Here are some tips you may want to share:

  • It can be discouraging to open a test booklet and get thrown off by the first question. Instead of spending all your time trying to figure it out, move on to the next one! Answering the “easy” questions first boosts your confidence and leaves you time to come back to the hard ones.
  • Have you tried the process of elimination? For each test question, there are almost always one or two answers that are obviously incorrect, so eliminate those first. This increases your odds of getting the right answer.
  • It’s always a good idea to break a question down so you can examine each part. This helps you make sure you truly understand what it’s asking. For example, if the instructions say to select the answer that does not belong, but you overlook the not, you’ll select the wrong answer — even if you know the right one! Underline important words and key terms to help you stay on the right track.

Every Tool Kit Needs Accessories

Having the aforementioned tips in their Text Anxiety Tool Belt can reduce nervousness and build confidence. There are plenty of other strategies that can act as “accessories.” If you caught our blog post on Creating a Mental Health Tool Kit, you may have shared some of the tips mentioned there with your students. If your students are already using these ideas as “homework hacks,” let them know they can also be modified and used in the testing environment. Let’s review some ideas to share with students!

  • Do you listen to music to either calm down or get hyped up during homework? You can’t exactly bring your headphones into the testing room, but perhaps you can get in the right mindset by listening to your favorite playlist that morning as you wake up and get ready.
  • Sometimes, stretching can bring relief if you tend to tense up during homework time. However, your yoga moves may be distracting if you try them in a room full of people on test day. Instead, try taking a restroom break so you can move around and stretch your limbs. Even if it’s brief, it gives you a chance to regroup and refocus.
  • If you find it hard to keep your eyes open during homework time after a long day at school, maybe you’ve found it helps to take a quick power nap before you begin. Since we don’t want you snoring at your desk on test day, make sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before.

With some coaching, practice, and the right tools, your students will find they can mitigate stress on test day and beyond. So go ahead: Give them those power tools. Happy testing season!


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