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



August 14, 2023

clip art image of people holding puzzle pieces and putting them togetherCalling all people who were around in the ’90s: Do you remember a certain famous lyric, “Stop, collaborate, and listen”? Sure, they may just be snappy words from Vanilla Ice’s most popular song, but I like to think he was talking about an essential part of being a strong leader that people often overlook. Some may see collaboration and think of the not-so-fun group projects of the past. However, it’s integral to building trust, solving problems effectively, and gathering a variety of perspectives. Let’s get some insight on why collaboration is the key to a flourishing program and how you can promote a collaborative culture so all voices are heard, and all ideas can shine.

Strength in Numbers

Imagine a world without collaboration. Do you live in the Golden State and want to pay a visit to the Big Apple? Well, I hope you can spare a month and a half to travel by boat! If you’re pondering the lands your ancestors came from, be prepared for a long and strenuous journey piecing together family trees and birth records. Are you staring up at the night sky wondering about the mysteries of outer space? Well, keep wondering! What a different world it would be without airplanes, an understanding of DNA, and even NASA’s International Space Station. Furthermore, what a lonely world it would be without collaboration! Not only has teamwork led to some of humankind’s finest work, but it’s also simply a good idea to have in your program. Here are some points to ponder:

  • Collaboration leads to effective problem-solving. When people share a variety of skills and knowledge, they create practical and creative solutions to longstanding problems. According to research done at the University of Illinois that measured the effectiveness of individual productivity versus group productivity, groups outperformed the individuals with even the highest IQs!
  • A collaborative group can think of new ideas every day. Is your program feeling stale? Getting ideas from diverse people, including staff and family members, is sure to spark innovation. A recent study found that teams made up of members from diverse backgrounds tend to perform better by up to 35% compared to individualistic environments.
  • A work environment that often uses teamwork leads to happier staff. A study found that in work environments where feedback, openness, and personal opinions were valued, team members were 80% more likely to report higher emotional well-being!

The Secret Sauce

It’s no secret that collaboration is beneficial to your staff, students, and families. And luckily, the “secret sauce” in fostering this type of culture within your program is simpler than you might think! Here are some key ingredients — the A, B, C, & D of collaboration:

  • Assemble a diverse team. See the section above if you have any doubts about why this ingredient matters. Use Y4Y’s Program Team Roster.
  • Build trust. A good team player is one that gives trust as much as they’d like to receive it. Your staff and students need to feel safe in sharing their thoughts and ideas. A great way to establish trust is by often asking for advice on program activities and asking staff and/or students how they’d like to see a problem in your program get solved.
  • Coordinate and communicate. Collaboration and coordination go hand in hand, so be sure to prioritize organization! Chaos is no environment for teamwork to thrive, so make time for frequent debriefs, idea sharing, and mental health check-ins. Remember, collaboration can’t happen without having the space and time to make it happen.
  • Don’t just hear but listen. Great collaborators know that both listening and understanding lead to an environment where everyone feels valued and heard. This can look like something as simple as asking clarifying questions, making eye contact, and using open body language like nodding your head.

The collaboration will go a long way in making staff and students feel valued and your overall program feel as fresh as can be! Remember: Almost every “greatest hit” throughout history has been made better with a little teamwork, so show your program what Vanilla Ice really meant by that famous lyric.


July 13, 2023

Author and public speaker Don Yaeger once said, “Camaraderie doesn’t happen by accident; developing a strong sense of trust, accountability, and togetherness around team goals requires intentional effort.” Building a culture of camaraderie within your program starts from within, and it requires real work. But like anything worthwhile, the work you put into it forms positive habits that will pay off in spades and have a positive influence on program staff and students. There’s a science behind everything, so of course there’s a science behind camaraderie! Let’s explore the facts and see what you can do to foster camaraderie from within. 

Trust the Process 

Trust is integral to building a lasting program. Did you know that, according to the Harvard Business Review, people who work in high-trust environments report 74% less stress, 76% more engagement, and 40% less burnout than people who work in low-trust environments? Furthermore, people in high-trust environments reported feeling more productive and energetic. That’s powerful! Clearly, trust is a key ingredient in the camaraderie cake. But how would you begin? Here are four ideas for building trust: 

  • Recognition: Recognize excellence among your staff. Believe it or not, neuroscience shows that recognition has the largest impact on trust when it’s given soon after the goal has been met. Personal and genuine recognition inspires others to aim for success (and it’s a perfect excuse for an impromptu staff celebration). 
  • Leadership: Lead your staff but encourage them to manage projects and guide students in their own way. Letting staff know you believe they can figure things out in their own way is a huge motivator. Furthermore, guided independence fosters innovation naturally because different people will try different approaches. 
  • Honesty: Be open and honest about the inner workings of your program. This approach reduces uncertainty and promotes healthy communication.  
  • Humility: Apologize often — and mean it. Apologizing can feel awkward or embarrassing sometimes, but normalizing it will lead to an unintimidating environment where people feel comfortable with making mistakes without feeling judged. 

Learning the Ropes 

It’s no secret that as humans, we’re just learning the ropes day by day. Will we get it right every time? Surely not. But modeling camaraderie is one small thing you can do to boost your team members’ trust in you, in themselves, in each other, and your program. Try to do one thing every day to build trust and camaraderie. Those “little things” can add up to make a big difference!  


July 13, 2023

When every adult in a child’s life works together and uses evidence-based practices to achieve important outcomes, that’s camaraderie at its finest! Y4Y’s newest Click & Go, Multitiered Systems of Support (MTSS), will equip you and your program staff with practical skills and knowledge about using MTSS as you join forces with the school and/or school district to support success for all students. Let’s take a stroll down the yellow brick road for a glimpse of what you’ll see on your journey. 

Hello, Yellow Brick Road 

The MTSS Click & Go comes equipped with a mini-lesson that delves into what it means to use the MTSS framework. MTSS is all about increasing students’ social, emotional, and mental well-being and promoting engagement and academic success. Here are some key takeaways: 

  • It’s important for school-day and out-of-school time staff to work together, using student-centered interventions and services. For example: 
    • Use experiential or “hands-on” learning. 
    • Offer activities in small groups. 
    • Provide students with access to various forms of media. 

Coordinated efforts to provide experiences like these can help students process academic content and learn new skills. 

  • The MTSS framework makes sure every student gets intentional screening and planning of individualized services and interventions: 
    • The framework includes tiered supports from the school day and your program. 
    • There’s a process for screening students at each tier. 
    • A data-based process guides instruction and interventions. 

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to start from scratch. Understanding and using the MTSS framework will help you align your existing support services with school-day goals so the whole child is supported every step of the way. 

Podcasts and Resources and Tools, Oh My! 

Everyone has a different approach to learning and implementing new strategies, and Y4Y knows this! That’s why this Click & Go is packed with four podcasts, eight fully customizable tools, and a whole slew of external resources, all dedicated to helping you fit the MTSS framework into your program. Along with some ruby slippers (not included — sorry!), here are a few tools that will guide you toward the Emerald City: 

Trying to think about how every child can be best supported may seem overwhelming. However, you don’t have to do it all on your own. When your program uses a framework that prioritizes well-being, coordinates interventions, and incorporates evidence-based practices every step of the way, the lift becomes a whole lot easier, and every child will feel supported! 


July 13, 2023

Camaraderie is a sense of belonging and togetherness — a feeling of friendliness, goodwill, and familiarity among the people in a group. Building a sense of togetherness and collaboration among your students starts now! Let’s explore what it takes to be a good comrade, and how building camaraderie among students now can improve learning in the future. 

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work 

Perhaps you remember team projects that went a little like this: You split students into groups and assigned tasks to each group member, having faith that everyone would do their part. Then, at the last minute, somebody — or just about everybody — dropped the ball, and one group member got stuck picking up the pieces. Repeated experiences like this are a big reason teamwork may have gotten a bad rap among students. If you’ve ever heard a resounding “Nooooo!” when you assigned group work, you know what I’m talking about. However, building camaraderie amongst your students and encouraging teamwork has many benefits: 

  • It teaches essential social skills, such as active listening and effective speaking. When students value camaraderie, they’re more likely to function together as a cohesive unit.  
  • Students have opportunities to learn how to express their ideas and opinions respectfully and confidently in a group setting. Even when students don’t agree with each other, they can still build the lifelong skill of respectfully disagreeing and reassessing their points of view! 
  • Camaraderie improves self-confidence and self-assurance. When students know they always have someone to count on, it becomes a self-sustaining cycle: Students who prioritize a sense of community and trust will get it back tenfold, so they’ll have more energy and motivation to reinvest in the group’s success the next time.  
  • Camaraderie in the classroom almost always translates to success in students’ professional lives. After all, few career paths require employees to operate in total isolation. The ability to work well with others is a valuable skill — one that most employers notice and appreciate.  

Sharing is Caring — and Mandatory 

We’ve all heard the phrase “sharing is caring,” and we all know what it’s like to hear a teacher or parent scold us for not sharing our toys. Have you ever stopped to think about why you shared your toys in the first place? Was it because you genuinely wanted to, or was it because it was kind of “mandatory”? It’s important to instill a sense of community within your program, but how can we make sure it’s coming from the heart and not because you “told them so”? 

  • Encourage appropriate levels of vulnerability from your staff and your students. Students can’t learn from each other if they can’t see the humanity in others and don’t feel welcomed into their lives. When we’re vulnerable enough to take a chance on reaching out, and when we’re willing to share our experiences with others, we move from the loneliness of the silo into the connectedness of commonalities. 
  • Promote a sense of responsibility among your students and encourage them to own their mistakes. When everyone feels comfortable apologizing when they’re wrong, they’re likely to feel safer when they inevitably make a mistake. 
  • Provide opportunities for genuine connections by encouraging students to ask for help from their peers or program staff and by fostering genuine and casual conversation about important topics in a low-stakes environment. Facilitate free-wheeling discussions that provide opportunities for students to share ideas and feelings in a nonthreatening setting. During snack time, for example, you can invite them to share their thoughts on a book you’re reading as a class. 

Camaraderie may sound simple and maybe even unnecessary to spotlight. But don’t overlook its potential! If you intentionally nurture a sense of camaraderie among students, you’re sure to increase their confidence, collaboration, and productivity. You’re setting them up with skills they’ll use way beyond the classroom. Way to go! 


June 13, 2023

Elementary school aged kids in a dance classNever thought the arts could fit into health and wellness? With Y4Y’s new Health and Wellness for All course, you and your staff can encourage an attitude of well-being and creativity. Take notes from dance, movement, meditation, culinary arts, and more! 

Calm Waters

If you need a "first mate" to help you assess and support the health and well-being of students, families, and staff, Y4Y's Health and Wellness for All course will set sail to get you there. You'll get practical guidance to help every student develop lifelong skills and habits in nutrition, physical activity, and self-care. The course tools will help you plan, design, implement, and assess your health and wellness activities. From healthy snack ideas to physical activity examples to family engagement surveys and more, you’re sure to find inspiration for your program.

Imaginatively Healthy!

Research offers many reasons why establishing a good relationship with health and wellness now will set your students up for success in the future! See the Health and Wellness for All Research Brief for more facts; here are a few to get you started:

  • Good nutrition, physical activity, and stress reduction can improve learning and life outcomes such as academic success, life expectancy, and risk of chronic diseases.
  • Reducing stress positively impacts students’ social skills and mental energy.
  • Getting enough sleep helps people focus and pay attention, make decisions, manage emotions, and more.

Consider Incorporating some of these “imaginatively healthy” activities into your program and watch the results speak for themselves!

  • Ask a local museum to host a “museum race.” Pair your students up, give them criteria for recording information on the various art pieces, and see which group can record the most information! It’s a great way to increase heart rate and get some steps in.
  • Have students make a playlist of appropriate, calming music and use it as the playlist for a yoga or meditation session.
  • Bring culinary arts and film into the equation! Have students vote on a dish from a favorite movie, like the ratatouille from the movie Ratatouille, make any necessary dietary modifications, and prepare it together while watching the movie.
  • Show students that dance can be a fun way to get your body moving. Split students into teams, have them choose an appropriate song, and let them choreograph their own dance. You could even split it over the course of a few days and have each team teach the other teams their choreography!

If you and your staff place priority on infusing creativity and student wellness together, magical things are sure to follow. When students learn that Health and Wellness can be an artistic and creative reprieve from the doldrums of everyday life, they will be more likely to incorporate it into their everyday lives—now and well into their adulthood.


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