June 14, 2022

Conference or meeting with elementary school teachers students and parentsDo you ever feel like your 21st CCLC program is simply tapping into an already tightly woven community? This may be the case if your program has been around for a while, you lucky ducks. But if your program is new, or if people frequently move in and out of the area, you may be bringing some families together for the first time. Maybe you’re somewhere in between, serving a mix of “old” and “new” families. Whatever the case in your community, what lessons did you take away from the past program year for engaging those families? They were probably feeling torn by a strong need for supports and a healthy concern about gathering. With tips from Y4Y, reflect on your community’s greatest needs so you can plan family engagement events in the coming year that serve important purposes — including fun.

Now That’s a Fine How-Do-You-Do
Get a jump on those warm community fuzzies this fall from Day One! Staff need to be sure to know their community culture and understand the challenges that are unique to family engagement in your community. Besides tools, Y4Y offers staff training in cultural competence — try to make this important professional development a priority over the summer. (What you thought you knew about your community may have shifted dramatically.) Do you have standouts — some call them “super-volunteers” — who you can reliably go to, even after their children have graduated from your program? You know, the ones who always have their finger on the pulse of the neighborhood (in a positive way — gossips need not apply). Try to keep them on your program team through this slow shift back to “normal.” They can help you set the tone and hit the right notes as you start the program year.

Tell Me What You Need, What You Really, Really Need
Don’t let your community needs be a mystery! A crystal ball isn’t going to tell you what families are looking for when it comes to adult learning opportunities or group activities. Survey, survey, survey! Y4Y offers a family engagement survey and tips on focus groups to get a clear picture of what your families might be looking for from your program. Below are topics that just a few years ago you might not have expected to have such importance. Have potential partners lined up to offer family experiences and adult learning in:

  • Mental health resources
  • Mindfulness and other stress-reducing strategies
  • Response to trauma
  • Financial “rescue” resources
  • Childcare “co-ops”
  • Access to healthy foods

Be sure to gather this data as early as possible for the most effective planning of family engagement events. One important question on any survey: Are you more comfortable online or in person? Be ready for hybrid or parallel offerings for at least one more program year.

Did Someone Say Something About Fun?
As you work with families, you may very well be tackling some heavy topics and situations. Responding appropriately requires sensitivity and understanding. Y4Y’s Voices From the Field guest, Kathy Manley, grew up in abject poverty and later taught children who were in the same situation. She offers poignant insights into recognizing signs of poverty in children and how best to navigate those signs. She points out, for example, that children raised in poverty may sometimes laugh at seemingly inappropriate times as a defense mechanism or a way to find the lighter side of even the darkest subjects. Talk with mental health specialists on your program team about healthy ways to respond — and ways to tap into the “funny bone” as you work with children and adults.

Look for opportunities to build some laughs into your family engagement activities this year. After two years of virtual and hybrid learning, there may be more focus than ever on student learning and achievement. But who says you can’t laugh and learn at the same time? Family engagement events can be a great distraction from the heavier side of life, and you have all the room in the world to build in some fun! Consider shaping a literacy or STEAM event, for example, around:

  • A summer blockbuster comic book movie
  • Your city’s (or state’s) favorite baseball or football team
  • NASA’s 2024 mission to the moon
  • A simulated Olympics, tying academics to physical challenge stations
  • A “real-world” Minecraft or other popular video game event
  • A spin on a traditional American holiday — what celebrations around the world parallel Halloween, for example?

Are You Ready to Engage Current and Future Families?
Does your program culture and climate help you:

  • Welcome and support all students and families?
  • Foster a sense of community?
  • Consider the needs and priorities of all stakeholders (including kids!)?
  • Make room for fun?

If you can answer “yes” to these four questions, congratulations: Your next program’s already set up for a warm and wonderful start that engages all families, whether they’re newcomers or old-timers.


June 14, 2022

Two men shaking hands at a Farmer's MarketMost U.S. cities and towns are alive with activity in the summer, and potential partners will be making the most of it! Street festivals, community events, and outdoor movies and concerts abound. Put on your networking hat while having fun in your leisure time, and think about how each new encounter is a partnership opportunity. With Y4Y tools at your fingertips, new partners will come as easily as a summer breeze.

Think Network
Most 21st CCLC program directors and site coordinators have experience in seeking program partners to meet a specific need. A perfect example is an ambitious STEAM project that will go much more smoothly if you can convince the local hobby shop to donate a few robotics kits. While this is an important practice to keep in place, just remember that there’s no partnership quota! Your program can and should develop community relationships that might have nothing to do with an immediate need. Those relationships stand to be even stronger, in fact, if you don’t have your hat in hand the moment you make a new acquaintance. Instead, you’re building a network — learning as much about your community members as you can, sharing as much about your program as they’ll let you, and noticing any shared goals. 

Broaden Those Horizons
If you’re blanking out on how the summer’s leisure activities could put you in the path of potential program partners, brush up on the basics of seeking out partners with Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course and related tools. Pull up the Identifying Partners tool and brainstorm with colleagues about how you could add even more ideas to the list of businesses, artisans, organizations, and leaders that you might encounter. If immediate program needs come to mind, great! If not, tuck those new network friends into a mental file and a physical one for revisiting once the new program year begins. The Mapping Needs to Partners tool will help. Here are a few ideas:

  • Art fair vendor: possible art activity leader
  • Political candidate: possible guest speaker on government
  • In-home water delivery rep: possible donor of water bottles
  • Face painter: possible culminating event special guest
  • Livestock winner: possible field trip host

What’s Stopping You?
Chances are, one of three things gives you the greatest pause in reaching out to new partners.

  1. I just know they’ll say no. Why bother?
  2. Call it Mom’s lessons: I’m uncomfortable talking to strangers.
  3. If I were any good at selling, I’d be rolling in my Lamborghini commissions.

Let’s break it down.

  1. Maybe they will say no. Or get that cringy face that tells you they want you to walk away. Here’s the good news: It costs you zero dollars to ask, and Y4Y can boost your confidence when you realize that all you’re really doing is planning for developing program champions! YOU are the first champion of your program and advocate for your students, and you simply want to recruit more members of that cheering squad!
  2. Mom wasn’t wrong: You should be leery of strangers. Bring a friend and never share personal information when meeting new potential partners in nonacademic environments. Tip: Ask questions that might lead you to find acquaintances in common. They might be able to tell you more about your new program friend.
  3. Fair point on the Lamborghini commissions. Except there are sales jobs that fill much more than your bank account. Your 21st CCLC work fills your soul. Use all the tools you can, like the Y4Y Creating a Program Elevator Speech tool to make finding new partners just one more task that you can develop strategies for. Remember to be brief, informative, positive, and results-oriented. 

Y4Y hears it often: Even seasoned program leaders may drag their feet when it comes to forming new partnerships. Try carrying this quote from Charles de Lint’s Memory and Dream with you to your summer leisure activities:

“She had felt straight away that she wasn’t meeting a new friend, but recognizing an old one.”

If you stay alert for shared goals, interests, and connections, finding new friends for your program will be easy as a summer breeze.


June 14, 2022

Multi-ethnic high school girls working on a project outdoors with laptopsFrom the youngest elementary kids up to high school seniors, all students can be building their executive functioning skills when you offer a long-term project in your school-year program. They’ll need those skills to plan and achieve their own goals, whether they want to earn a driver’s license, become a space explorer, or anything in between. Using Y4Y resources, you can hit the ground running in August with an engaging project that will help students gain knowledge and skills throughout the year. And the more you plan for it by setting important short-term goals, the more long-term success your students will enjoy! 

Bear in mind:

  1. Learning how to plan and to implement are as much “the lesson” as the material or outcome itself.
  2. Long-term projects provide opportunities to dive deeper into a subject.
  3. Collaboration can and should be a big part of your project.
  4. Budget plenty of time and resources for a culminating event to showcase student knowledge and projects — and to celebrate their hard work!

Short-Term Goal #1: Chart the Course
As the grown-up in the room, make sure you plan any long-term project around:

  1. A needs assessment. What content knowledge or skills do your students most need to develop? Ask school-day partners to weigh in so you can give students the most bang for their afterschool buck. Don’t be afraid to merge subjects! Literacy, STEAM, and civics, for example, have fascinating points of intersection. Check out Y4Y’s Developing a Needs Assessment Click & Go, STEAM Implementation Checklist, and Building School-Day Civics Into Out-of-School Time Projects for starter tips. 
  2. Student voice. Once you know which path you’re headed down, there’s still a lot of wiggle room for variety. Hold off until the fall to collect your student voice data, but have the Y4Y Activity Choice Form and student survey on how students learn best customized to your chosen topic (or topics).
  3. Available resources. Keep Y4Y’s sample procurement packet handy for standard materials, and community asset mapping tool for forging new partnerships as more unusual resources are needed.

Short-Term Goal #2: Consider Process vs. Product
Saving the “nature versus nurture” debate for another day, from a young age it’s easy to recognize whether a person is more process-driven or product-driven. Example: Madison yells “DONE!” whenever she finishes a task, no matter how many times you ask her not to. Madison is product-driven. Meanwhile, Manny is always the last to complete an art project that, let’s face it, was designed more as a decompression activity than an art lesson. If you find Manny deep in thought about “what’s missing” from his Play-Doh sculpture, chances are that Manny is a process-driven kid. The beauty of a long-term project is that it can appeal to both these types of students. In fact, pairing these students with each other, like you might an optimist and a pessimist, is a great way to strike balance for the best outcomes! You can even give each team a fun name, like Wonder Wizards, or invite them to create their own. Collaboration: CHECK!

Short-Term Goal #3: Gather Your Y4Y Tools
The “process” mentioned above is simply “planning” plus “implementing,” and you’re going to do cartwheels when you see how many tools Y4Y offers in both areas. Here are just a few:

Project-Based Learning Youth Participation Checklist
Project Planner
Project Timelines
Student Goal Setting and Reflection (tailored to appropriate grade levels)
Goal Setting Activities, Games and Templates

Project-Based Learning Implementation Planning Checklist
STEAM Student Self-Monitoring Checklist for Project Work
Classroom Facilitator Packet
Service-Learning Toolbox

Short-Term Goal #4: Train, Train, Train!
You’re in luck! Whether you catch Implementing Project-Based Learning With Y4Y live this week or later in the Y4Y webinar archives, you’ll learn about long-term, student-driven projects in these interactive sessions. Looking to step it up a notch? Have staff engage with the full Project-Based Learning course, or present one of the scripted PowerPoint Trainings-to-Go, like How to Craft a Driving Question or Project-Based Learning in Action.

Areas of Student Support
If you’re still in doubt about the benefits of a long-term project, rest assured that in addition to academic support, you’ll be supporting students’:

Think back to your own formative years, and those long-term projects that might still take up space in your mother’s sewing room. Your unwillingness — or hers — to let them go tells you everything you need to know about the possible impact of those well-designed long-term projects.


June 2, 2022

Y4Y now offers 22 online professional development (PD) courses and 11 microlearning Click & Go’s. Chances are, not even your masterful program director has had the opportunity to engage with all of them! But that doesn’t mean you have to leave any juicy knowledge on the table. You can divide and conquer! Follow these simple steps for breaking up Y4Y PD among your overachieving staff and getting together poolside or picnic style to share your wisdom with the class!

Step 1: Reconnaissance

Head to the Y4Y Learn page and the Click & Go page and check out all the choices. How many colleagues will participate? How many hours is each person willing and able to put into independent learning? How much time is in your program budget for PD hours for staff? Keep in mind that Click & Go’s are the shortest Y4Y learning opportunities, and some Y4Y courses are short “companions” to longer courses. Below is a cheat sheet on time investment. Those learning opportunities that are most relevant to frontline staff are in bold. So, who’ll choose which course or Click & Go?

Click & Go’s: About 1 Hour Each

Building a Positive Organizational Culture and Climate

Building Financial Literacy

Creating an Intentionally Designed Program

Developing a Needs Assessment

Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan

Digital Literacy

Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day

Implementing Your Program With Fidelity

Recruiting and Retaining High School Students

Structuring Successful Homework Help and Tutoring Sessions

Trauma-Informed Care

Companion Courses: 4-5 Hours Each

Citizen Science

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Human Resources

Stages of Child and Adolescent Development

Strategic Partnerships

Companion Courses: 6-8 Hours Each

Civic Learning and Engagement

Fiscal Management

Including Students With Disabilities

Student Voice and Choice

Full Courses: 7-10 Hours Each

Career Pathways for Students

Continuous Education Through 21st CCLC Activities

Family Engagement

Financial Literacy

Introduction to 21st CCLC


Managing Your 21st CCLC Program

Project-Based Learning

Social and Emotional Learning


Summer Learning

Supporting English Learners

The Virtual Edge

Step 2: Plotting and Planning

Figure out a timeline and a “culminating PD event” that you can all get excited about. Give everyone plenty of time to finish their course or Click & Go, but not so much time that the comings and goings of their favorite reality TV diva push the learning out of precious brain space. The pool or picnic are just two ideas for ways to share what you learn. You also have virtual options, walking meetings, or backyard barbeques as possibilities.

Step 3: The Dreaded Homework

It’s human nature to dread the homework, but Y4Y has already figured that out and made courses interactive, colorful, and fun, so the dread is dead! To make everyone’s learning useful for others, have each person answer the following questions as they go. That way, they’ll be ready for the group share-out when it’s party time.

  1. Summarize the Y4Y course or Click & Go in three sentences.
  2. List three “who knew?!” moments — things that were brand-new to you!
  3. List three “you better already know this!” moments — knowledge so foundational that a 21st CCLC professional is in trouble without it!
  4. Name three ways you plan to apply the knowledge you’ve gained.
  5. Take a peek at the tools and trainings with your chosen course or Click & Go, and call out the ones you’d like to use in your program. Be sure to tell everyone why.
  6. Give everyone an honest critique of the course or Click & Go — what you loved, what you didn’t, and what anyone who’s thinking of taking it themselves needs to know.

Be sure each person reads the questions in advance and has this homework in front of them as they go through the course or Click & Go so they can be thinking about their answers in real time.

Step 4: Print That Certificate, Baby!

Each course has two or three sections, and you can get a Y4Y certificate of completion for each section you finish, so don’t miss the opportunity to show the boss your hard work. Your state might even count it toward continuing education units! (Check with your program director or state coordinator.) Reminder: There are no Y4Y certificates for Click & Go’s. Wait! Should this be Step 1?

Step 4: It’s Nice to Share

At your scheduled event, take turns reporting on your learning. Be ready to answer questions, even silly ones like, “Would you date the avatar that hosted your course?” Have handouts of your responses, or make a plan to post on a shared webpage like SharePoint. And back to those overachievers: Decide which course you’ll take next! The world of Y4Y is your oyster, and you, friend, are a 21st CCLC Magellan – have fun exploring!