August 14, 2023

Screenshot of opening slide for the Y4Y Sustainability Quality Program Quickstarter“Sustainability” has become something of a buzzword lately — and for good reason! People all over are replacing everyday household “disposables” with items like reusable straws and plastic-free soap. These small decisions are sure to make a lasting impact on Mother Earth — and future generations will benefit. Did you know that this same idea can apply to your program? With Y4Y’s newest Quality Program Quickstarter module, Sustainability, you’ll have the power to plan for the sustainability of your program no matter what happens!

The Wide World of Grants

It can be helpful to think of grant money as a seed that you and your team must plant, water, and nurture so that the seed sprouts and grows into a flourishing program. From the fruits of your labor (pun intended), students and families get resources that help them thrive and move toward their goals. However, like Mother Nature, the wide world of grants can sometimes be unpredictable, so it’s important that your program has strong roots to sustain itself even if the status of your grant changes. That’s where Y4Y comes in.

The Forest of Fruitfulness

By spending an hour or so with the Sustainability QPQ module, you’ll develop skills to define program sustainability in real terms, recruit partners and financial resources to keep your program strong, and develop a five-year sustainability plan and maintain it as a living document. Take a walk through the module and see what our fruitful forest has to offer:

  • Most people agree that out-of-school time programs are valuable, so use this to your advantage! Engaging key stakeholders within your community — people and organizations who value your program, share common goals, and can contribute financially or in kind — is a great way to ensure your program lasts. Be sure to use our budget template to keep track of your program’s finances — and other resources.
  • After you’ve found the fertilizer to keep your program growing, it’s time to develop your sustainability plan. Take a peek at the four steps you can take to get there:
    • Set sustainability goals: What are you trying to achieve?
    • Examine your financial plan: How do you currently allocate funding to achieve these goals?
    • Build capacity: How can you use resources to fill funding gaps?
    • Do long-range strategic planning: What will you do each year to build your program and make it sustainable?
  • Once you’ve taken the steps to strengthen your program’s roots, you’ll have the chance to view Sustainability Case Studies and see what it took for four different programs to build a sustainable program.

Tilling the Soil

Just as farmers till the soil to prepare for fruitful crops, it’s important to make sure your program can withstand anything Mother Nature has in store. Thankfully, Y4Y’s Sustainability module was created especially to help you identify partners, find resources, and develop a plan so that your program can weather the elements for years to come!


August 14, 2023

school aged girl standing in front of a black board with her left arm lifted in the air with a red fabric cape flowing to the rightTeaching your students important leadership skills now is essential for building confidence and a positive sense of control for the rest of their lives. Let students know that being a leader can be exciting and low-pressure, and watch them lead lives of success, strength, and self-discipline.

Little Leaders of Tomorrow

I remember a time in my early schooling when my teachers would assign various leadership roles to my classmates and me. Someone would always be the “line leader” when walking single file to the library, another would oversee passing out handouts for group activities, someone else would be the “show-and-tell facilitator,” and so forth. The joy I felt when I was the lucky duck chosen for one of the special leadership roles — you may as well have told me I’d won the Heisman Trophy. Though our roles were generally low-stakes, my teachers knew what they were doing! Instilling a sense of leadership within children starting at a young age (and fostering it as they grow older) is a surefire way to set them up with skills for success later in life:

  • Communication: Leadership experiences at a young age provides practice in communicating one-on-one and in group settings.
  • Responsibility: Young leadership encourages students not only to take responsibility for their own actions, but also to positively influence the actions of others.
  • Self-awareness and conflict resolution: In leading others, students learn wonderful things about themselves. In interacting with the many different personalities of their peers, students learn how to deal with conflict and situations that may be outside their comfort zone.
  • Self-sufficiency and advocacy: Through leadership opportunities, children learn to become self-sufficient and proactive, which allows them to advocate for themselves and their peers, both academically and in their personal lives.

Follow the Leader

So, we all know the value of providing leadership opportunities to students, but some students might feel a sense of panic or uncertainty when taking on a new role. Don’t worry — the key is to initiate leadership roles and behaviors in a free and easy way while letting students know that your program is a safe space! Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:

  • Start small. Help students see that they lead every day, often without even realizing it. Did they help get a younger sibling ready for school that day? Perhaps they did something as simple as reminding their friends, “We only have three more minutes till we need to be in second period.”
  • Expand students’ understanding of leadership. Model for your students what being a good citizen looks like. Did you use the last of the paper towel roll in your classroom? Take the time to visit the supply closet and replace it — trust me, your students will notice! Share with them that the initiative and action required for good citizenship is also a form of leadership.
  • Find opportunities to teach and practice skills. When there’s the inevitable argument between students, teaching them how to diffuse situations and address problems will go a long way in making students feel capable of leading. As the saying goes, “You can’t lead others until you learn to lead yourself.”
  • Guide students toward meaningful opportunities. Give students a chance to lead in their own school or classroom, and then in their own community. Assign small leadership roles, like my amazing teachers did, and as their confidence grows, guide them toward leadership opportunities in their own community, like volunteering at a local animal shelter or planning a service-learning activity.

Being a leader doesn’t mean you’re confident 100% of the time. Rather, leading takes self-awareness, humility, and ongoing communication. It’s something that must be earned every single day, and you’re never too young to start earning (and learning about) leadership! So go ahead and lead your students on to great horizons — both now and in the future.


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.