Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Afterschool Provider Survey Results: Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19

By Guest Blogger Nikki Yamashiro, Afterschool Alliance

Source: Afterschool Alliance
Since the first statewide stay-at-home orders were issued in mid-March, individuals across the United States have found their lives and livelihoods upended by the coronavirus. As states enact safety measures and transition between phases of reopening to combat the virus, families are struggling with school closures, job losses, food insecurity, and more. Afterschool programs are joining local efforts to address the urgent needs of children and families while facing an uncertain future themselves.

Throughout the crisis, many afterschool providers have been innovating to stay connected with students and keep them safe, healthy and engaged in learning, even while struggling to keep their own doors open. Many programs face budget shortfalls and will need additional staff and professional development, as well as more space and resources to provide consistent care for children and families as school schedules shift. In the first in a series of surveys, in partnership with Edge Research, we take the pulse of the afterschool field and it is clear that although afterschool programs remain a vital partner to help young people emerge from this crisis strong, resilient, and hopeful, they are in need of dire support. The future of afterschool programs is in jeopardy.

Source: Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19

In our first survey we learned that afterschool programs are severely affected by the hardships created by the pandemic. As programs work to continue to provide services in their communities, they face their own struggles, from funding to staffing, with a majority unsure if the worst is over or yet to come (55%). Read the full report of survey responses at the following link: http://afterschoolalliance.org/documents/Afterschool-COVID-19-Wave-1-Fact-Sheet.pdf

There is also an interactive dashboard with the survey results to see the differences in response by region: http://afterschoolalliance.org/covid/Afterschool-COVID-19-dashboard.cfm

Source: Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19
Help us keep up the story of how COVID-19 is affecting afterschool and summer programs by completing a follow-up survey that focuses on what programs have been able to offer this summer and plans for fall. The survey should take no more than 10-15 minutes of your time and your responses will be anonymous. To thank you for your time, 50 respondents to the survey will be randomly selected to win a $50 cash prize. You can start the survey at: https://3to6.co/survey

Nikki Yamashiro is Vice President of Research at Afterschool Alliance. She joined the Afterschool Alliance in June 2012, and works to coordinate and implement annual research activities, design surveys on pressing issues in the afterschool field and analyze research findings, communicating the need for and great successes of afterschool programs to policy makers, afterschool providers, advocates, and the public. Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, Nikki served in a variety of research capacities, including as Policy Advisor at Third Way, where she handled a wide range of domestic policy issues such as juvenile justice, and as legislative assistant to former Rep. Hilda L. Solis, where she handled education and youth issues.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Art of Distance Learning in Afterschool

By Sam Piha
Source: www.level.medium.com
While the decisions about re-opening schools and afterschool programs are still in process, it is increasingly clear that many afterschool programs will need to incorporate a distance learning model, relying on internet access by their participants. Developing distance learning using internet and video technology is a new skill set for afterschool providers.

We conducted an interview with one afterschool coordinator who has mastered the art of distance learning. Her name is Autrilla Gillis from ISANA Academies in Southern California, and we offer her answers to our questions below. We will sponsor a Speaker's Forum Webinar with Ms. Gillis and the EduCare Foundation on distance learning in afterschool on Fri. August 7th, 2020. To learn more and register, click HERE.

Q: What circumstances led you to develop a distance learning option for your afterschool program?
A: Like many schools in Los Angeles, ISANA Academies closed its doors on March 13th as a result of COVID-19. While school admin and district level staff began to strategize on what distance learning looked like at ISANA, I began to brainstorm ways that the Expanded Learning Program could provide an immediate solution to parents and students in the interim. This led to the formation of EXL LIVE, fun and engaging live lessons centered on Academic, Literacy and Social Enrichment every Monday – Thursday from 2pm – 5pm. The program ran April – June, and during the month of May, we served over 5,000 unique session visitors.

Q: What platform are you using to connect with students?
A: We exclusively use the zoom platform for EXL LIVE, using password protected rooms for each session.

Autrilla Gillis
ISANA Academies
Q: How many hours of programming do you offer and what is the main focus?
A: We offer three hours of programming per day Monday – Thursday. Each day is broken into three, one- hour sessions: Academic Enrichment, Literacy Enrichment, and Social Enrichment. Each session is broken into grade level cohorts and both Academic and Literacy Enrichment are standards based. In the Academic Enrichment block students participate in standards based lessons and activities that are aligned to the work they are completing with their school day teachers. In the Literacy Enrichment block, students in grades K-5 participate in a variety of group reading activities and comprehension tasks and students in grades 6-8 participate in current event activities and discussions.

Q: Were you able to offer any “virtual” field trips? 
A: After spring-break we incorporated a weekly virtual field trip. They have garnered our largest single attendance numbers, bringing in up to 200 students in some sessions. To facilitate field trips, we created a master schedule and assigned a school a specific date. Each school site worked collaboratively to determine “where” they would take students virtually. For example, our first field trip was to Disneyland. We created a virtual field trip experience by combining the internet for virtual ride and theme park experiences and compiled them to create “A Day at Disneyland”. Students experienced walking through Main St, riding rides, visiting food stands, and watching a parade. We’ve also partnered with different venues across the country and world to host live virtual field trips. My favorites so far include a live Texas llama farm trip and an actual African Hippo Preserve trip.

Source: ISANA Academies Instagram

Q: Did you establish attendance goals for each session and how are you tracking attendance?
A: Our attendance goal fluctuates each week, I consider 20-30 students per session a success in terms of that number being easily manageable. Ideally, our goal is to add at least 20 students each week. In April, our week one attendance was 266 students and by the time we reached our last session in June, we were up to 900-1200 students per week. Attendance is tracked through a shared spreadsheet. At the conclusion of each session the moderator logs daily attendance on the spreadsheet.

Q: What are some challenges you have overcome to get online programming off the ground?
A: Our major challenge was training the staff on the zoom platform and curriculum design. It was very important that program leaders took ownership of their lessons so that the implementation was natural and not forced. We also faced challenges in shifting program leaders’ perspective. It took lots of conversation to guide staff to the realization that everything was the same, we were taking the same program elements and high- quality implementation out of the school site and into a zoom room.

Q: Were there any surprises along the way?
A: The biggest surprise we’ve encountered is the room capacity for zoom. Prior to our first virtual field trip we had never exceeded the 100-person room capacity. Imagine our surprise when district office and site coordinator phones started ringing off the hook with calls from anxious parents trying to access the room. In response, we’ve purchased a zoom subscription which allows a much larger room capacity to avoid the same outcome in the future.

Source: ISANA Academies

Q: How did you prepare and support your staff in developing the distance learning modules?
A: It was a rigorous process spread over several weeks that involved navigating the Common Core Standards Website: locating and unpacking standards, finding materials based on the focal point of the standard, creating a lesson plan, and implementing the lesson plan. This was a major shift for my staff, as before we moved to distance learning all program lessons and activities were created in the district office and disseminated to each site. Once that process was complete, the staff hit the ground running. I am very proud of the way that they have risen to the occasion.

In terms of live lesson delivery, we began with a standard Powerpoint training, a demo lesson provided by the District Level Expanded Learning Staff, after which each program leader conducted a demo lesson for the session they’d been assigned. Each received feedback and presented again until their implementation was perfected. Later we held trainings on indoor and outdoor lighting and sound to ensure that the video quality was high.

Q: Can you provide a link that would allow readers to view an example of one of your modules?
A: EXL LIVE is currently on hiatus until August 18th. We are currently running CAMP ISANA, which consist of an assortment of grade level specific, pre-recorded enrichment activities that can be accessed 24/7. CAMP ISANA also includes live instruction on Tuesday (Performing Arts), Wednesday (Physical Enrichment), and Thursday (Virtual Field Trip). The link below will give access to each of the components previously listed and provide access to EXL LIVE when it returns on August 18th. https://isanaacademies.org/distance-learning/

Q: Can you suggest any resources that may be helpful to afterschool programs seeking guidance on distance learning? (i.e websites, videos, papers, etc.)
A: My inspiration came from google searches on online enrichment programs. I would encourage programs to reflect upon what they do well on campus and how that can be transformed into a virtual setting, that will guide their search and help them to formulate a quality program.

(Temescal recommends: The Statewide Network for New Jersey's Afterschool Communities Virtual Afterschool Resource Guide).

Autrilla “Sheba” Gillis is Director of Expanded Learning at ISANA ACADEMIES, Los Angeles, CA. Her family legacy of Long Beach community service dates back to the 50’s and includes her mother, Sharon McLucas and late community activist grandmother Autrilla W. Scott.

As an educator, Sheba has been a middle school History teacher, curriculum specialist, vice principal and principal. On the County level she has twice been elected as the Co-Facilitator of the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Local Learning Community #8 which provides governance to charter school Expanded Learning programs throughout Southern California and served as a founding member of the CA Charter Schools Association Inaugural African American Charter Leaders Symposium. On the state level, she has served on numerous CA Department of Education Expanded Learning Steering Committees, been featured in numerous training videos disseminated throughout the state, and most recently appoint to the CA Dept. of Education Expanded Learning Policy Committee.

In addition to her work at ISANA Academies, she works closely with the Long Beach Branch of the NAACP, NCNW, Jack and Jill of America – Long Beach Chapter, and Forgotten Images Traveling Museum. Before pursuing a career as an educator, she spent years as an Advertising Executive at the Los Angeles Times and Press Telegram Newspapers. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Educational Leadership while balancing her career and most important role, mother to an amazing 6 year old named Aubree.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Practice Q&A: Distance Learning with High School Youth

By Sam Piha

Being a youth worker is a very difficult job. They face a variety of challenges and dilemmas, as they work with a diverse group of young people. We collected a number of questions from youth workers and promised to engage experts and field leaders for their answers. Below are some of the questions we received and the answers that we sought out from field leaders, content experts and innovative practitioners. If you want to submit your own question, click here.

This blog is part 1 of our Q&A series. Stay tuned as we continue to explore questions from youth workers. (Note: we know that there are many answers to any question. Below, we offer some well-thought-out answers that we received. Because schools and agencies may have specific policies, we
recommend that youth workers share their questions with their immediate supervisor.

Q: Distance learning with high school students (over 1,200) who can choose to attend or not seems overwhelming. Coming up with ways to engage students in order to take attendance will be a challenge to say the least! What do you suggest or can you offer resources that may help with this issue? - Youth Worker, Fresno County, CA

Bill Fennessy, Director of Work-
Based Learning and Community
Partnerships, Think Together
A: "The sudden change to education due to the pandemic has greatly decreased student participation and therefore increased the need for individual student supports, and is and continues to still be a huge challenge for BOTH the Instructional Day and Expanded Learning Programs.

As a real-world example, upon the initial school closures our California After School Safety & Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) high school programs in Compton Unified School District immediately started working with all 4 respective site's administrations in a highly collaborative partnership to reengage the large numbers of "missing" students.

All 4 site's administrators were respectively in complete agreement and highly supportive of ASSETs leadership reaching out to students to create and offer a "Virtual Teen Center" which would be the first step towards reengagement. The goal was to create a safe place and environment with easy access for students to be able to participate. This would allow students to see each other and have conversations as they wish, and also allow for engagement or reengagement with ASSETs staff to continue those relationships. Once students begin attending, their expressed "wants" would then initiate the "student-driven" activities, programs, and classes that would be introduced moving forward.

Source: www.healthblog.uofmhealth.org
For these "missing" students, intentional recruitment had to be a very key strategy, as reaching out to 1,200 students/parents was a more than daunting task. So each separate site's administration determined which specific grade levels/groups/subgroups/etc would be recruited in a then determined prioritized order. This allowed ASSETs staff to break up the task into "recruitment groups" with reasonable student numbers. This also allowed ASSETs staff to map out a reasonable amount of time to complete the task.

Note: Our biggest challenge has been in attaining/securing "parent permission" for the "Virtual Programming" so that students may attend."
- Bill Fennessy, Think Together

Bill Fennessy is Think Together's Director of Work-Based Learning and Community Partnerships. He supports High School ASSETs Programs in collaborating with Career Technical Education Programs at school districts and sites to better support Workforce Readiness and Work-Based Learning activities, with a special focus on internships. Bill is passionate about out-of-school time because he believes in the great potential of Older Youth, and wants to support their dreams by providing opportunities for their greater success. Bill was motivated to join the California Afterschool Network's Leadership Team because he feels this is the next significant step in his over 15 years of being able to serve the Expanded Learning Field as a thought leader, pioneer, innovator, and practitioner.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Re-Opening Programs and More

By Sam Piha

There is a lot of discussion and debate about how and when to re-open schools and youth programs. For youth programs that are located within schools, it is important that afterschool leaders stay abreast of the current thinking on this topic and ensure that any re-opening encompasses youth development values. Because the pandemic situation is very fluid, ideas about re-opening schools are very dynamic.

“As you prepare to welcome students and adults back to school, you face the layered impact of schools closures, the pandemic, racial inequities amplified by nationwide mobilization, and more.”
-CASEL Newsletter, 7/9/20 

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has released a roadmap for re-opening schools. CASEL collaborated with over 40 leading organizations in developing 4 critical practices:

  1. Take time to cultivate and deepen relationships, build partnerships, and plan for SEL.
  2. Design opportunities where adults can connect, heal, and build their capacity to support students.
  3. Create safe, supportive, and equitable learning environments that promote all students’ social and emotional development.
  4. Use data as an opportunity to share power, deepen relationships, and continuously improve support for students, families, and staff.

"As we sit down and really try to figure out what is going to be a long haul of reopening slowly...we're going to need such a different approach to the traditional 'show up and sit in your seat.' We need all partners at the table together."

-Karen Pittman
President & CEO, Forum for Youth Investment

Below we have offered a link to this entire report as well as some other resources. (Because the plans for re-opening is developed locally, it is important that afterschool leaders track their local plans.)


  • Two medical students, Samantha Harris and Devon Scott, recently wrote a children’s book about coronavirus, Why We Stay Home, to help parents communicate with their children about why so many families across the nation have been staying home. For a free download of the book, click here. To access video read aloud, click here. To view an interview with the authors on PBS News Hour, click here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Navigating Summertime Experiences in 2020

By Guest Blogger Dr. Deborah Moroney, AIR

Dr. Deborah Moroney, AIR
Last summer was pretty great. My 13-year-old son took a math class and attended a soccer camp at the local high school, led by the high school team players. My younger son, then age 12, worked stage crew on a youth-led production. Then, in July and August, they went to their favorite place on earth, a YMCA camp in northern Michigan, where they forged lifelong friendships. As the world continues to experience the coronavirus pandemic, this summer will likely be very different, and not just for my children.

As a researcher who has studied out-of-school time experiences, I know just how important these opportunities are for my children and children and youth around the country. Summer is a great time for children and youth to develop and explore their interests—and have fun.

Summertime experiences usually include both structured and unstructured time for learning and development. Structured opportunities include day and residential camps, such as district-led summer learning programs, and specialty camps like the ones offered by the Serious Fun Children’s Network. Children and youth also participate in programs on nature and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); summer school, where they catch up on or dive deeper into core subjects; and sports and recreation programs for physical activities. For older youth, Summer Youth Employment Programs provide practical experience that they can draw on as adults.

Source: AIR
In a typical summer, the demand for structured summertime experiences far outweighs the availability. For youth who live in poverty and/or in rural areas, these issues of access are even greater. This year, when the coronavirus has had a significant effect on our daily lives, summertime programming is a question mark both for families and program providers.

Whether summertime programs can open and operate this summer depends on where they are located, the policies of their parent organizations, and their budgets, which dictate not only what they can offer but also their staffing and other operational necessities. Seasonal hiring by organizations operating summertime programs is risky at best this year.

Many organizations offering summertime programming are dependent on fees or per-participant reimbursements and have been experiencing financial uncertainty during this time. Some organizations have faced the challenge of having to keep select programs open for children of essential workers, while also furloughing significant numbers of staff. Public agencies’ budgets are also tight, and many major jurisdictions have proposed funding cuts to Summer Youth Employment Programs. One bright spot is that corporate sector philanthropic investors—like JP Morgan Chase, a longtime supporter of summer youth employment programs—remain committed financially to quality summertime offerings.

Source: www.clickorlando.com

Support and Resources for Summertime Program Providers
In the midst of these challenges and the general flux of what this summer might be like across the country, here are some resources for those who intend to provide summertime programs in-person, online, or in a digital format.

  • Federal re-opening guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All summertime programs should adhere to these standards.
  • Tip sheets on summertime programs and camps from national organizations like the National Summer Learning Association and the American Camp Association.
  • Evidenced based-strategies, such as those included in this toolkit, so that both summertime programs and schools can ensure all young people have opportunities to learn and develop. Summertime is a critical time for learning and development, now more than ever, and partnerships between summer programs and schools are key. 
  • A list of hands-on activities for children and youth included in this toolkit from 4-H, which is aimed at helping both parents and summertime program providers.
  • State level guidance on summer programs through your local Statewide Afterschool Network. For example, the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network is leading a multi-state project to create a toolkit that will help afterschool professionals support participants’ learning and development.
  • Various resources and support at the city level, such as through organizations like Boston Afterschool and Beyond. In a webinar, Chris Smith, president and executive director of that organization, and I shared findings from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Math report on summertime experiences. We also had a candid conversation about how COVID-19 will affect summertime experiences in Boston.

Dr. Deborah Moroney is the Managing Director, American Institutes of Research (AIR). She specializes in bridging research and practice, having worked as a staff member for out-of-school programs early in her career. She's written practitioner and organizational guides; co-authored the fourth edition of “Beyond the Bell®, A Toolkit for Creating High-Quality Afterschool and Expanded Learning Programs,” a seminal afterschool resource; and co-edited Creating Safe, Equitable, Engaging Schools: A Comprehensive, Evidence-Based Approach to Supporting Students and Social and Emotional Learning in Out-of-School Time Foundations and Futures.  Presently, Dr. Moroney serves as the principal investigator on national studies of afterschool initiatives.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Thinking Outside of the COVID Box: Re-Imagining Summer Camp

By Sam Piha

With the COVID-19 restrictions, we knew that Summer programs would be heavily effected. One organization quickly responded with new innovations to adapt their Summer program to a virtual format. We interviewed the Executive Director of Edventure More (EDMO), Eduardo Caballero, to ask about this. His responses are below. (Note: Camp EDMO was featured in our report entitled, “Promoting SEL and Character Skills in Expanded Learning Programs.”)

Q: Can you provide us with some background information on Camp EDMO?

Eduardo Caballero,
ED, Edventure More
A: Edventure More (EDMO) is a non-profit organization on a mission to make equitable, high-quality learning programs accessible to all communities in order to cultivate curious, courageous and kind humans everywhere. We collaborate with the Education Directors from museums like the California Academy of Sciences and the Greater Good Science Center of UC Berkeley in the design of our curriculum. Our flagship program for 17 years has been Camp EDMO, a STEAM & SEL-focused summer day camp for Pre-K-8th kids. Last summer we served nearly 10,000 kids across 32 locations spanning eight counties in Northern California.

Q: Because face-to-face youth programs are impeded by the COVID-19 epidemic, what innovations did you introduce to address this challenge?

A: On Friday, March 13, 2020, with schools shutting down, kids’ learning suddenly thrust onto parents, and dark clouds forming over summer, we gathered our team and posed the design challenge of a lifetime to them: Can we create a live, interactive virtual camp experience that feels as close to the real thing as possible? Oh, and can we do it in a week? Four days later, the team came back and said, “Yes we can.” By Friday, March 20, exactly one week later, we opened enrollment for a free pilot version of an online camp. By Monday, March 23, we had over 500 kids registered with 1,023 waitlist spots.

Source: Camp EDMO
One of the biggest challenges in flipping our STEAM & SEL programs to the virtual space was designing for multiple home environments. At our in-person camps, we controlled everything about the learning environment. We knew the size of the school classrooms, access to outdoor space, how much material to order, what type of technology to rent or buy, etc. Now, we suddenly had to design a curriculum flexible enough to adjust for a child living in a one bedroom apartment or a three bedroom home with a yard. We had to design a technology curriculum for kids who had access to Mac or PC computers, and those who only had a smartphone or a district-provided Chromebook. We also had to adapt all the things that made camp fun to the online space - rally games, skits, songs, gratitude snaps, dress up days, Friday Pie Days all of it! Our team learned the best way to use Zoom features, tested projects, classroom management techniques and adapted to parent feedback.

Q: How did you price an online Summer program in a way that does not create more inequity in education?

A: In this crisis, we knew parents would be losing their jobs daily and wouldn’t be able to wait months or at best, weeks, to be “approved” for financial aid. The old system of financial aid applications was not going to work. Parents were going to need help immediately and we did not even have the staff to review applications. Did I mention we were forced to lay off 85% of our full-time staff in the middle of that design challenge? Even so, we did not want to create a platform that would only serve people who could afford $15-20 per hour.

Our solution to this design challenge is our biggest innovation to date - Honor System Pricing. It’s a system as old as humanity, yet revolutionary for the times. Here’s how it works in practice. We offer our online Drop-in sessions at $15/hour and our week-long Half/Full-Day Camps at $12/hour. We encourage families who can afford more, to donate. We encourage families who need financial support to apply an Honor Code. You can see what it looks like here.

Our biggest innovation is that equity in education is happening. This new model flips old power paradigms on their heads. The old system is that you, the customer, give us, the organization, money. In turn, we give you a service. The relationship is purely transactional. We, the company, will also make you feel good about your decision by touting that we give financial aid. We decide who is worthy of financial aid. Out of fear of someone abusing our goodwill, we create an elaborate system of financial aid. If you are an applicant, you must first adhere to a strict set of qualification requirements. Then you must fill out an application asking for your income, a teacher recommendation and personal stories to demonstrate that you are more deserving than another poor soul who is also applying. Then while you are experiencing financial hardship, you must wait weeks or months for us to “approve you.” Oh, and guess what? You’re going to have to do this process over and over again to get school lunch, after school programs, food stamps, dance classes or anything else you want to give your child. Have you ever seen the movie, Parasite? The old system is very similar. Poor people competing with each other for the benevolence of the rich over and over and over again. We actually kept our old system up so others can learn from our mistakes.

Our Honor System Pricing model is revolutionary in that we, the organization, have no power. The power is with the people. Parents have the power to make sure their child and ALL children get a high-quality education. EDMO® does not give scholarships or financial aid. We only create a space for families to stand in their values. Rather than a transactional relationship, we create a transformational relationship with our families. Parents decide if they enroll at our regular price or even donate more. Parents decide if they need financial help. Parents decide if a sustainable model of education will survive. This new economic system is based not on fear, but on human dignity, trust and love.

Source: Camp EDMO
Q: In developing a “virtual” version of Summer camp, what is lost and what is gained?

A: What is lost in our new online model is the old system of power and inequity. What is gained is the ability for any child from every socio-economic background, to learn, collaborate and connect with each other instantaneously. A child from East Oakland, California can instantly go to camp with a child from Westford, Connecticut.

What is gained is the potential to start addressing the root causes of implicit bias and racism. What is gained is parents becoming a force for equity and the bridging of the digital divide. What is gained is a new model of education that can fill the learning day gaps for every child once school partially reopens in the Fall.

The capacity to create real meaningful change is boundless. As of the week of June 8th we’ve had kids logging on to our platform from 43 different states and 7 countries including Singapore, Domincan Republic, Japan, Puerto Rico, Canada, Kuwait and India.

What is gained is the potential for nationwide and worldwide equity in education.

Eduardo Caballero is Executive Director of Edventure More. In addition, Eduardo has been active on the SF Department of Children & Youth’s Summer Work Group, The Big Lift collaborative’s Inspiring Summers Workgroup in the Peninsula, the Marin Promise in Marin County and the Oakland Summer Learning Network. He has also represented the Bay Area at summer funding lobbying events at the state capitol through CalSAC. Eduardo contributes to the field as a speaker at local and national summer and afterschool conferences. He has completed the Leadership for Equity & Opportunity (LEO) learning-in-action program and is learning to be a better equity ally every day.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Hey Afterschool Leaders, We've Been Called In

By Guest Blogger Julee Brooks, Woodcraft Rangers
(Note: To read my full article, click here.)

Julee Brooks, Woodcraft Rangers
To me, publicly-funded afterschool programs work to bridge gaps in an inequitable education system, supplementing with quality programs and building power among young people. Afterschool programs empower youth, nurture young talent, even level the playing field, but despite doing this important work daily, the painful truth is that conditions of schools, neighborhoods, and economies just never change.

Trying to rectify inequities in an inherently inequitable system is a Sisyphean task until there is change in the systems themselves. So, we find ourselves, though well-intended, propping up a system that still doesn’t equitably serve all the people in this country. As agency leaders, we are witness to, and work daily against, the pressures, politics and punishments of this inadequate system. We recognize our own vulnerability in the face of scarcity, and we stand on the thin edge of demanding change while fiercely gripping the ground beneath us.

With municipal budget season upon us, agency leaders must stand in solidarity with racial justice movement leaders and take swift action. The values shift in this moment is palpable and budgets are values. But how? With a coalition of 17 afterschool agencies here in Los Angeles, so far, this is what we have done or have learned. (See below for a full list of agencies.)

With the swell of public support, change will be the result of decades of the tireless efforts and sophisticated strategies of Black leaders. We are not here to co-opt but to contribute to ensure codified change in policy that will deliver greater investments to historically under resourced communities —  in education and housing and healthcare, and with them, a more equitable society. If you aren’t connected to racial justice movement leaders already, read, listen, follow. Find your Black Lives Matter chapter or organizations like LA Voice, Community Coalition and the People’s Budget LA. And Listen.

Understand the goals and identify the assets you have to forward them.
In our initial BLM solidarity statement to staff, we asked our Woodcraft Rangers team what actions they wanted from the organization. A site coordinator responded:

“I know very recently we were part of an organized coalition of groups advocating for after-school funding…The lack of adequate funding for social programs in under-privileged neighborhoods is exactly the kind of racial injustice these protests are all about. Given our connections within the city, we have a unique opportunity to catalyze meaningful change through a powerful unified demand for justice and reform.”

My work is always defined by those closest to the work, and I respected him calling me in. Afterschool organizations have valuable assets -- strength of parent, youth and staff voices; privileged access to policy makers and funders; data illustrating success – and we must be ready to leverage them. We began with political pressure.

Source: www.medium.com

The next day, I invited a few colleagues to test their willingness to engage in budget reform and its messiness. Leaders, especially white leaders like myself, need to acknowledge seeking perfection or “handling the politics” is often in service to the system itself, not to those we are charged to serve.
It is budget season in America and the clock is ticking. The next day, I saw a call to action about  People’s Budget LA, calling for public comments at the upcoming LA City Council Budget Committee meeting. It gave us a platform, a deadline and a tactic all in one.

Using the language of organizers is important. However, the frame is easy for afterschool as BLM advocates for an aligned approach of nurturing communities and advocates are vocal that afterschool programs make communities safer. This includes Defund the Police. Potentially uncomfortable, these words are precise and intentional. Using them shows solidarity, against brutality and for community investment.

Within 48 hours, 16 organizations had joined mine to sign onto the letter. With collective strength, leaders didn’t fear political fallout individually, but stood together. A couple of organizations declined deeming the letter “too political”. Frankly, this moment requires moral courage, and I am proud to stand with so many exhibiting it.

Source: www.woodcraftrangers.org
The letter made our case, opened the door and framed the conversation in solidarity. While the next steps are unfolding, it is imperative for leaders who hold positional power, especially white leaders, to push hard, with community organizers who have pushed for so long.

We must continue to pressure decision-makers and the public — a full-court press that, as our staff member pointed out so powerfully, we do when our inadequate dollars to support communities are at stake. Why wouldn’t we do it when lives are at stake? This is a moment of reckoning. For our society where Black lives have not mattered, for systems that have not served Black and Brown children, for leaders who have not been willing to risk their own comfort for the liberation of others.

I, for one, am committed to doing the continual soul-searching this moment requires. To evaluating how I am complicit in upholding systems that oppress. To evolving my understanding of what solidarity means. To taking every next action that is required because Black Lives Matter. I firmly believe that until there is racial justice in this country, we cannot deliver on the promises, no matter how well-intended, we make to the youth we serve.

Afterschool leaders, I am calling you in to join me.

Julee Brooks is the CEO of Woodcraft Rangers, that has served Los Angeles youth since 1922 and currently provides afterschool programs to over 15,000 young people annually. She brings 20 years of experience in service to youth in youth development, arts education and human services. She is a Kentucky native and mother of two boys.

List of Supporting Agencies: Woodcraft Rangers, After-School All-Stars Los Angeles, LA’s Best Afterschool Enrichment, Heart of Los Angeles Youth, Los Angeles Education Partnership, The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health, TXT: Teens Exploring Technology, arc, Para los Ninos, Inner-City Arts, EduCare Foundation, Boys and Girls Clubs of Carson, GAP:Gang Alternative Program, LACER Afterschool Programs, A World Fit for Kids, KYDS, and Team Prime Time Afterschool Programs.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Promoting Youth-Adult Partnerships in the Era of COVID-19

By Sam Piha

Jessica Tseming Fei, Deepa Sriya Vasudevan and Gretchen Brion-Meisels served as editors of At Our Best: Building Youth-Adult Partnerships in Out-of-School Time Settings. We interviewed them to ask about the forming of youth-adult partnerships in the era of COVID-19, social distancing, and distance learning. Their responses are below. (Note: In a future blog we will hear from them on their new book and more about youth-adult partnerships.)

Q: We know that one of OST’s superpowers is promoting positive adult-youth partnerships. With school closures and social distancing, promoting relationships can be very difficult in the era of distance learning. Can you comment on this?
A: Relationship-building in the era of distance learning can definitely be challenging. When we are physically apart from each other, maintaining a sense of togetherness with others requires intentional and robust efforts. This type of effort is necessary, though, for OST programs to continue playing a key role in young people’s learning and growth. Nurturing our sense of connection to people and places –– that represent community and care –– is essential for our mental health and well-being. Although the work can be daunting, this is an important opportunity for us to explore new ways of being in community and operating as collectives. It does take significant initiative, and perhaps a leap of faith, for adults to bring this sense of possibility in relationships to an online setting. For both adults and young people, it can feel strange and surreal to work closely together outside of the shared physical environments of their OST programs, both in continuing relationships and in starting new ones with summer programming.

Yet, with a lot of checking in (individually and with one another) about our experiences and how we can show up for one another, our relationships can become even more responsive and resilient. With creativity and commitment, the principles and practices of relationship-building that anchor our in-person OST settings can be translated into the virtual space. We’re confident that the promotion of relationships can remain a superpower of OST, and become an even more meaningful and purposeful part of our work.
Source: Alyssa Liles-Amponsah

Q: Given the difficulty of developing partnerships between youth and adults when they are interacting remotely, which children are at greatest risk?
A: In some ways, this time mirrors and exacerbates issues of access already happening in programs and schools. Having individual phones, laptops, and reliable internet connection, for example, are critical for continued relationship-building, and there are systemic discrepancies in access when it comes to these utilities.

In this particular time, many children and youth have parents who are essential workers - in healthcare, food, and sanitation. Older youth have had to step up in their caregiving responsibilities to younger siblings and may not feel like they have time to engage in synchronous structured programming or activities. At the same time, they may desire the routines and community that OST spaces provide. As educators, we have to recognize where we fit into the ecosystems of care right now, know that we might play a role in providing essential services, and also honor our roles as social and emotional support providers for our students and their families.

Most young people (and adults!) feel stressed or overwhelmed by the constraints of stay-at-home orders, distancing, and the trauma of lives lost during this pandemic. For youth in particularly vulnerable communities, this can be an even more difficult time, particularly for:  youth with parents working outside the home in essential services or who are themselves working to support their families, youth experiencing mental health issues, illness, and physical disabilities, undocumented and mixed status families who have been excluded from government assistance, queer youth who may not be out or safe at home, incarcerated youth or youth in group homes, youth in uncertain home circumstances (e.g. foster care, domestic violence), and youth of color – particularly African-American youth, whose communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and Asian-American youth, many of whom are experiencing increased violence due to anti-Asian racism and xenophobia.
Source: YMCA of Greater Long Beach

Q: Can you state any strategies that programs are using to maintain and promote relationship building (adult-youth, youth-youth) in the era of COVID-19 restrictions? 
A: At Sadie Nash Leadership Project, a community-based youth organization where Jessica serves as Director of Programs, educators have continued to use rituals like opening circles and games to sustain and deepen the interpersonal relationships between youth. Adults and youth engage together with prompts that invite vulnerability and storytelling—grappling together with topics that range from self-care to family life and coping with grief and loss. Group activities--for example, mindfulness activities, feminist fashion shows, and singing games--continue to create a sense of joy and healing that strengthens the bonds between individuals.

In addition, there are many ways to take collective action while socially distanced, and the processes around these actions can further fortify relationships and solidarities between groups. Throughout Sadie Nash programs, educators facilitate project-based work through which young people can enact their own visions, with support from peers and adults.

Recently, Sadie Nash has leveraged youth-adult partnerships to facilitate wellness events for LGBTQQIA+ college students and communities of color, develop awareness campaigns about the impacts of COVID on youth in foster care and on people experiencing domestic violence, and conduct outreach via social media about the Census. The organization has also expanded relationships by doing more parent/family engagement--offering support to whole households through workshops on financial planning, intergenerational game nights, and small grants that provide emergency financial assistance for basic necessities such as food, groceries, and rent. The overarching strategy has been to lean in to the program’s embeddedness in community--staying present in this collective experience, attuned to the differences in vulnerabilities, and rooted in the values that have long guided the organization.

We are encouraged by the flexibility and nimbleness of OST educators in response to this moment, and by the commitment to partnership-oriented relationships with young people that we have seen. At the same time, we recognize that OST educators and community-based organizations are particularly vulnerable right now, often providing significant physical and emotional labor without having the financial security that should accompany this. Keeping this in mind, we hope that funders understand their role in offering financial continuity and stability for programs that foster partnership. We also hope that adult program staff make intentional space for honest conversations, affirmations, and ongoing team building to buoy one another. For adults, supporting and caring for each other more holistically in these uncertain times can model the kinds of positive relationship-building we aspire to with our young people.
Jessica Fei is the Director of Programs for the Sadie Nash Leadership Project. As an educational researcher and practitioner, she seeks to center the voices and leadership of youth, and to build relationships and communities grounded in authentic care.

Deepa Vasudevan is a visiting lecturer in education at Wellesley College, whose research focuses on the occupational identities and expertise of community-based youth workers, constructions of care work in education, and youth engagement in out-of-school learning experiences.

Gretchen Brion-Meisels is a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, whose work draws on critical participatory action research approaches to understand how schools and communities can become more equitable and loving spaces.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Calling For Racial Equity

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

By Sam Piha

The recent protests demanding racial equity have resulted in many supportive statements from afterschool intermediaries and providers marking a turning point, hopefully, in our country. We were inspired by the rally and march organized by youth at Oakland Technical High School (which is two blocks from my home). It was very successful and well attended- over 15,000 in attendance (read more here about how they did it). Oakland Tech High School has a strong history of student activism. Students from this high school lobbied the California legislature in the early 80’s calling for a holiday to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr- which contributed to a national movement.

Source: Akil Riley, 19, one of the co-organizers of Monday's massive youth-led action against
police violence that started at Oakland Tech. Photo: Darwin Bondgraham, www.berkeleyside.com.

Pedro Noguera, UCLA
“Educators. This is a teachable moment. Don’t be afraid to teach about the meaning of justice and the murder of George Floyd by the police. Our students are watching.” -Pedro Noguera, UCLA

“It is not enough to acknowledge the inequities that exist. Now is the time to direct our collective outrage to create real change.” -Karen Niemi, President & CEO, CASEL

It is important that we educate ourselves and others and serve as allies and lend support to youth to take the lead on this issue. There are many resources being offered by OST organizations. Below are a few resources that may be helpful which were suggested by the California Afterschool Network (CAN).

“The out-of-school time field is one of liberation; it has always been a space fertile for the birthing and development of a future we have yet to behold. A future where the hearts of our children are on fire with possibilities, their minds are filled with images of wonder, their ears are filled with freedom songs and their bodies are FREE. Their bodies are FREE. FREE to live, to grow, to be.”- Isabelle Mussard, JD, Executive Director, CalSAC


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Engaging Youth in the 2020 Election

By Sam Piha

(This blog was authored prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point the decision to re-open schools in the Fall, and afterschool programs, is not yet clear. Thus, at the end of the blog, we list some suggestions on how youth can be involved in the Fall election digitally.)

The 2020 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth and with recent Black Lives Matters escalating efforts, there is no better time for youth to be involved in making a change through the ballot box. We can frame these efforts as “meaningful participation”, “civic engagement”, “youth leadership” or “community service”. There are a number of organizations and initiatives that have designed curriculums, program tools and other materials to assist afterschool providers in their efforts to engage youth in the 2020 election.

Source: Getty Images

Did you know that young people can pre-register to vote at the age of 16-17? I didn’t, until I learned this from some of these materials below. There are a number of ways that youth can be involved in the 2020 election, even if they are not old enough to vote. These include sponsoring a voter registration event, supporting family and friend’s participation, uplifting stories and issues they care about, supporting a candidate’s campaign through volunteering or being part of the election process.

Donny Faaliliu,
After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles
We asked Donny Faaliliu, Director of Leadership and Community Outreach with After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles, how they are planning to engage youth in the 2020 elections. He responded, "After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles plans to engage our high school students through our youth leadership programs. The expectations would be for each school to host informative meetings on campus to educate students to use their voice through the voting process. The Democracy Class curriculum will help us to accomplish this goal. This curriculum is user friendly and the activity plans are easy to follow. It is a great resource for students because it provides valuable information on voter education, registration and the importance of voter turn-out. The webinar trainings were also very helpful and informative on how to best maximize this wonderful resource."

We also learned about how teachers and youth workers can use a video by rapper, Yellopain, entitled, "My Vote Don't Count," which can be viewed by clicking on the image below. 

Source: Yellopain, "My Vote Don't Count"

Below are a number of resources that you can check out:
You can also learn more by exploring these websites:
Digital tools for youth who want to engage in the 2020 election:

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Re-Opening Afterschool: Priorities and Practice

By Sam Piha

We know that young people missed a lot of classroom learning time when schools were closed due to the COVID-19 crisis. We also know that afterschool programs will likely be pressured to help make up for this classroom time that was lost. Afterschool programs may feel pressured to make up for these missed instructional minutes by doubling down on academics. But we know that afterschool programs have something much more important to offer. High quality afterschool programs specialize in positive relationships, safe and supportive environments, and engaging activities. All of these rejuvenating experiences will be essential to get students’ brains re-balanced and ready for learning after an incredibly disruptive spring and summer. We can anticipate that the transition to learning will be particularly hard for students who may be coming from unstable or stressful environments. Afterschool programs can play a vital role in supporting learning and well-being by focusing on their core areas of expertise and experience.
Katie Brackenridge (L) and Dr. Deborah Moroney (R)

On May 18, 2020 we sponsored a webinar entitled, COVID-19 Era- Afterschool’s Whole Child Approach featuring Katie Brackenridge (Turnaround for Children) and Deborah Moroney (AIR). You can view a recording of the webinar here

Katie offered Turnaround for Children's “3-R’s Framework” (Relationships, Routines, Resilience) to describe how we should prioritize our work when we re-open afterschool programs. Below she offered relevant practice examples:

Relationships: For example-

  • Learn about your students’ lives
  • Talk to students one- on- one
  • Check-in with families
  • Run morning meetings/ advisories
  • Loop teachers for more than one year

Routines: For example-

  • Co-create and practice norms and routines
  • Keep it simple- clear instructions, written signs and non-verbal signals
  • Model ways to organize and prioritize tasks 

Resilience: For example-

  • Liberally spread oxytocin with smiles, hugs and laughs
  • Be attuned to individual students’ emotions and reactions
  • Use mindfulness, journaling, movement to calm the brain



Katie Brackenridge joined Turnaround for Children in 2019 as a Partnership Director. Katie has worked in and with schools, school districts and community organizations for her entire career. Before becoming a consultant, Katie was the Vice President of Programs at the Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY). Katie’s work is grounded in her nine-year experience as Co-Executive Director for the Jamestown Community Center, a grassroots youth organization in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Dr. Deborah Moroney is the Managing Director, American Institutes of Research (AIR). She specializes in bridging research and practice, having worked as a staff member for out-of-school programs early in her career. She's written practitioner and organizational guides; co-authored the fourth edition of Beyond the Bell®, A Toolkit for Creating High-Quality Afterschool and Expanded Learning Programs, a seminal afterschool resource. Presently, Dr. Moroney serves as the principal investigator on national studies of afterschool initiatives.

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