Thursday, February 20, 2020

2020 Presidential Candidates: Positons on Afterschool

By Guest Blogger Erik Peterson, Afterschool Alliance

With the 2020 presidential election only 10 months away and primary voting now under way, it is a good time to check in on where the presidential candidates stand on afterschool and summer learning as an issue. As we discussed in our blog last fall, education and childcare has been a popular campaign topic for many candidates, from student loan forgiveness to increasing teacher pay, however several candidates have gone on the record in support of afterschool and summer learning programs as well.

While the nonpartisan Afterschool Alliance does not endorse candidates, we do track their proposals related to support for afterschool and summer learning programs and have summarized the positions of the candidates that have gone on the record in support of afterschool, community schools, summer learning, and wrap around supports for school age children. Read more about the candidates’ (from both parties) positions on afterschool here.

Source: Getty Images
Stay tuned for updates from the campaign trail and review our election toolkit and candidate guide (being updated for the 2020 election).
Erik Peterson joined the Afterschool Alliance in July 2009 and coordinates and advances the Afterschool Alliance’s policy efforts at the federal level by helping develop policy goals and implementing strategies that advance access to quality afterschool programs for all. Erik works to build and strengthen relationships with policy makers and allied organizations to increase public support and funding for quality before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs. Prior to coming to the Afterschool Alliance, Erik worked for the School Nutrition Association (SNA) in the Washington DC, area and as both an AmeriCorps VISTA and staff for the Sustainable Food Center in Austin, Texas.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Teens Advocating for Civic Engagement

By Guest Blogger John Fuentes

What happens when adult allies continue to make authentic youth voice a priority? When High school students in various leadership groups from San Diego to Oakland, CA speak truth to power? When technology becomes a resource for across state collaboration? When young people meet up in Sacramento to speak to legislators about the challenges they’re faced with and how afterschool funding supports overcoming some of these challenges? Answer: a $50M ASES increase with the support of our “TACA”(Teens Advocating for Civic Engagement) youth.

TACA started a little over a year ago when a group of CA3 (California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance) members discussed how powerful it would be to bring more youth voice to the front lines of civic action. Myself, Brad Lupien (ARC), Donny Faaliliu (L.A. All Stars) and Aleah Rosario (CalSac) spent some time during 2018/19 school year unpacking what TACA should look and feel like.

Once a month from October to May in the 2018/19 school year approximately 8 to 12 students from 5 High Schools representing ARC, L.A All-Stars and Bay Area Community Resources (BACR) got on a Zoom chat and discussed issues they were facing in their communities and what action steps they were taking to help resolve some of these issues. With the support of CalSac’s resource guides and the support from afterschool leadership staff, TACA students learned the difference between service and civic action. They learned more about local government and what issues the local officials were passionate about. This work helped support an informed dialogue between TACA students and their local and state officials.

Source: The LA All Stars

We found that the reoccurring challenges students were faced with in their communities were affordable housing, violence, suicide, and lack of equity in education. Whether students were attending JFK high school in southern California or Oakland Tech high school in the Bay Area, these issues were similar. Using Zoom video chats, TACA students had an opportunity to see, hear and learn from other students across the state and know that they were not alone doing work. Students shared ideas, action plans and goals for sustainability and systemic change.

TACA students expressed how cool it was to be able to connect with other students across the state, share their ideas and get feedback. How cool it was to see each other on a Zoom chat once a month and then meet in person for the first time in Sacramento; to know that they played a part in getting the $50M ASES increase because they shared their stories and mobilized.

Now, in year two, TACA has over 25 members from San Diego to Oakland, CA representing 14 high schools and 4 middle schools. Me, Brad, Donny and now Ayala Goldstein (CalSac) continue to support the TACA members as adult allies and coaches. This year TACA is made up of 1-2 students who are part of an existing afterschool leadership group and represent that group during our monthly Zoom chat meetings. The goal is for the two TACA representatives from each school site to join the monthly Zooms and share their learning with their peers and mobilize for Civic Action and change.

Source: ARC

Affordable housing, violence, and education continue to be pressing topics for our TACA youth and their peers and we will continue to support them with their Civic Action goals. We have a few new goals this year which include: Supporting with the 2020 Census, getting people registered to vote and once again showing up in Sacramento on March 9th and 10th for the California Afterschool and Summer Challenge.

If you want to see, hear and learn more about TACA, please check TACA out at this year’s BOOST Conference as they lead a workshop on Thursday April 30th, 3:45-5:30pm entitled "Student- Lead Campaign for Civic Engagement." You can also email me at or Ayala Goldstein at
John Fuentes is a program manager with Bay Area Community Resources in Oakland and Alameda. In addition, John is the lead facilitator for the “Heads Up” Saturday Leadership Academy program at Head Royce School in Oakland and an expanded learning quality support coach and trainer in the San Francisco Bay Area. John is a two-time Alameda Unified School District Salute to Education recipient and a 2018 Region 4-CDE Spotlight on Quality Award recipient. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

What MEANINGFUL Learning and Participation Looks Like In Afterschool

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Why is learning enhanced when it is meaningful? 
Research tells us that if we hope to make a difference in young people’s learning, we need to provide opportunities for learning that is meaningful. If young people are engaged in meaningful participation, they are empowered to be self-directed, make responsible choices about how to use their time, and participate as group members in making decisions that influence the larger program and what they learn about. 
They are also given the opportunity to learn group leadership skills and to assume leadership roles in planning activities and projects. They have opportunities to “give back” by contributing to the program, to other young people, or to their larger community. 

We know that young people experience their participation as meaningful when they report feeling a sense of belonging and ownership in the program. When they are participating in meaningful ways, they feel that their contributions are valued, and, by participating, they “make a difference.” In a program that fosters meaningful youth participation, adults serve as mentors and facilitators to build the skills of the young people. “Fostering meaningful youth participation means providing opportunities for problem solving, decision making, planning, goal setting, and helping others, and involves adults sharing power in real ways with children,” writes Nan Henderson, prevention specialist. 

What MEANINGFUL learning looks like:
  • Young people are involved in activities that are open-ended (e.g. problem solving or unrestricted exploration) and require them to use creativity and draw on their own ideas
  • Young people provide input and make decisions about how they do things (process) and what they do (content)
  • Young people are given frequent opportunities to reflect on, assess and discuss their own progress
  • Young people contribute opinions, ideas, and/or concerns to discussions
  • Young people take on leadership or service responsibilities and roles
  • At some point, all groups of young people explore, share, and celebrate their heritage and culture with others
  • Young people are involved in activities that are relevant to their own experiences and are connected to the real world 

Photo Source: Stacey Daraio, Temescal Associates

Three things you can do right now to promote meaningful participation:
1. Explore and assess: It is important that you take the time with your staff to explore and assess your alignment with this meaningful principle.

2. Encourage self-reliance and responsibility to the group: Allow young people to responsibly address their own needs, whether it is access to the drinking fountain or to art supplies. Design your program space and storage system in a way that allows young people free access to needed project supplies, materials and equipment. The privilege of access comes with responsibilities of caring for and returning things to their proper place. Brainstorm the needed agreements with your group to ensure the respectful use of these materials. 

3. Incorporating the Interests of Young People: Regardless of the teaching and learning methods you employ, it is important to incorporate young people’s interests in your program. You may want to survey the young people in your program about their interests, and then work to incorporate opportunities to learn academic and life skills into activities that reflect these interests.

You can build on learners’ existing knowledge and skills. When introducing a new topic or project, begin by allowing young people to show what they already know. There may be some true “experts” among them. By building off the momentum of their knowledge and prior experiences, you can help them both test and deepen their present understanding. Equally as important to designing programs with young people’s interests in mind, is ensuring that programs are relevant to the learners. It is crucial that staff understand young people’s life contexts, including their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and have the flexibility to design programs that are relevant to participants.

To learn more see our Youth Development Guide 2.0. This 165- page guide is available as a free download or can be ordered as a spiral bound, hard copy.

YD Guide 2.0

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Making Way For Play: The Benefits For Kids, Older Youth And Adults

Source: A World Fit for Kids!
By Sam Piha

In a previous post, Is Play a Waste, we made the case that now is the time to reexamine the value of play, educate our stakeholders, and be unashamed to make play an important part of our afterschool programs. Below we open the door to this by explore some of the benefits of play and resources that may be useful.
Many afterschool programs prioritize an extension of academics and homework completion over organized play, free play, and physical activity.   
- The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds (1)

The Benefits of Play
According to experts “play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.” (2)
The gift of imaginative free play has been getting the short end of the stick for some time…play does not exclude learning. Play is the essence of learning and we have the research to back it up…We need to get this concept back into circulation with the mainstream that play is the highest form of learning!  
25 Quotes about the Importance of PLAY by Jayne Clare (3)
Rebecca Fabiano is Founder of FAB Youth Philly, which supports organizations and individuals that work with children and youth by focusing on improving program quality and providing professional development for staff. FAB Youth Philly also works directly with teens. In a newsletter, Rebecca wrote, “There's been so much interest in the last few years in the various ways that play can positively impact children's learning and their overall health and well being.  Play is so important that this report from August 2018 describes the ways in which doctors have begun to 'prescribe' play to their patients. ‘Play is not frivolous,’ the report says. Rather, research shows that play helps children develop language and executive functioning skills, learn to negotiate with others and manage stress, and figure out how to pursue their goals while ignoring distractions, among other things.”

Is Play Good for Older Kids? 
We tend not to give older kids a chance to play. When I taught 6th grade, my students loved visiting the kindergartners - not to be helpers or mentors, but to get a chance to play with the building blocks and other play things. In teens, we see play take different creative forms – theater, project-based learning, making beats, adventure challenges, etc. 

Clockwise: YMCA of Greater Long Beach; Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center;
Youth Radio; and Spotlight: Girls

Hilary Conklin was a middle school teacher and is now an associate professor in the college of education at DePaul University in Chicago, where her research interests include the preparation of middle school social studies teachers. She writes, “One of the casualties of current education reform efforts has been the erosion of play, creativity, and joy from teenagers’ classrooms and lives, with devastating effects… And while play has gotten deserved press in recent months for its role in fostering crucial social-emotional and cognitive skills and cultivating creativity and imagination in the early childhood years, a critical group has been largely left out of these important conversations. Adolescents, too—not to mention adults, need time to play, and they need time to play in school…purposefully infusing play into middle and high school classrooms holds the potential for a more joyful, creative, and educative future for us all—a future in which kids have more interesting things to do in school than count down to summer break.” (4)

Is Play Good for Adults, too?
In a recent newsletter, Rebecca Fabiano writes, “The importance of play for children is well documented. Now researchers are turning their attention to its possible benefits for adults. What they’re finding is that play isn’t just about goofing off; it can also be an important means of reducing stress and contributing to overall well-being. This 2017 article from the Washington Post goes on to talk about why play is important for adults too.
We're sharing a link to a toy we use a lot in our staff meetings and trainings with adults and teens (see photo of the cubes below). They are so popular we've lost several cubes at some of our meetings and trainings. This is just one way you can encourage play or playfulness with adults.”
Source: Learning Resources
Rebecca goes on to offer a few “easy and low cost/free ideas to try:

  • Ask staff to bring in a baby photo- hang them up and have everyone try to guess who the babies are.
  • Have staff work together on a scavenger hunt.
  • Have a dance off during lunch time!
  • At your next staff meeting have one of the staff lead one of their favorite childhood games.
  • Put out a puzzle in a shared space and encourage people to work on it together.”

A Few More Resources 
There are many resources on the topic of play. We cite a few below. 


The power of play – Part 1-5: This is a 5-part series from Michigan State University The Power of Play 

The Genius of Play has created easy to use activities, provides expert advice and more. And it's all FREE for anyone to use.

Videos: There are many TED talks and other videos on play. Below are some that we like. 
TED Talk by Stuart Brown entitled “Play is more than just fun” 

TED Talk by Peter Gray entitled “The decline of play

Monday, January 20, 2020

A Tribute to Mary Jo Ginty

By: Sam Piha

We were very saddened to hear of the passing of Mary Jo Ginty. Mary Jo served at Los Angeles County of Education (LACOE) as CDE’s Region 11 Lead for Expanded Learning Programs in Los Angeles County for over 12 years. She led a unit that provided training and technical assistance to the 1300+ school sites providing after school programs funded through the Afterschool Education and Safety Program (ASES) and/or 21st Century Community Learning Center grants. She was a tireless advocate for young people and leaders of afterschool programs. Mary Jo believed that after school programs have the potential to assist youth to gain the skill sets, tools, and knowledge and have the experiences necessary to make a life for themselves and their families. Prior to her leadership of Region 11, Mary Jo was the owner of a successful consulting firm, a high school teacher, high school principal, college professor, lobbyist, and community organizer.

Mary Jo Ginty

We had the pleasure of working with Mary Jo over the last decade and below are some comments from afterschool leaders who worked alongside her.

Mary Jo was so incredibly dedicated to the Expanded Learning field, and she was always extremely supportive of those doing the great work.  Her leadership and influence is found, and will continue to impact the Expanded Learning field all over California, not just in Region 11.  However, her work in Region 11 was more than exceptional and effective, which is truly remarkable when you factor in the exponential number of programs she served.  She was an amazing force and a truly great friend, so her passing is a loss to the field and a great personal loss for me.  Godspeed Mary Jo!

BOB CABEZA, YMCA of Greater Long Beach
I have known Mary Jo for over 20 years. She was a dear friend and a warrior in the fight to serve and support disenfranchised youth of color. When she worked for the Conservation Corps, she helped hundreds of these youth get their GED’s and move on to college. She carried on that mission of moving youth out of poverty through education as an After School Advocate at LACOE. She never wavered from her mission nor passion. She was wise, patient, kind and so very full of humor. I will miss you my friend, but I’ll see you again in that meadow in the forest.

STACEY DARAIO, Temescal Associates
I’m thinking about MaryJo’s daughter, Savannah. I’m thinking of the many conversations MaryJo and I had about the children we parent. The intersection of youth development and parent development. I’m thinking of the many roles she played and the authenticity with which she played them. I’m thinking of the way she frustrated and inspired and spurred dialogue – always with the intent of making us see how we got in the way of the work. I’m so deeply and profoundly affected by MaryJo’s passing. I’m thinking that she’d kick my *ss and tell me to get back to work.

JENNIFER PECK, The Partnership for Children and Youth 
I so appreciated her extreme honesty, in every situation I ever saw her in. She was never afraid to speak up about what she thought was best for programs and kids, no matter what.  Mary Jo also liked to gossip which you had to love about her, because she so often said kind things about others and when she didn’t, she was probably right!  She was so generous with her invaluable advice and guidance over the years – I will miss her presence and wisdom and her deep kindness and caring.  I am grateful to have known her.

MICHAEL FUNK, California Department of Education
Mary Jo Ginty was a force for good and a warrior for kids. She would always ask me hard questions, and she would then listen closely to my thoughts. That made for many memorable, authentic and generative conversations. MJ was also strongly committed to her own personal growth. In the last couple of years, I watched her challenge herself and join our entire System of Support for Expanded Learning as we embarked on a journey of social and emotional growth together. I will miss her profoundly.

From making sure children’s art decorated the halls of BOOST to relentlessly connecting with line staff to ensure their professional development needs were being met, Mary Jo left a fingerprint on our field that will never be forgotten.  She was a friend, a mentor and one of the strongest social justice warriors I have ever met.  She will be deeply missed.

EDUCARE Foundation
Mary Jo’s brilliance and magnitude of influence goes beyond words.  Her energy, commitment, and kindness ignited the best in each of us and lifted the lives of thousands of young people. Being with Mary Jo was like being in a powerful force field of love in action.  How fortunate for us all to have been touched by her dynamic presence and inspired by her life of heartfelt service.

It’s not easy to share thoughts about Mary Jo and keep it brief because there’s so much to say about her. I considered Mary Jo to be a great role model and mentor because she was one of the most passionate, committed and inspiring champions for young people, as well as the adults who work with them. Whenever I had any questions or challenges, she was my go-to person because she was always willing to assist, and she did so with a smile on her face and an answer or suggestion that was just what was needed. I came to know and admire her even more as a Co-Chair of the CA Afterschool Network because of her impeccable clarity of vision, purpose and direction. We have lost an amazing human being who will be missed by so many, but we are forever touched by who she was and who she will continue to be in our hearts. Thank you, Mary Jo, and God bless you on your new journey!

JOHN HAN, Beyond the Bell LAUSD
As many of us process the loss of our dear friend MaryJo, I am reminded about how precious life is, and how people come in and out of our lives. In the business of education, one comes across hundreds if not thousands of people throughout one’s career. Some leave a lasting impression, while others not so much. MaryJo, was one that left a large footprint, not only in me professionally, but personally as well. From the moment I met MaryJo, I knew she was someone who cared not only about students, but the people that served them as well. She was an amazing teacher and I always learned from her. READ MORE.

We lost a giant and it hurts. Mary Jo made a significant impact on all of us in so many ways, personally and professionally. Her passing is a momentous loss to everyone that knew her. Her contributions to the Expanded Learning field will be one of her greatest legacies. It is fair to say, she taught us so many valuable lessons along the way.

As many of you know Mary Jo was chosen as our 2020 BOOST OSTI Award winner for the trailblazing contributions that she made to our field. We were so excited to honor Mary Jo in front of her peers at the BOOST Conference and recognize her for the tireless love and commitment she made to Expanded Learning programs. She deserved to be on the stage in all the glory as she planned for her retirement in October 2020 and to celebrate her immense legacy. As a field and community, we still plan to honor Mary Jo on the stage on Wednesday, April 29 that the BOOST Conference. Behind the scenes, we have been collecting video testimonials and photos of Mary Jo over the years that will result in a video tribute to honor Mary Jo. This video will live on as a special memory of LOVE for her family, for Savannah, and as an inspiration to the field to carry on Mary Jo’s legacy.

We hope that you will contribute a 15-20 second video tribute to honor Mary Jo, feel free to use the prompts below. You can also send photos to be included in the video.

Option 1

We are offering an opportunity with a professional videographer immediately following the LACOE Advisory meeting on January 24, 2020 in Room 610, located just inside the entry of the building and on the way to and from the meeting room. Please sign up for your timeslot here

*Deadline to sign up, January 15, 2020.

Option 2

Please email your video submission and/or photos to Gabriela Delgado by 5pm Jan. 25, 2020.
Prompting Questions for Tributes 
Sample prompting questions below- you can answer as many as you like or create your own.

  • A favorite memory with Mary Jo
  • What you loved most about Mary Jo
  • How Mary Jo has influenced/impacted your life/program/career
  • The greatest lesson Mary Jo has ever taught you
  • Your favorite quality about Mary Jo
  • Funniest story about Mary Jo

Go Fund Me
Another lasting legacy that Mary Jo has left behind is being a mother to Savannah. She took great pride in loving and raising her daughter, Savannah. Right now, we are trying to navigate next steps and determine what support is needed to make sure Savannah has everything she needs to be aided through this loss. We have set up a Go Fund Me page to assist Savannah financially in the short term. We hope that you will consider giving back the same way Mary Jo always did for all of us.

Flowers can be sent to Savannah Ginty at 5224 E Daggett St, Long Beach, CA 90815. A Celebration of Life will be held January 26th. For more information contact

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Afterschool Ignored in the 2020 Political Conversation

Guest Blogger, Dr. Gil Noam

Dr. Gil Noam
The election season is upon us. As a researcher in the field of education, I pay close attention to the ways education and youth development are discussed and framed on large policy platforms. This year, I have noticed one area consistently neglected in these high-profile discussions: educational settings that care for school-aged children and adolescents beyond the school day. These spaces are often referred to as afterschool programs, out-of-school time, summer experiences, or extended education.

This year, the Democratic candidates have largely focused their talking points on health care, immigration, trade, and gun violence with education in the periphery. When education came up in the first five debates, the most discussed issues were universal pre-K and tuition-free public colleges and universities. Some candidates also argued for raising teacher salaries and increasing funding for low-income students and schools.  But every family in this country has to figure out what to do when school is out and how to pay for high quality and safe environments for learning and care.

Source: Getty Images

Some Democratic candidates have more detailed platforms that include expanded learning opportunities. For example, Bernie Sanders has proposed spending $5 billion annually to expand summer and afterschool programs and youth centers in particular. Elizabeth Warren’s platform includes investing $100 billion over ten years to restore and implement in-school and out-of-school programs. Amy Klobuchar also has had a record of speaking up in favor of increasing access to afterschool programs and community hubs. On the other side of the political aisle, President Trump’s campaign platform does not specifically mention afterschool programming, but his administration did attempt to cut the only federal funding stream dedicated to afterschool and summer programs (21st Century Community Learning Centers) on three occasions. 

I believe that out-of-school time should be treated with the same attention as current education hot topics like pre-K and college tuition costs. Often times, when politicians debate over resource allocation or ways to increase the quality of education, they focus on the start and end of a child’s educational journey (i.e. universal pre-school and college access). This approach often overlooks the many opportunities that could be improved upon in elementary, middle, and high school years. For example, the three months of vacation between each school year can lead to “summer slide,” which denotes the loss of academic gains during the summer months when young people are often less engaged with academic material.  Also, the opportunity divide during the summer between children who grow up in poverty and those who have affluent parents is enormous.

Candidates in any party would be well-served by putting more emphasis on this topic. Unlike debates surrounding healthcare or gun regulations, it is not a matter of taking away or replacing something, but rather about the expansion and supplementation of new programs. There are more than 30 million families with children under the age of 18 in America, with the majority being employed. The workday does not correspond with the school day and that is a very serious matter. Many of these voters are in essential primary and swing states and know whether a leader takes their situation seriously. Ultimately, this is a low-risk, high-yield topic, and it’s time to give it the deserved place on the debate floor. If you don’t discuss your plan, you will be seen as being out of touch with a very significant need of every family in our nation. READ MORE

Gil Noam, Ed.D., is the founder and director of The PEAR Institute (Partnerships in Education and Resilience) at Harvard University and McLean Hospital. The PEAR Institute is a translational center that connects research to practice and is dedicated to serving “the whole child-the whole day.” An Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School focusing on prevention and resilience, Dr. Noam trained as a clinical and developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst in both Europe and the United States. Dr. Noam has a strong interest in translating research and innovation to support resilience in youth in educational settings.

2020 Presidential Candidates: Positons on Afterschool

By Guest Blogger Erik Peterson, Afterschool Alliance With the 2020 presidential election only 10 months away and primary voting now unde...