Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Practitioners Speak Out: Serving the Needs of Immigrant Youth

By Sam Piha

On October 7, 2017, we published a blog post on the issue of supporting immigrant families and their children in afterschool. We want to follow this up by hearing directly from youth practitioners from Educators For Fair Consideration (E4FC) that specialize in serving this population. E4FC empowers undocumented young people to achieve educational and career goals through personal, institutional and policy transformation.

Since 2006, E4FC has helped undocumented young people pursue education and careers that create new, brighter futures for them, their families, and their communities. They are building power and change to fulfill on this country’s ideal of opportunity for all. 


Photo Credit: E4FC
Below are responses from E4FC staff member, Grace, a Community Education Fellow that works directly with undocumented students at a local high school. We also include the responses of Estefania, the Community Education Coordinator for E4FC. 

Q: We know that many of our afterschool programs in California are serving immigrant youth - youth who are undocumented or who have family members who are undocumented. Can you briefly describe what kinds of issues and needs that afterschool practitioners should be aware of?

GraceThere are several things that youth organizations need to be aware of:
  • The program needs to be responsive to current events and changes made to legislation
.
  • Courtesy: take care not to not make any judgmental/triggering statements regarding this topic.

  • Privacy: be extra careful when communicating with students. Ask if they are feeling comfortable and if they would prefer other methods of communication/service (e.g. when other students are present around the vicinity)
.
  • Students who were able to benefit from DACA and are currently still eligible to work, are working to support their families. This limits their afterschool participation. 

  • Family responsibilities and expectations: it is important to also address the parent needs and concerns. (Being out late, transportation to their house, parents being scared to drive to pick up their child after certain hours, etc.). 

EstefaniaBe aware of the joking and poking that happens in schools. Create a close to zero tolerance space for immigration jokes. For many students, it is not a joke. Also, be aware of the conclusions many undocumented students are coming up with through their time in the educational system. Residents and undocumented students with undocumented parents might conclude that higher education is not an option for them. 

Q: Can you offer any advice to afterschool workers serving younger children on what they can do better to support their needs? 

Grace: Make them feel welcomed and promote a sense of belonging. It is important that the school and afterschool program are safe zones for everyone and all students are given equal rights regardless of their race, gender, religion, status, and/or beliefs
. If anyone is making discriminating or hateful speech about immigrants/undocumented, if appropriate, approach them one-on-one to share what some immigrants may face. (There may be some limitation for them to understand everything but they may be able to understand some)
.

There should be a shuttle program to address the concerns of families who do not have a driver’s license. 


Estefania: First advice is to create a zero tolerance space regarding immigrant jokes. Second, provide a space to give educational training for the parents, and/or conduct home visits. Ensure that each student has some understanding of California Laws that protect them and their parents. 


Photo Credit: E4FC

Q: Can you offer any advice to afterschool workers serving older youth on what they can do to better support their needs? 

Grace: Make them feel welcomed and promote a sense of belonging. 
It is important that the school and afterschool program are safe zones for everyone and all students are given equal rights regardless of their race, gender, religion, status, and/or beliefs
.

Depending on setting or group, it may be beneficial to share some struggles that immigrants may have gone through to reach their destination (i.e leaving behind jobs and/or families) and issues that they continue to face in America (i.e. cultural and social adjustments, discrimination against immigrants and “non-white/non-American” status)


Share your own experience, and listen, listen, listen to what the students say. They need someone to listen to them without fear of judgement. 



Estefania: Similar to the advice above, ensure students understand the law and the policies that establish their rights in the United States. Bring speakers into the classroom so students gain perspective on the lives of other people.

Q: Should afterschool programs work to serve immigrant youth through common activities? Or specific activities that are tailored to immigrant youth? 

Grace: I think both are good. Educational activities are important for everybody. They can include issues like why hate/discrimination is wrong. Why making assumptions or judgmental statements can be hurtful even when not meant to be.


Specific activities might include healing circles. They can be general (e.g. anyone who has felt discriminated, or particular groups who have felt social and structural discrimination) or specific to the undocu-community
.

Estefania: I would invite you to look from the "both/and" model. Include youth in common activities, and also create space for specific activities. It would be ideal to create a space with undocumented students and allies sharing the same information. In this way, undocumented students can sense the amount of community who have their backs. 


Photo Credit: nationalpost.com

Q: Can you recommend any activities that they can incorporate into their programs?

Grace: Activities that promote community building and that involve teamwork are good. Consider activities that allow students to have closer understanding of the struggles that the individuals may face.


Q: Can you recommend any organizations or resources that might serve to educate after school workers about the needs of this population?

Grace: 


Estefania: Yes, I recommend a couple of resources from E4FC and others: 

In these two guides, you will find other links to great resources.

Q: Can you recommend any organizations that program leaders might contact to learn more?

EstefaniaI recommend reaching out to United We Dream. They also do a lot of work with educators. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

#100Kmasks Challenge

By Sam Piha

The Ever Forward Club (Oakland) works with boys and young men to promote greater self awareness and awareness of others - both critical components to social emotional learning and character building. Their efforts include work in schools and trainings of educators and youth workers. They were also featured in a documentary entitled The Mask You Live In. 

Ashanti Branch, Founder and Executive Director of the Ever Forward Club, was a featured presenter and workshop leader at the recent How Kids Learn VII conference in Oakland, CA. 
Darius Simpson

The Ever Forward Club has launched a #100Kmasks challenge. Below is an interview with Darius Simpson, Program Officer at the Ever Forward Club, about this challenge which can involve both adults and youth.

Q: Can you say a little bit about the Ever Forward Club?

A: Ever Forward aims to address the underlying causes of dropouts, the growing achievement gap of inner-city youth and youth violence in a preventive manner. The Ever Forward Club is a mentoring and youth development program for young men in grades 6-12. We have 3 programs, Ever Forward Club, Ever Forward Professional Development, and Ever Forward Experiences. 

Ever Forward is featured in a documentary called, The Mask You Live In (view the trailer below), which is an exploration of American Masculinity and how the hyper-masculine narrative of what it means to be a man, is failing our boys. 



Q: Can you describe the #100Kmasks challenge? 

A: The #100kMasks Challenge is a resource we provide to give a brief introduction to the larger work of the organization. With this challenge, we are connecting 100,000 people around the world to show that we are not alone in what we are going through. Students, parents, educators, families, employers, can all take advantage of this tool to build a deeper connection through taking the steps in this exercise. Our work is centered around young men, the #100kMasks cards are a way for us to reach more than just the youth we work with directly. 



Q: Why was this challenge created?

A: Ever Forward was featured in the documentary about American masculinity detailing the toxic ways we define and teach masculinity to our youth. Following the premiere of the documentary, The Mask You Live In, we began traveling all over the country with our signature 'Taking off the Mask' workshop. We wondered how we could make this work more impactful especially for those communities who could not afford to hire us. So using some of our design thinking principles learned at the Stanford D.school, we prototyped, tested and launched the mask card and set a goal of 100,000 masks. So far, we've found that, no matter the age or gender when people see each other's masks, it resonates and there's a community formed from that connection. 

Q: What is the significance of the "Mask"?

A: A mask is a metaphor representing what we allow the world to see about ourselves. We all wear masks for different reasons, at Ever Forward we don't believe the mask is an inherently bad thing. Sometimes a mask is necessary to survive, get from one place to the next. What we've found is that when people,  young men specifically, don't have a space to take off their masks and deal with what’s really happening for them, the mask becomes a part of them. That's where the conversation about what is living in what we call "the back of the mask" comes into our workshops and circles. 

Q: How can people get involved? For those who work with youth, how can they involve their youth?

A: We set a big goal and we really need the community's support in reaching our 100,000 mask goal. Folks can visit 100kmasks.com to let us know how many youth they work with and we can provide them with the tools to take them through the #100kMasks Challenge. We can also be reached @everforwardclub on all social networks. Please follow us, help connect us with people who we can partner with and who may be interested in funding this work. 

Q: The Expanded Learning 360°/365 collaborative is focused on promoting social emotional learning and character building and has defined this using three areas: We Are (self-awareness, self-management), We Belong (social awareness, interpersonal skills), We Can (self-efficacy, growth mindset). How does your mask exercise and workshop address these three areas? 

A: The Ever Forward Club was started to provide a safe space for young men to build connections in a brotherhood and to grow into men of character by helping them to develop healthy social-emotional tools. The work that Ever Forward - Siempre Adelante does with the Ever Forward Club, the Taking Off The Mask workshop and the #100kMasks Challenge is directly related to the areas that the collaborative has highlighted. 
http://partnerforchildren.org/selinelp/

We Are
: We help people see their individual unique selves and acknowledge 
what are the parts of themselves that they allow the world to see. Once they acknowledge this, they can see those things that they are perhaps not dealing with. 




http://partnerforchildren.org/selinelp/

We Belong: Once individuals recognize that they are not the only ones who are going through challenges, it helps them to more deeply connect to belonging to their own humanity and connection to others. 






http://partnerforchildren.org/selinelp/
We Can: I think that once people realize through our workshops or through seeing other masks in this campaign the encouragement is that they can make it, they can overcome the challenges that they face and most importantly they are not alone.

The social-emotional learning framework is so rich and sometimes young people and adults have one or two areas well organized and contextualized, but there are some of the areas that are in need of support and assistance. Our campaign is not designed to focus on any one area in particular, but we find that it helps individuals come alive to a deeper knowledge of themselves. 


——
Darius Simpson is an award-winning spoken word artist born in Akron, Ohio. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Eastern Michigan University. Darius uses poetry as a tool of healing, informing, and challenging his audience. His work was also featured in the film, Finding the Gold Within, a documentary by Karina Epperlein on what it means to be a young black male in America. Currently, Darius lives in Berkeley, CA and works as the Project Manager for the Ever Forward Club's #100kMasks Challenge. Before moving to Berkeley, Darius participated in several screenings and conferences, sponsored by Temescal Associates.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Future of Afterschool

By Sam Piha

As we look forward, we asked several national afterschool leaders to share their thoughts on the future of afterschool. Below are some of their responses.


Photo Credit: NHP Foundation
Q: When considering the future of the afterschool movement, what challenge do you see ahead and how should afterschool stakeholders respond to this challenge? 

Pedro Noguera,
UCLA 

Pedro Noguera: The primary challenge facing those who recognize the importance of after school learning is to make sure that what we offer to children is consistently of high quality. If we want to have an impact on academic and developmental outcomes, quality will be essential.





Dale Blyth,
University of MN

Dale Blyth: In my view, the future holds two major challenges for our field -- how to resource it and how to build the capacity and expertise of the work force. The first will require us to more directly meet the challenge of getting and better using data on outcomes, especially social-emotional outcomes, to both improve what we do and to make the case for resources to do it well. The second requires us to challenge each other, to expect more of ourselves and our staff with respect to quality process and intentional practices that move beyond activity management.  


Eric Gurna,
LA's BEST
Eric Gurna: I think our biggest challenge is always to help people to see the critical value of what we do. One way to respond to that is by investing in quality evaluation, so we can show the evidence of tangible outcomes. But equally important is that we engage others to tell our story. It's not enough that leaders in the field are vocal about the importance of the after school movement - we need prominent elected officials, business and civic leaders, artists, athletes and celebrities to speak up as well. 

Another challenge we face in California is the silos we work in, usually based on funding streams. If we can reach across these arbitrary boundaries and build solidarity with everyone who cares about our most vulnerable kids and families, we can raise the profile of the work and create more integrated support systems. I believe we need to collaborate more closely with other closely related fields - early childhood education, juvenile justice, child welfare, etc., so we can go beyond competing for funds and attention and build a movement to create a more child-centered culture.


Chris Smith,
Boston After School & Beyond

Chris Smith: Stakeholders should see change as an opportunity to refresh its appeal and reveal a sector that is both unified in its values and equipped with convincing evidence that a diverse approach to helping young people is also a resilient, adaptable, and scalable one.

Q: As afterschool programs evolve, what do you think are important topics or program innovations that we should be thinking about in the future? 

Dale Blyth: From my perspective, the programs that will grow and succeed in the future are those that have intentional social-emotional learning processes and outcomes they work toward and the types of people who can live them as well as excite youth in topical content areas. These programs may or may not have specific content areas such as the arts or STEM but they will definitely have deliberate ways they work with youth to develop a range of competencies. Content may be king in schools but it should only be a vehicle for good youth development - not the destination.


Eric Gurna: Honestly I think that innovation is overrated. We have so many tried and true practices and programs that are woefully under-resourced. While precious resources are focused on the next new thing, the next pilot project that will likely never achieve scale, we limp along trying to sustain evidence-based practices that have big impact when executed with quality. That said, we are embracing trauma-informed practice, and are engaging in new collaborations to enable LA's BEST to improve and expand how we cultivate emotional health and overall wellness for all our communities. That's exciting and important work, as relevant as it could be in today's social and political climate.

Chris Smith: We should consider the skills that are at the intersection of education, youth development, and college and career readiness. We will find that we share priorities with those outside of the afterschool sector. Taking a step back to consider the long-term outcomes of our work will prompt us to be creative in organizing where, when, and with whom young people are learning. It will open up new alliances and require us to examine how well we are doing and what we need to do to get even better.   


-------------------
Pedro Noguera, PhD 
is Distinguished Professor of Education
 at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies

Dale Blyth, Ph.D. is Extension Professor Emeritus and Sr. Research Fellow, Center for Applied Research & Educational Improvement College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota.

Eric Gurna is President & CEO of LA's BEST After School Enrichment Program.

Chris Smith is Executive Director of Boston After School & Beyond.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

9 of our Favorite LIAS Blogs of 2017

By Sam Piha 

In 2017, we published 43 blog posts. These included interviews with afterschool leaders, guest blogs, and commentary posts. Below are 9 of our favorite interviews and guest posts. 


Youth Voice: SFUSD Students Attend the Women's March in DC 
(February 2017)

Afterschool program leaders and youth workers do a good job of speaking on behalf of the youth they serve. However, we also think it is important to hear directly from youth. Thus, we will endeavor to dedicate a portion of this blog space to hearing directly from youth. Read more.


You Matter. Your Staff Matters. with Rebecca Fabiano 
(May 2017)

Research has shown that one of the top three reasons why youth stay in after school programs is because of their connection to the staff. YOU MATTER. YOUR STAFF MATTERS. Read more.

Afterschool Change Maker: An Interview with Sylvia Yee, Part 1
(June 2017)

Sylvia Yee, Vice President of Programs at the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, recently retired. Ms. Yee, who joined the Haas Jr. Fund in 1993, had a profound impact on the afterschool and youth development movement in the San Francisco Bay Area and the state of California. She was a strong believer in the importance of schools working closely with the communities they serve, and the power of public and private partnerships. Read more


Mindfulness Trickle Up - From Afterschool to School with Katarina Roy Schanz 

(June 2017)

We have been promoting the use of mindfulness techniques in afterschool to address the self care of youth workers and the needs of youth participants. Mindfulness is well aligned with social emotional learning (SEL). Read more


What's the Evidence? with Eric Gurna 
(August 2017)

When the president's budget director announced drastic proposed cuts to the 21st Century Community Learning Center program as well as other critical supports for families living in economic distress, he said, "There's no demonstrable evidence they're actually helping results." While there has been a great bipartisan outpouring of support for after school since that moment, I think that we as a field need to do better at demonstrating how our programs really do make a difference, for both kids and families. Read more.



"Taking Off the Mask": Working with School-Age Boys with Ashanti Branch 
(September 2017)

What does it mean to be male? There are many messages that are absorbed by boys and young men - some of which are useful and others that are destructive. Read more





WINGS For Kids: Promoting SEL in Afterschool, Part 1 with Julia Rugg
(October 2017)

Report after report tells us that too many kids in low-resource neighborhoods fare worse in overall education and life outcomes than their peers in higher-resourced areas. And while we know that social-emotional skills help narrow this tragic gap, we also know that classroom teachers often do not have the time, resources, or training to focus directly on helping students develop social-emotional skills during the regular school day. Read more.


The Gender Context with Lynn Johnson 
(October 2017)

The modern afterschool movement was built around the concept of "all": all youth deserve expanded learning opportunities; all youth have common needs for developmental support and opportunities. This notion of "all" was an improvement over the idea of "some": afterschool programs designed to serve "those kids" or "at-risk kids". Read more.  



Trauma-Informed Practice, Part 1 with Dr. Marnie Curry 
(November 2017)

It is very difficult to promote social emotional learning and character building among youth who have suffered trauma. We know that many of the young people we serve have been affected by trauma - trauma through abuse, through violence in their community, bullying, the threat of deportation, discrimination against LGBTQ youth, racial oppression, and other experiences. How can we be sensitive to and better serve the needs of these youth? Read more.