Thursday, January 26, 2012

Afterschool for Older Youth and More: An Interview with Karen Pittman, Part 2

By Sam Piha

Karen Pittman
Karen Pittman is President and CEO of Forum for Youth Investment and is known nationally as the leading advocate for youth development. Many credit her with launching the youth development movement and being an important thought leader promoting policies and systemic approaches to supporting young people's development, including the Ready By 21 initiative. See her full bio below. 

Q: In California, all the dollars supporting afterschool learning opportunities for high school youth come from federal 21st CCLC funds (most of the funding for elementary and middle school programs   come from protected state funds); how important do you think it is that we include high school age youth in the afterschool equation?

A: It’s critically important that teenagers, and especially our most vulnerable youth, have access to supports and opportunities geared toward helping them build skills, connect with positive adults, and navigate the transition to adulthood. This is especially important given how many young people are not on track to graduate and how many more are not on track to graduate college and career-ready. California’s funneling all of its 21st CCLC dollars to high school programming has been a boost for the field as you all have had a chance to innovate programmatically and experiment with things like credit recovery.

Q: What do you see as the major risks and opportunities facing the out-of-school time (OST) movement?

A: I think the conversation that is unfolding about expanded learning opportunities represents a real opportunity for the field. The education community is acknowledging schools alone cannot ensure all young people are ready for college, work and life. The business community is acknowledging that young people need more opportunities to develop 21st century skills. Communities are building infrastructure to support broad goals, meaningful partnerships, and shared data. Now is the time for OST programs to shore up their commitment to quality and to put a stake in the ground about the kinds of outcomes they want to be held accountable for. If test scores and grades are not necessarily the best things to measure success by – what is? The development of communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills? Creativity? Hope? We need to do a better job of naming and measuring outcomes we know are critical to youth success and that programs can influence.   

Karen Pittman is a co-founder, President and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment. She started her career at the Urban Institute, conducting numerous studies on social services for children and families. Karen later moved to the Children’s Defense Fund, launching its adolescent pregnancy prevention initiatives and helping to create its adolescent policy agenda. In 1990 she became a vice president at the Academy for Educational Development, where she founded and directed the Center for Youth Development and Policy Research and its spin-off, the National Training Institute for Community Youth Work.
In 1995 Karen joined the Clinton administration as director of the President's Crime Prevention Council, where she worked with 13 cabinet secretaries to create a coordinated prevention agenda. From there she moved to the executive team of the International Youth Foundation (IYF), charged with helping the organization strengthen its program content and develop an evaluation strategy. In 1998 she and Rick Little, head of the foundation, took a leave of absence to work with ret. Gen. Colin Powell to create America’s Promise. Upon her return, she and Irby launched the Forum, which later became an entity separate from IYF.

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