Monday, April 27, 2015

Youth Voice: A Perspective on Hiring Young People in Afterschool Programs

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha

One important way of affecting afterschool quality and its attractiveness to young people is to engage older youth and program alumni in the operation of the program. There are multiple benefits - both to the program and the young adults who are engaged as leaders or hired as staff. 

Who would know better about the benefits of hiring youth and program alumni than the young people who were granted this employment opportunity? Below are some of their statements regarding their experiences. 

Lorena Retano, Program Alumni, Youth Institute

Lorena Retano, Age 18
Youth Institute Program Alumni
Being a Youth Institute alumnus is probably one of the best things I’ve experienced. I’ve had the opportunity to work on multiple jobs teaching kids, younger than me, how to use movie and photograph editing software. The best example I have for what I experienced when being hired to work in an afterschool program was when I went to Richmond two summers ago to go teach iMovie, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe InDesign. A team of three other people and myself spent about six hours a day teaching kids in middle school and high school how to use the different software. It was really exciting to share my knowledge with other people.

To work in an afterschool program you need to have confidence in what you are doing with your students so that you are not only successful but so that your students respect you. Supporting youth and program alumni in practicing different skills is definitely a great way to develop that confidence.

David Montoya, Age 20
arc Program Alumni

David Montoya, Program Alumni, arc 
I was a student of the after school program for 4 years. After I graduated, the program offered me a job. It was a great opportunity since I was pretty familiar with the program - I knew what was going on and what needed to happen. At the beginning, it was a bit weird since I went from being a student to a staff. The staff was very supportive, the students saw me as their friend. It took me a while to set myself aside from them and to build a line and to show them that I am a staff now.

Being hired allowed me to go to school, have a job, and do something that I love. I brought everything that I knew about the after school program. As a student participant, I gained leadership skills, which I used in my community, and most importantly at my school.

I think when people think of young adults they think of people who have no experience, who don’t know what they’re doing. But I think we are capable of taking on bigger responsibilities. We just need someone that would trust us and give us a chance.

Skhy Felder, Age 17
Youth Institute Program Alumni
Skhy Felder, Program Alumni, Youth Institute
Employing program alumni gives them the opportunity to grow and gives them the feeling of being an adult. They understand the younger youth better because they, in a way, know the struggle they go through.

From this experience, I have an advantage for future jobs. I can’t wait to be a full staff member, give back to the youth and give them my knowledge. I want to be that staff that a youth would say, "I remember when so and so helped me through this".

Jon Cabral, Age 18
Youth Institute Program Alumni
Jon Cabral, Program Alumni, Youth Institute 
The addition of older youth and program alumni into the team of afterschool professionals greatly affects the dynamic of the experience for both youth and staff alike. Working this past summer as technical instructor after finishing my third year as a high school program alumni student, it shifted from being the student inspired by mentors to the mentor inspiring students. Having been with the YMCA and its branches since sixth grade and having grown up with the program, I’ve definitely benefitted from having a young, relatable staff person, which I saw as my older sibling. Largely of who I am today is a result of the many young mentors I have had through the YMCA.

My responsibilities range from afterschool tutor assisting in homework questions and project help, to a mentor lending advice - a hand for help, a shoulder to cry on, or whatever else an adolescent teenager navigating through middle and high school would need. 

Coming back and being able to give back to the program that helped me grow gives me the gift of now being the person I needed when I was young. This job equipped me with technical, child development, and professional skill sets and provided me with advantages leading to my being a well-rounded person and professional.

Adriana Zuniga, Age 17
Youth Institute Program Alumni
Adriana Zuniga, Program Alumni, Youth Institute
While working as an intern for the program, I experienced many benefits. I was able to get hands-on training from the staff and also teach younger kids the basics of computer literacy and camera functions. It gave me a chance to learn technological skills and help develop my social skills. Having been involved with the program for four years, I already know how the program runs, what is expected and how to do certain things that incoming interns are not familiar with yet. Because I already have experience, I can lead my own group of people on projects or inform them on how to use a Canon camera or edit a photograph on Photoshop.

David Molina, Program Alumni, A World Fit For Kids! 
David Molina, Age 27
WFIT Program Alumni
I am an alumnus from A World Fit For Kids! Mentors In Motion (MIM) program at Belmont High School. I was a part of the program for 3 years. The Assistant Coach position was my first job that I held and I began to do it when I was 15 years old. The position was the dip of my toe in the water that is the real world. This position provided me my first professional experience that I ever had; it was a great learning platform.

When I graduated high school, I was fortunate enough to be asked to coach soccer at Lawrence Middle School, while I attended California State University Northridge. I was able to bring my 3 years of experience into the fields right off the bat. I knew the high standard of performance I had to deliver to the kids that I coached.

The wealth of knowledge that I gained was immense from the time I was a MIM. I always felt that the MIM program is a great resource to groom future coaches because the lessons taught are specific to the afterschool program and their expectations. These types of positions are usually entry level positions and they are usually a stepping stone to students’ eventual careers.

Jacob Reyes, Age 21
arc Program Alumni
Jacob Reyes, Program Alumni, arc
The impact we have made is amazing. Hiring older youth helps communicate more with the students because we know how it is to be a student, we understand their feelings, and we can help them in the best possible way that we can.

I think that hiring program alumni is an important practice because the communications between alumni and students are close and more responsive. Students can go up to us and talk. They don't have to fear oppression of what a teacher or an adult might give them. They feel a sense of trust in us, which is good for a student.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Time to Raise the Funding Rate for ASES Programs

By Guest Blogger, Jessica Gunderson, Partnership for Children and Youth

Jessica Gunderson, Policy Director
Partnership for Children and Youth
After School Education and Safety (ASES) programs’ funding rate of $7.50 per student daily rate has not changed since 2006, despite a 17% increase in the cost of living and increases in the minimum wage. Without an increase to ASES funding, it will be difficult to sustain quality after-school programs and there is risk that some programs might have to close. There is evidence that some programs are already having to consider shutting their doors due to the inadequate funding.

In February 2015, the Partnership for Children and Youth (PCY) and key partners, distributed a short online survey to programs across the state to gain insight on the impact of the current ASES daily rate. In only two weeks, 588 respondents from over 300 school districts completed the survey. 

The results clearly laid out the urgent need to increase the daily rate. Some of the key findings included:
  • 89% of ASES-funded programs have been negatively impacted by the flat ASES funding formula
  • More than 75% of ASES-funding programs have found it more difficult to retain and attract quality staff
  • 75% of programs are having to reduce the number of enrichment activities offered
  • Nearly 50% of respondents have had to reduce staff hours.

What does this mean for our field? This survey demonstrated that the current ASES funding policy is negatively impacting students and parents that rely on these vital services. For the students we serve, the waiting lists are getting longer; programs are no longer able to provide field trips and an array of enrichment activities; student safety is threatened with transportation reductions, there is a revolving door of staff, and the quality of academic supports is being reduced. Click here to view our survey results memo.

There is a need for the field at-large to take action NOW:
  • Sign-up and get involved in educating policymakers regarding legislative (SB 645 – Hancock) and budget efforts underway to increase the daily rate.
  • Advocate to legislators directly by participating in the CalSac Challenge on May 11 and 12th at the State Capitol.
  • Share out the survey results and policy actions far and wide with your networks.
For more information on the full survey results and/or related policy efforts, please contact Jessica Gunderson at


Jessica Gunderson is the Policy Director at the Partnership for Children & Youth dedicated to  shaping and managing their expanded learning time and community school advocacy and policy work. Before joining PCY, Jessica worked as a senior planner at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City. While at Vera, she led research and planning efforts to address educational neglect and chronic absenteeism among teenagers resulting in two publications, Getting Teenagers to School and Rethinking Educational Neglect. Jessica received her Master of Public Administration and Non-profit Management degree at the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at NYU.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Win-Win: Employing Older Youth in Afterschool Programs

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
"The Assistant Coach position with A World Fit For Kids! was my first professional experience that I ever had. The position was my dip of my toe in the water that is the real world. It was a great learning platform." - David Molina, Program Alumni, Student at California State University at Northridge

If afterschool programs are to be meaningful, they must offer youth opportunities to build their workforce skills. And what better setting to learn and practice these skills than an afterschool program? Normandie Nigh and A World Fit For Kids! is a true pioneer in training youth to work successfully in afterschool programs. She has been training and hiring older youth to work in afterschool programs since 1994. Below is an interview with Ms. Nigh focused on what she has learned in her years of this practice. 

Q: Can you describe the impact you have seen or experienced on the topic of hiring older youth and program alumni to work within afterschool programs? 

A: A World Fit For Kids! (WFIT) provides older youth with training and support and place them in our afterschool program where they can become role models and mentors to their peers and younger children. 

Normandie Nigh, CEO
A World Fit For Kids!
During the 21 years that we have employed this model, I have seen how it truly changes the lives of both the kids who come to our afterschool program and the teens themselves. In some cases, high school students who were on the verge of dropping out have stayed in school and raised their grades because the work they have done with us made them feel empowered. That feeling of personal pride and confidence inspires their commitment to get a job after completing their training and volunteer service, and it also ignites a desire to take their studies more seriously. 

With teens who are already good students, by hiring them and giving them responsibility we are showing them that we trust and believe in them, and by working in afterschool programs they are gaining valuable experiences for their resumes that will give them an advantage when they graduate and pursue personal ambitions, be it applying for the college or finding a job in a field of their choosing. 

The example they set is also very motivating for the younger students they work with in afterschool programs. Kids in the program relate to their teen Coach-Mentors in a very specific way. These teens are from their community and they share the same circumstances and challenges, so when kids see what a peer is accomplishing, they know they can do it too. There is also a natural affinity between kids who are close in age, and our youth Coach-Mentors can help us connect a little deeper with kids who are reluctant or reticent about communicating with adults. 

In 2011 an outside evaluator confirmed that more than 96% of students who completed WFIT’s teen training and internship program graduated from high school and 76% were currently enrolled in or had completed community college or university degrees. I’m very proud that 18% of our current Coach-Mentors in our afterschool programs were participants in our teen training and many of them were also participants in our own elementary and/or middle school programs when they were younger. 

Teens who have been trained and hired by WFIT described several skills they gained through the experience including responsibility and patience, leadership and self-confidence as well as practical skills on how to work with children.  They also described how they applied the skills and confidence they gained in WFIT to their school behavior. Teens said they are more likely to initiate participating and helping in class and improved how they make presentations, communicate with others, and manage their time.

Q: Why do you think this is an important practice? 

A: A World Fit for Kids! works primarily with disadvantaged and underserved populations, and the kids we serve are often from communities where there are not a lot of role models. Sometimes the message they receive, both implicit and explicit, is that they shouldn’t expect much, from themselves or from life. Training and hiring teens delivers a different message. The kids learn that they do have what it takes to be responsible and successful, and that allows them to think differently about the future. WFIT programs are based in healthy behaviors and physical activity, and what we believe is that when kids learn that they can take more control over their bodies, they will realize they can also take control in other areas of their lives, and that is really what we want for them. That is the foundation we want to establish in our afterschool programs. 

From there, teen training is the next leap. It gives those kids who want it a place to build confidence and exercise control over their life by reaching beyond themselves. One of the most important reasons the older youth say they want to work for WFIT is because they want to contribute to their community. To me, this is a demonstration of leadership, personal empowerment and a clear indication of a successful future. 

Q: What preparation, training, or support do you think older youth and program alumni need in order to succeed? 

A: I believe that youth are most successful when the adults in their lives have high expectations of them. WFIT’s programs let teens know that we believe in them, that we trust them to take on responsibility, and we encourage them to reach higher.

Teens working at WFIT school sites must first participate in our 38-hour comprehensive healthy behaviors and personal empowerment training. Throughout the training, participants engage in interactive exercises designed to promote success and increase self-awareness, build confidence and strengthen interpersonal skills, all of which prepares them to become successful in the workplace.

More specifically, the training components recommended are: personal empowerment; being a positive role model/mentor; effective communication; leadership/advocacy; healthy behaviors (physical activity leadership/nutrition); conflict resolution; work readiness; First aid/CPR; and a minimum of 30 hours of community service.
Normandie Nigh is CEO of A World Fit For Kids! and has worked with corporations, sports teams, fitness professionals, community organizations and individuals of all ages, but her passion is working with kids. Before taking the helm at A World Fit For Kids! (WFIT) in 1994, she founded Fit For Success, a Boston-based consulting company specializing in the design and delivery of physical activity, sports, fitness, and personal development programs. She was certified as a Personal Development Consultant for Tony Robbins and Associates, and is also the former International Fitness Marketing Manager for Reebok. 

An active advocate for youth services and programs, she meets regularly with local, state and national officials and serves on a number of boards and steering committees. Some of her past and present affiliations include: Co-Chair of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee of the California AfterSchool Network; the California Department of Education After School Physical Activity Steering Committee; the California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; CA ‘Project LEAN’ (Leaders Encouraging Activity & Nutrition) State Steering Committee; CAHPERD State Legislative Committee; and the CA Healthy Eating / Active Communities Initiative.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hiring Young People in Afterschool Programs

By Sam Piha

Nothing affects after-school program quality more than the workforce.” Michael Funk, Director, After School Division, 
California Department of Education

Sam Piha
One important way of affecting afterschool quality and its attractiveness to young people is to engage older youth and program alumni in the operation of the program. There are multiple benefits - both to the program and the young adults who are engaged as leaders or hired as staff. 

A couple of years ago, we conducted research on high school afterschool programs that engaged youth leaders and hired youth as staff. We published a comprehensive briefing paper that examined ways to compensate the youth, the legal issues involved, program examples, and what youth have to say about their experience. You can review this paper by clicking here. While most afterschool staff are between the ages of 20-29 (63%), few are under the age of 20 (just over 8%).  

Source: Examining the Future of the After-School Workforce (2012) 
Below we offer the perspective of a program leader who is a leading practitioner and proponent of this idea. In an upcoming blog, we will offer the views of older youth and program alumni who have been impacted by the opportunity to work within afterschool programs. 

Bob Cabeza
"Over my 34 years working in the after school and youth development fields, I have personally witnessed children become confident, young leaders within our youth development programs. 

Then, finish college and become professional staff within our agency. I have seen our low income youth of color go from being disenfranchised to now entering the upper middle class and becoming a professional engineer, doctor, social worker, architect. I presently have 20 Board Members, seven of which are professionals who were once youth in our programs and now are capable adults doing extremely well financially and paying it forward by both volunteering and donating generously to our programs.

The moral to this story is that we need progressive, seamless programming for our young people to have a place to grow up in throughout their childhood and adolescence and into young adulthood. When we can support, nurture, develop skills and mentor our youth and young adults, then we create a new generation of activists and supporters of the cause of youth development. These young adults are the ones that we need to have take over the leadership of our programs and become our volunteer board members and advocates for the next generation of youth. That is the ultimate visionary goal and I have seen it come to life before my eyes over the past 22 years here in Long Beach. In my experience, that is why after school programs are so important for youth. Providing ladders of leadership for youth is the next strategic step in that continuum.

Youth Institute at YMCA of Greater Long Beach

Engaging youth in the operations of programs is important because it provides young adult mentors for our children who come from the same neighborhood, culture, ethnicity and relatable experiences as those children. It provides appropriate role models for children who model high school graduation, college attendance, etc. It provides hope and examples for our children that they can achieve further education. 

Lastly, young people in adolescence and post adolescence are seen by children as popular and cool! This dynamic enriches the lives of the children by providing a big brother/sister dynamic and enriches the lives of the young adult by them as they become mentors and leaders to younger children. It is much more of a personal and intimate relationship than the institutional teacher/student relationship. It creates a 'camp' positive group dynamic at a school site." 
- Bob Cabeza

Bob Cabeza is Vice President of Community Development at the YMCA of Greater Long Beach & Change Agent Productions. Mr. Cabeza has over thirty years experience in youth development, community development and digital media arts programming, resulting in the ability to build and lead unique programs designed to better the lives of children, youth and families.  Mr. Cabeza has a special focus on youth development and technology equity for underserved communities as it relates to developing both academic and workforce success. 

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