Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Joyful

All of us at Temescal Associates, the How Kids Learn Foundation, and the Learning in Afterschool & Summer Project wish you a peaceful and restful holiday! On our part, we are most grateful to all of you who work hard to support our youth in out of school time. 


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Growing Out-of-School Time Field

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Helen Janc Malone is Editor in Chief of a new book series entitled Current Issues in Out-of-School Time (OST). Her complete bio is below. Dr. Malone was invited to share her thoughts and lead a small group session at the How Kids Learn VII conference on the future of afterschool. She agreed to answer a few interview questions for this blog post. 






Q: What inspired you to put together this book series on out-of-school time? 

A: It was a confluence of events that came together with perfect timing... As my
Dr. Helen Janc Malone
officers and I were preparing for the 10th anniversary celebration of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Out-of-School Time Special Interest Group (OST SIG), I began conversations with colleagues about the best ways to bring voices from across the OST field into a conversation about where we are today and where we should be heading as a field. Simultaneously, Information Age Publishing reached out and asked me to create a book series that would serve as a platform to bridge research and practice and to engage the field in a dialogue about salient OST issues. 

The first book in this new series is The Growing Out-of-School Time Field: Past, Present, and Future (2018). The volume is designed to set the foundation for the book series, to address the progress, challenges, and opportunities the field faces, to lift-up broader trends, and to point to possible future paths forward. 

This book is a collaboration of 39 scholars, practitioners, and advocates who have dedicated their professional careers to improving research, practices, and policies that support OST. The book is purposely designed to focus on macro trends, to be accessible in content to diverse audiences, and to intentionally push our thinking in new ways, perhaps where we are starting to see emerging work but where we recognize more needs to be done.

The call for ideas for future books in the series is now open through December 15, 2017: http://www.infoagepub.com/series/Current-Issues-in-Out-of-School-Time 




Q: As you look to the next decade, what issues, challenges, or opportunities do you see for the out-of-school time field?

A: This book offers a number of questions to help propel the field further forward. They include:  
  • What are the ways in which the field can continue to balance a developmental lens while also broadening a learning frame? 
  • What incentive structures and mechanisms should the field invest to attract more professionals of color? 
  • How do we build career ladders and ongoing professional and leadership development supports for OST staff?
  • How do we build and align data systems that are responsive to the young people, families, and practitioners involved? 
  • How do we create meaningful research-practice partnerships? 
  • How do we more intentionally engage in an international dialogue and exchange of ideas to strengthen OST? 

Q: As you look to the future of out-of-school time, what advice do you have for the field?
A: The OST field has benefited over the years from being both malleable and adaptable in its terminology and approach. Whether before- or after-school or summer programs, OST has had a long-standing place as a partner to families, communities, and schools. Decades of research and evaluations have helped us define and refine what do we mean by high-quality programs, what is the impact of high-quality programs on development and learning, and what role does the field play in breaking down equity barriers.  

At the same time, as a sub-sector of various dominant sectors (health and human services, education, and labor), OST has had to make an ongoing case for relevance, especially in the policy arena. As we look to the future, there are several themes emerging from the book, including: 
  • The need to deepen our research into multi-dimensional identities of youth so that we can better serve and support all young people. 
  • Education policy is returning to the whole child frame, an approach that OST field has long fostered. The field has an opportunity to make its case for OST as a partner in both young people’s learning and holistic development. The increased attention to social-emotional learning is a timely vehicle for communicating this message and utilizing the existing spotlight on SEL to deepen both field research and practice. 
  • Post-secondary transitions and pathways into workforce are gaining momentum as broadening considerations in education. OST stands to gain by being proactive in exploring transition spaces, with intentional attention to young people who often face systemic and institutional barriers.
  • There is an ongoing debate about whether and how should OST professionalize as a field and what does that mean, given the great diversity of programs and contexts that fall under its umbrella. This conversation needs to continue with attention to career ladders and pathways and the meaning and role of youth-serving professionals as a lifelong career.
  • While school-community partnerships have a long-standing point of connection for practitioners, research is crossing these spaces only in pockets, with most of the research, professional conferences, and discussions taking place in siloes. Inviting scholars from outside OST stands to enrich the field, broaden connections, and help propel OST in new and innovative ways.

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Dr. Helen Janc Malone’s work within OST has been situated at the nexus of research, practice, and network-building. Over the past 15+ years, she has supported adolescent leadership development research and practice, help support the national network of statewide afterschool networks, conducted research at Harvard on OST (while a doctoral student), and served in 2015-16 as the Chair of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Out-of-School Time Special Interest Group (OST SIG). 

At present, Dr. Malone is an adjunct professorial lecturer at American University teaching nonformal education, serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (among other journals in this arena). OST is also an important component of the Institute for Educational Leadership, where she is the director of education policy. 






Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Trauma-Informed Practice, Part 2

Photo Credit: http://www.garfieldcountyprep.org/


By Sam Piha

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? What is trauma-informed practice?

Below is part 2 of an interview with Dr. Marnie Curry (UC Santa Cruz) on the topic of trauma-informed practice. (See part 1 here.) 


Dr. Marnie Curry
Q: What does trauma informed practice (TIP) look like in its simplest form? 

A: At its core TIP is about forging reciprocal, trusting relations with children and youth. Ideally, children and youth are empowered to choose, design and possibly lead activities, which allow them to express themselves in creative, meaningful and productive ways. Trauma informed programs provide sanctuaries for children and youth marked by seven cultural commitments: 

  1. Commitment to nonviolence; 
  2. Commitment to emotional intelligence; 
  3. Commitment to social learning; 
  4. Commitment to open communication; 
  5. Commitment to democracy; 
  6. Commitment to social responsibility; and 
  7. Commitment to growth and change (Bloom 2005; Bloom 2007).



Q: In your writings, you use the term "authentic cariño." Can you say what you mean by this?

A: Authentic cariño is a holistic, trauma-informed approach to youth development, which is especially attuned to the needs of low social economic status (SES), Latinx youth and other youth of color. The Spanish word “cariño” translates to caring, affection, or love, but actually is more of a concept than just a word. I use this terminology to signal a departure from Eurocentric, maternal connotations of caring and to emphasize culturally and politically conscious forms of care. 

Adults and organizations that embrace authentic cariño braid together three forms of care: familial, intellectual and critical. Familial cariño emphasizes building robust, respectful and caring relations between and amongst program providers and participants; together as a community all members strive to genuinely support each other’s entire well being. Intellectual cariño involves nurturing the minds of young people and providing opportunities for youth to grapple with, reflect on, and address meaningful issues and perplexing problems. Finally, critical cariño reflects a social justice orientation that demands that care be undertaken with historical, political, and cultural consciousness of youths’ lived realities. 




In one especially powerful after school program authentic cariño surfaced in many arenas. For example, during diá de los muertos I witnessed youth creating elaborately decorated calaveras (skulls) of beloved ancestors and sharing commemorative stories of their loved ones in a community circle. The coach leading this activity was a well-known advocate for his mentees and would shadow them in school if they were struggling academically. He debriefed these observations with his mentees and together they constructed proactive plans to overcome obstacles, often enlisting the partnership of students’ teachers or school-based advisors. 

In this same program, I witnessed a soccer club successfully uniting to write and win a grant to obtain an astro turf field in a schoolyard that previously looked like a prison quad. These same futbolistas sponsored weekend soccer tournaments punctuated by half-time workshops led by youth, who educated players on capitalism and the Dream Act. Perhaps, most compelling was the way in which the youth development coaches from the after school program forged deep partnerships with school personnel in ways that meant that the division between school and after school became blurred. For youth, this meant that they experienced a seamless network of cariño that provided intense levels of safety and affirmation. 

This network of care proved invaluable when tragedies rocked the school community. In one school year, three youth affiliated with the school (a recent graduate, a sibling, and a current student) died by gun violence. The after school program played a central role in coordinating programs and services that not only helped youth process these traumatic events, but also which empowered youth to mobilize a vibrant campaign to address the root causes of violence and promote peace in their city.



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Marnie W. Curry is a researcher at the Center for Educational Research in the Interest of Underserved Students at UC-Santa Cruz. Her areas of specialization include: urban schooling; teaching and learning to support culturally and linguistically diverse learners; and teacher professional communities. She is deeply committed to bridging the worlds of research and practice and promoting educational equity for youth who have been historically underserved by their schools and districts. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Trauma-Informed Practice, Part 1

Photo Credit: www.ambergristoday.com
By Sam Piha

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? We asked Dr. Marnie Curry (UC Santa Cruz) to help us answer these questions by presenting at our upcoming How Kids Learn VII conference on December 5, 2017 and being interviewed for this blog post. Below are some of her responses to our interview questions.

Q: How do you define trauma? 
Dr. Marnie Curry

A: Trauma occurs when an individual or community experiences physical or emotional harm or serious threats of such harm. Stressors like community violence, domestic violence, child abuse, chronic neglect, hunger, traumatic loss, severe bullying, household substance abuse, police brutality, homelessness, and racism can by themselves or in combination have lasting adverse effects on children’s development and wellbeing. 

Trauma can be acute (resulting from a single incident), chronic (occurring repeatedly over prolonged time periods or generations), or complex (involving multiple kinds of trauma).

Q: Is being part of a group that suffers oppression included in your definition? 

A: Members of oppressed, nondominant groups, who daily confront racism and discrimination, who are surrounded by media images that criminalize and demonize black and brown people, who are mistreated and marginalized by the education system, justice system, immigration system and economic system, face persistent and toxic experiences that impair their health and wellbeing. However, because trauma is a subjective phenomenon and people respond differently to stressors, I do not assume that membership in an oppressed group automatically translates to trauma. I do, though, believe that many oppressed groups suffer from chronic, complex trauma. 

Additionally, I think the impact of trauma is experienced differently due to the intersectional nature of oppression. Trauma-informed practitioners need to be sensitive to how being, for example, an LGBTQ person of color or an undocumented immigrant woman inevitably involve unique contexts that differently shape a person’s response to trauma.

Q: What is trauma informed practice that is appropriate for afterschool workers? 

A: In some ways, I resist the notion that after-school workers, school-based teachers, hospital clinicians, social workers, etc. each have a different set of trauma-informed practices. For me, the compartmentalization of children’s lives into after school, home, school, community, etc. suggested by these silos, is antithetical to the holistic approach that trauma-informed care demands. 

Instead, I prefer to focus on trauma-informed practices, which prioritize an integrated and coordinated approach to youth development. Within this frame, trauma-informed practice involves adults recognizing the high likelihood that some (or many) youth participants have or are currently experiencing trauma. Skillful adult mentors possess a basic understanding of how trauma can impact children’s behavior and development and they strive to organize a program that is sensitive to the vulnerabilities and triggers of trauma survivors. They focus on providing a safe, supportive environment to promote healing from trauma and healthy development so youth may not only survive, but also thrive. They orchestrate activities and form networks of care aimed at restoring a sense of belonging to young people, their families and communities.




-----------------------------

Marnie W. Curry is a researcher at the Center for Educational Research in the Interest of Underserved Students at UC-Santa Cruz. Her areas of specialization include: urban schooling; teaching and learning to support culturally and linguistically diverse learners; and teacher professional communities. She is deeply committed to bridging the worlds of research and practice and promoting educational equity for youth who have been historically underserved by their schools and districts. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

WINGS For Kids: Promoting SEL in Afterschool, Part 2

By Sam Piha

In a previous post, we invited Julia Rugg, WINGS For Kids’ Chief Strategy Officer, to serve as a guest blogger. We featured WINGS because of their afterschool focus on SEL skills and their recent expansion to Pomona Unified School District. Below, we offer part two of her two-part post, which focuses on the program strategies they employ to promote SEL. 

What WINGS Looks Like
By Julia Rugg


Julia Rugg
Kids attend WINGS for three hours a day, five days a week during the school year to maximize our model’s positive impact. Each week, kids focus on one of ten sequenced social and emotional learning objectives. 

Our staff first explicitly teach, then model and reinforce, social-emotional skills. Kids learn, then practice and discuss, the new skills through program activities. Let’s use one of our objectives in the self-management competency—helping kids focus their attention inward in order to limit outward distraction—as an example.  

The WINGS day begins with Community Unity, the coming together of all staff and kids in grades K-5, for announcements, a nutritious snack, recital of the WINGS Creed, and a social-emotional skill-building lesson. This part of the day offers an opportunity to talk in a focused and active way about the week’s objective and engage in a brief, fun activity that relates to it. This week, WINGS Leaders lead an exercise on active breathing, and the program director starts a focused large-group discussion and asks staff and kids to share examples of when they have gotten distracted. 

Next is Choice Time, an enrichment activity that students select each semester and where social-emotional lessons are woven in. Our flexible afterschool schedule provides ample time for both structured academic support and kid-driven enrichment and activity time. 




During a kickball game, for example, a WINGS Leader might talk about how to concentrate on breathing while kicking the ball and ignore the shouts from the sidelines to better focus on the game. This also gives kids the chance to continue practicing other skills they’ve previously learned, such as sharing supportive comments after a bad kick and keeping a positive attitude even if their team is losing. In this way, Choice Time encourages kids to engage in active and explicit learning to applying both new and recently developed skills to settings other than the classroom.

Choice Time is followed by Academic Center, where students work on homework with help from program staff. In addition to providing assistance and encouragement in a positive atmosphere, WINGS Leaders capitalize on teachable moments to keep bringing kids back to the week’s learning objective. In this case, they might work with students to practice positioning their bodies in their desks so they are less likely to be distracted, explicitly defining the skills being learned.


—————————
Julia Rugg is the Chief Strategy Officer at WINGS for Kids. Since July 2011 she has launched WINGS’ expansion efforts across the southeast with the CEO, and worked alongside the senior team to ensure the WINGS model has been replicated with fidelity and quality. She evaluates current and future growth opportunities for WINGS, develops partner relationships, and builds the necessary internal infrastructure and resources necessary to support growth.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

WINGS For Kids: Promoting SEL in Afterschool, Part 1

By Sam Piha

​Pomona Unified School District (PUSD) announced that they are expanding their partnership with WINGS for Kids in order to promote SEL related skills among their youth.

Richard Martinez, superintendent of PUSD, stated, “By continuing our collaboration, we are able to utilize WINGS’ expertise and build upon the strengths of our staff and our high-quality afterschool programming to help our students develop critical skills they need to succeed in school and in life.”

In addition to its partnership with PUSD, WINGS serves more than 1,100 students from vulnerable communities in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina through a direct-service afterschool program model of their research-based curriculum led by college students, known as WINGS Leaders.

To learn more about the WINGS approach, we invited Julia Rugg, WINGS’ Chief Strategy Officer, to serve as a guest blogger. Below, we offer part one of her two-part post.


WINGS Works! How Our Afterschool SEL Model Leads to Success
By Julia Rugg



Julia Rugg
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.

WINGS for Kids believes that afterschool programs are well-positioned to address this educational gap by directly teaching social-emotional skills like self-awareness and responsible decision-making. We see both value and opportunity in using the hours after school to help teach these critical skills to our most vulnerable kids—the students who need them most.

The forthcoming results of our own randomized control trial, or RCT—the first such in-depth study on SEL in the afterschool space—corroborate what other research has shown: quality afterschool programs that focus on social and emotional learning have a significant positive impact on students in and out of the classroom. This is especially true for children living in low-resource neighborhoods, who typically are academically behind their peers, and for whom the bulk of the school day is spent working hard to close that achievement gap, with little time in the day to teach and practice skills beyond math, reading, and writing.


In WINGS schools, we take advantage of the flexibility that afterschool offers to not only teach social-emotional skills, but use the additional time it affords for kids to practice them and apply them in social and academic settings.

Our program model is influenced by research from Joseph A. Durlak and Roger P. Weissberg that tells us afterschool programs aligned with four evidence-based best practices—sequenced, active, focused, and explicit, or SAFE—have greater effects on student outcomes. To that end, we’ve aligned WINGS to the SAFE framework to ensure we are infusing intentionality throughout our activities and our curriculum.

We leverage the power of relationships in the afterschool space to help kids learn, practice, and internalize social-emotional skills. WINGS Leaders—college-aged mentors—work with small groups, called nests, of 10-12 kids. This personalized instruction, led by young people with backgrounds similar to those of our kids, have a relevance and impact that teacher-led activities sometimes don’t.

Our Evidence and Growth
Our data supports what we see each day: what kids learn in the hours after school influences their actions and behavior inside the classroom. Our aforementioned RCT study shows that WINGS reduces kids’ negative classroom behaviors and increases their positive classroom behaviors. Our programming also helps kids name positive behaviors, develop the vocabulary to talk about their emotions, and better regulate their behavior, both inside and outside the classroom.



Photo Credit: WINGS for Kids!


​Internal data from our programs in Charleston, S.C., also shows that WINGS kids are less likely to be chronically absent from school and less likely to receive a disciplinary referral compared to their peers—key predictors of academic success and graduating from high school.
With this research in hand, we know that WINGS works—and we want to bring SEL to more of the kids who need it most. Through our direct-service programs in Charleston, S.C., Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta, Ga., WINGS gives more than 1,000 students in grades K-5 the life lessons they need to succeed and be happy, and help them thrive despite the challenges they face every day.

This year, we’re also expanding our partnership model to all schools in Pomona (Calif.) Unified School District by training and coaching providers and staff to integrate SEL into the district’s long-standing and award-winning afterschool program, The Learning Connection. As a result, more than 1,700 kids in Pomona will be able to develop social-emotional skills to prepare them for success in school and in life.

At WINGS, we envision a world where there is equity in academics, opportunity, and emotional well-being for all children regardless of socioeconomic status. That’s why we work to ensure that every child has the opportunity to access high-quality afterschool programming, caring adults and mentors, and social and emotional learning. By bringing these pieces together, along with research and through an evidence-based model, a program like WINGS has the power and potential to close the gaps that can prevent America’s most vulnerable kids from soaring to success.

————————--
Julia Rugg is the Chief Strategy Officer at WINGS for Kids. Since July 2011 she has launched WINGS’ expansion efforts across the southeast with the CEO, and worked alongside the senior team to ensure the WINGS model has been replicated with fidelity and quality. She evaluates current and future growth opportunities for WINGS, develops partner relationships, and builds the necessary internal infrastructure and resources necessary to support growth.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Gender Context

By Sam Piha 

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".



While afterschool programs are designed to serve all youth, we have learned over the years that the social context that youth experience are very important to acknowledge and, in some cases, design specific activities. We are seeing programs designed for girls, programs for boys, as well as ones for youth of color, undocumented youth, and LGBTQ youth. We think this is essential to our efforts to promote critical social emotional skills.


The Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO) dedicated their latest edition to serving the needs of women and girls of color in expanded learning, influenced by the Sisters Inspiring Change project. We encourage our readers to check this out.

Below is an excerpt from an interview we did with Lynn Johnson, Co-Founder and CEO of Spotlight: Girls, an afterschool and summer program that educates, inspires and activates girls to take center stage. They promote the skills to step into the light and become the leaders we’ve all been waiting for.

Lynn Johnson
Gender-based programs are so important because we are not often looking at where inequity comes in, in terms of gender in our schools and our communities. I think the most important thing in serving girls in afterschool is to really focus on giving girls their own space in afterschool.

I get worried when we focus too much on girls in STEM and not on their emotional experience and the skills they need to succeed in any field. "How do I, as a girl, in a safe space, understand who I am, understand why I might be feeling resistant to new experiences, why I might be resistant to certain fields of learning, and understand how to move through those areas of resistance, how to say yes to new things." Afterschool gives you that space, that time.

We are trying to prepare girls for success in their adulthood. That's not just about getting A's on your report card. It's about having the courage to overcome all challenges, and our girls don't necessarily have those skills.

Photo Credit: Spotlight: Girls

Another important way that afterschool is such an important environment for girls' learning is in the research we have around growth mindset. One thing that we know about girls is that they really suffer from perfectionism. We see this across the board...across race, across socioeconomic groups; that girls are often stuck in this need to do it right, to not look stupid, to not make a mistake.

We see it all the time. It holds girls back from really, as we say in our program, “taking center stage" and trying something new. So this research around growth mindset, around this idea that we don't come to a situation with a particular talent, per se, that we get to learn and grow, and we get to go, "Oh, I'm getting there. I'm getting better at something. I get to try something, make a mistake, and try it again." This is really, really important for girls.

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Lynn Johnson, Co-Founder and CEO of Spotlight: Girls, is a visionary social entrepreneur, speaker and girl advocate. She serves on the Alameda County Commission on the Status of Women and the board of the directors of the How Kids Learn Foundation. Learn more about how to bring Go Girls! afterschool programming here. Lynn will also serve as the MC for the How Kids Learn VII Conference

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Supporting Immigrant Families

By Sam Piha



Education Trust-West, an advocacy organization in Oakland, estimates that 750,000 students in California’s preK-12 schools have an undocumented parent, out of a total enrollment of 6.2 million - that equals 1 in 8. Some of these students may be undocumented themselves. Because many of our afterschool programs are part of the school community, we thought this would be relevant. Read their new brief

School officials state anxieties have reached new heights since Donald Trump’s inauguration, with possible consequences on young people’s ability to focus on school work, the willingness of parents to attend school events, or even to bring their children to school.

The California Equity Leadership Alliance (CELA) recently released a toolkit to support undocumented students and families. There are three toolkits for students and families, educators and administrators, and school board members and policymakers. To review these, click here


Photo Credit: EdTrust.org

CELA issued a statement on California’s undocumented students and their families. We found it very compelling and offer an excerpt below.

California is a state sustained and enriched by immigrants in a nation founded by immigrants. As such,  CELA wholeheartedly supports the fundamental right for all children – regardless of their immigration status or the status of their family members – to receive a strong, equitable education. This commitment not only reinforces the legal right to education, it is in the best interest of California and our continued leadership as a state at the forefront of innovation, industry, and progress. 

Our roles as leaders in education – from administrators and educators to parents and policy advocates – compel us to reaffirm our dedication to these students and offer guidance for a more equitable California. We believe this means not only supporting efforts to keep our students safe, but also ensuring we do all we can to offer them the best chance to graduate prepared for college, a career, leadership, and life. 



For too long, the arena of education advocacy has been siloed from the arena of immigrant rights advocacy. It is imperative that education organizations such as ours bridge this divide and do all we can to support the educators, administrators, and advocates who work with these students and their families every day. As such, we have launched a new initiative to provide resources, support, and stewardship for educators in order to understand our undocumented student community. 

Living our values as Californians means standing up – and standing with – the hundreds of thousands of undocumented students in our schools and the 1 in 8 California P-12 students who have an undocumented parent. Our students deserve nothing less than our steadfast support. 

What is your school and afterschool program doing to support young people who are undocumented or have undocumented family members? We will provide more discussion and resources in upcoming posts.   

_________________________

You can read other blogs by the LIAS project by going to: 


  • Expanded Learning 360°/365 Project website
  • LIAS Blog Written for the California Afterschool Network

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Youth Voice: "I am not an illegal alien. I am not a terrorist nor lazy. And I am, most definitely, not uneducated."

By Sam Piha



We hear a lot about the plight of undocumented immigrants. But we don’t often hear from young people. Angie’s story in her own words is below. 

In a future post, we will interview an organizational leader on how afterschool programs can support undocumented youth or youth with undocumented family members.

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My name is Angie. My preferred gender pronouns are she/her. They/them is also okay with me. 

I was born in Huazuntlan, a small village in Veracruz. In my infant years I didn't know who my mother was, for she had immigrated to the United States after I was born, leaving me and my brother under my grandmother’s wing. For four years I struggled with the faceless image of a mother I had never met, and wondered if I would ever get the privilege of doing so. 

Now that I'm old enough to reflect on my experience, I can fully understand my mother’s reasoning for leaving: all she wanted was to give us the life she never had. Because I was very young, four years old to be exact, my remembrance of my immigration experience is very foggy. 

But this is how it had gone down:

My mother had met a lady in the U.S. not much older than her. She vented to her on the amount of pain she felt every second of every hour because she had left my brother and I. This opened the woman's eyes to what she thought was easy money. My mother ended up paying her $10,000 with the hope that she would see us soon, and that we would finally be reunited. However, things didn't go as planned. 

My brother and I had left our village at four in the morning, way too early for an eight and four year old. We were taken to an airport where we boarded a plane that would take us to Tijuana, where we would meet up with the supposed ‘fairy godmother’ that would ‘reunite’ us with our mom. Meeting her was a very frightening thing. Her face is just another blurry image lost in my head but I remember her skin being lighter than anyone I'd ever met before. Once we greeted her, we were taken to a hotel in which we spent a day. After the day had passed by, we checked out of the hotel and proceeded to face the frightening border. 

During our time with the woman, my brother and I were coached on what we had to say when it came to the border patrol. We were given new identities that we were expected to memorize in one day. This was an easy task for me, but when it came to my brother (who was very sleepy at the time) he ended up messing up.  

Quickly after being caught, we were taken to a detention center. As soon as we entered, our shoelaces were taken off of our shoes and we were put into a windowless room with about 12 other people. There were no beds and the bathrooms had no doors to them. The floor was basically our bed and we were only given one blanket per person. We were held there for three days. 

After the three days had passed, parents began to get called. Of course my mother was in the U.S, so it was impossible for her to pick us up. Because of this, my brother and I were separated and taken to separate orphanages. For a whole week I didn't know anything about my brother. I was back in that state of having no one. I was four years old, and I had now lost both my brother and mom: I was scared, empty, alone. 


When asked, Angie explained her painting (above) by saying, "I feel trapped inside figurative and literal borders. These borders include: attending and graduating college, getting a job, and not being able to visit my family back in Mexico". 







Thankfully, my eldest aunt had a tendency of coming back and forth between the United States and Mexico. She had found out about the situation and was now going to be our savior. Seeing her felt like such a relief because now there was hope. We picked up my brother and he hugged me way harder than he'd ever hugged me before. 

Shortly after, we met up with two coyotes (people who smuggle Latin Americans across the US border) who would, rightfully, do their job in reuniting my family once again. I was the smallest one out of the four of us (my brother, aunt and cousin-who made the decision in crossing with us as well). I had to go first. We were separated once again.

I was put in the trunk of a car, along with one of the coyotes who was there for ‘moral’ support. It was hot and it was very hard to breathe. I was told that I had to remain calm and quiet in order to not get caught once again. I obliged and soon after, the trunk was being opened and I was being released to my ‘new beginning’. This was when I met my mother for the first time. The rest is history. The rest of my family arrived about two weeks later and we began our new life together. 

Being undocumented has, and will always be, a big part of who I am as a person. I have had to face many struggles, but I am thankful that I now have my family to go through it with.

Being an immigrant has always been seen as a ‘negative’ thing, and even was a taboo subject for all of us. But I can now proudly say that I am tired of hiding away my identity. I am not an illegal alien. I am not a terrorist nor lazy. And I am, most definitely not uneducated. 

I am not alone. 
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Angie is 17 years old and a senior in high school. She plans to attend San Jose State University where she hopes to study criminal psychology and childhood development. Angie loves painting and often shares her identity as an undocumented person, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community through her art. Angie hopes to become a voice for undocumented youth who were never encouraged to strive for more, or who were too afraid due to their status.


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You can read other blogs by the LIAS project by going to: 


  • Expanded Learning 360°/365 Project website
  • LIAS Blog Written for the California Afterschool Network

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"Taking Off the Mask": Working with School-Age Boys

By Sam Piha


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. 

When Ashanti Branch was a teacher in Oakland, he recognized that boys and young men needed a place to explore this. He left teaching and founded the Ever Forward Club. “At the Ever Forward Club, we believe that all young men have the desire to be fully alive – to be loved, respected, held in high regard, held to high expectations, held accountable for their actions and supported to help achieve their goals.” - Ever Forward Club Website 

In 2014, the Ever Forward Club partnered with The Representation Project to develop the documentary, “The Mask You Live In”. (The Mask You Live In follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. Experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media also weigh in, offering empirical evidence of the “boy crisis” and tactics to combat it.) See the trailer below. 




We invited Mr. Branch to serve as a speaker and workshop leader On October 17, 2017 as part of our Speaker’s Forum series. 

We also recently conducted a video interview with Mr. Branch asking him about his views on the needs of boys and young men and how we can serve these needs in afterschool. Below are some of his responses.
"Taking Off the Mask": Working with School-Age Boys with Ashanti BranchOctober 17, 2017 in Oakland, CA

“I think that after school programs are becoming aware that there is a need to support young men in really specific ways. This is coming out of this idea that for so long there's been just a place of ignoring boys and allowing certain behaviors to be left as 'boys will be boys' or 'that's just the way boys are.' I think that what has happened is that has been let go for so long that young men have found themselves in a crisis. 

Society doesn't give our young men really good tools with dealing with sadness and fear and shame and other kind of emotions like that. They're clear in what you do when you're angry. They're clear about what you do when you're happy. So if you don't fit in happy or angry, what do you do with the other (not so positive) emotions? Usually it comes out as anger. 

Everything is converted to anger or I just pretend like it doesn't matter, then I get checked out to the world. 

They isolate, many feeling that ‘no one cares about me’. They begin to self-medicate, self-fulfill those feelings of not being a part of the group - engaging in drugs, alcohol, rampant unprotected sex, gangs, etc. Many of these behaviors are about  the need to cover up the feelings that they're really trying to figure out. How do I deal with this real feeling?

The afterschool space gives us a space to help our young men know that, ‘You're valuable. You may not do so good in your bookwork, but you've got a lot of skills.’

The afterschool system works because it allows for some students to get a taste for something else, to get to see how good they can be at something that's not going to be marked as a grade. Their creativity is not going to be taken away and crushed when somebody tells you, ‘your drawing is not according to the rubric’. Afterschool just provides a safer space. 

That's what we're trying to do in Ever Forward. We're trying to do more work around the social-emotional development of our young men, teaching them to be social-emotional leaders, so that it doesn't just happen afterschool. It happens all day long.”
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Ashanti Branch is Founder and Executive Director of The Ever Forward Club. Ashanti works to change how young men of color interact with their education and how their schools interact with them. Raised in Oakland by a single mother on welfare, Ashanti left the inner city to study civil engineering at Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo. A construction project manager in his first career, his life changed after he tutored struggling students and realized his passion for teaching. In 2004, during Ashanti’s first year teaching high school math, he started The Ever Forward Club to provide support for African American and Latino males who were not achieving to their potential. Since then, Ever Forward has helped all of its more than 150 members graduate from high school, and 93% of them have gone on to attend two- or four-year colleges, military or trade school.


The Ever Forward Club was featured last year in the documentary, “The Mask You Live In,” which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. After completing a fellowship at the Stanford d.school in 2016, Ashanti, stepped away from working for a school district and began working as the Founding Executive Director for Ever Forward-Siempre Adelante, in an effort to grow the organization to serve thousands of Bay Area students. In April 2017, Ashanti was awarded a fellowship from the national organization CBMA - Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What's the Evidence?

By Sam Piha


We are partnering with LA's BEST, UCLA, and the LA84 Foundation to sponsor a Speaker's Forum on September 28, 2017 entitled, What’s the Evidence: Do After School Programs Make a Difference for Kids? Click here to register.

The How Kids Learn (HKL) Speaker’s Forums are dedicated to providing those who are interested in improving youth outcomes with thought-provoking, educational opportunities. The HKL educational events offer access to national thinkers and researchers, innovative practitioners, and networking opportunities.



This Forum is being organized by Eric Gurna, President and CEO of LA's BEST and features an esteemed panel of speakers. Below, we asked Eric some questions regarding this event.



Q: Why is the topic of this Forum particularly important at this time? 


A: 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. We can't rest on our laurels and rely on years old studies, we need to keep fresh and timely and provide current evidence of the difference we know we are making. Given that the pendulum has (finally) swung back in the arena of high stakes testing, I think now is a great time to measure our progress towards the goals we hold most dear - holistic youth development, community and civic engagement, social skills, emotional growth and intellectual strength and courage.


Q: The Forum will feature a number of presenters. Can you say why you chose these individuals? 


A: This panel is like the all-star game of authentic accountability for youth development. Renata Simril is leading the LA84 Foundation into a new era of community leadership. Going far beyond simply funding youth sport, she is playing a leadership role in a region-wide movement to view critical opportunities for youth as social justice. When Renata talks about focusing on accountability in programs, she recognizes that everyone has a role to play in that conversation - service providers, funders, families, policymakers and the young people themselves. 

Dr. Pedro Noguera is a nationally recognized expert in youth development and equity. He bridges the gap between the university and the community, and has a critical eye and understanding of quality in youth programs and schools. With his national experience, Pedro helps to broaden this conversation so that in Los Angeles and across California, we can build on the successes of our comrades across the nation. 

Moderator Dr. Julia Phelan is a Senior Research Scientist at UCLA CRESST, which has been LA's BEST's evaluation partner for more than two decades. Julia brings deep expertise in evaluation,  and will guide the conversation to keep us focused on the question of the day.



Q: Who is the intended audience that you recommend attend this Forum?

A: We are especially eager to invite foundations and others who are involved with funding and supporting youth development programs. There are high expectations for program providers to show evidence of success, but there is little investment in the research and evaluation to develop that evidence, so it's important for funders to engage in this critical dialogue. We are also hoping that program and organizational leaders attend, to learn and contribute.  


Q: Will there be an opportunity for attendees to join the discussion? 

A: Yes, the idea of this event is that the panel launches the conversation, and the audience then joins in. It wouldn't be after school if we didn't facilitate collective participation!