Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Thinking Outside of the COVID Box: Re-Imagining Summer Camp

By Sam Piha

With the COVID-19 restrictions, we knew that Summer programs would be heavily effected. One organization quickly responded with new innovations to adapt their Summer program to a virtual format. We interviewed the Executive Director of Edventure More (EDMO), Eduardo Caballero, to ask about this. His responses are below. (Note: Camp EDMO was featured in our report entitled, “Promoting SEL and Character Skills in Expanded Learning Programs.”)

Q: Can you provide us with some background information on Camp EDMO?

Eduardo Caballero,
ED, Edventure More
A: Edventure More (EDMO) is a non-profit organization on a mission to make equitable, high-quality learning programs accessible to all communities in order to cultivate curious, courageous and kind humans everywhere. We collaborate with the Education Directors from museums like the California Academy of Sciences and the Greater Good Science Center of UC Berkeley in the design of our curriculum. Our flagship program for 17 years has been Camp EDMO, a STEAM & SEL-focused summer day camp for Pre-K-8th kids. Last summer we served nearly 10,000 kids across 32 locations spanning eight counties in Northern California.

Q: Because face-to-face youth programs are impeded by the COVID-19 epidemic, what innovations did you introduce to address this challenge?

A: On Friday, March 13, 2020, with schools shutting down, kids’ learning suddenly thrust onto parents, and dark clouds forming over summer, we gathered our team and posed the design challenge of a lifetime to them: Can we create a live, interactive virtual camp experience that feels as close to the real thing as possible? Oh, and can we do it in a week? Four days later, the team came back and said, “Yes we can.” By Friday, March 20, exactly one week later, we opened enrollment for a free pilot version of an online camp. By Monday, March 23, we had over 500 kids registered with 1,023 waitlist spots.

Source: Camp EDMO
One of the biggest challenges in flipping our STEAM & SEL programs to the virtual space was designing for multiple home environments. At our in-person camps, we controlled everything about the learning environment. We knew the size of the school classrooms, access to outdoor space, how much material to order, what type of technology to rent or buy, etc. Now, we suddenly had to design a curriculum flexible enough to adjust for a child living in a one bedroom apartment or a three bedroom home with a yard. We had to design a technology curriculum for kids who had access to Mac or PC computers, and those who only had a smartphone or a district-provided Chromebook. We also had to adapt all the things that made camp fun to the online space - rally games, skits, songs, gratitude snaps, dress up days, Friday Pie Days all of it! Our team learned the best way to use Zoom features, tested projects, classroom management techniques and adapted to parent feedback.

Q: How did you price an online Summer program in a way that does not create more inequity in education?

A: In this crisis, we knew parents would be losing their jobs daily and wouldn’t be able to wait months or at best, weeks, to be “approved” for financial aid. The old system of financial aid applications was not going to work. Parents were going to need help immediately and we did not even have the staff to review applications. Did I mention we were forced to lay off 85% of our full-time staff in the middle of that design challenge? Even so, we did not want to create a platform that would only serve people who could afford $15-20 per hour.

Our solution to this design challenge is our biggest innovation to date - Honor System Pricing. It’s a system as old as humanity, yet revolutionary for the times. Here’s how it works in practice. We offer our online Drop-in sessions at $15/hour and our week-long Half/Full-Day Camps at $12/hour. We encourage families who can afford more, to donate. We encourage families who need financial support to apply an Honor Code. You can see what it looks like here.

Our biggest innovation is that equity in education is happening. This new model flips old power paradigms on their heads. The old system is that you, the customer, give us, the organization, money. In turn, we give you a service. The relationship is purely transactional. We, the company, will also make you feel good about your decision by touting that we give financial aid. We decide who is worthy of financial aid. Out of fear of someone abusing our goodwill, we create an elaborate system of financial aid. If you are an applicant, you must first adhere to a strict set of qualification requirements. Then you must fill out an application asking for your income, a teacher recommendation and personal stories to demonstrate that you are more deserving than another poor soul who is also applying. Then while you are experiencing financial hardship, you must wait weeks or months for us to “approve you.” Oh, and guess what? You’re going to have to do this process over and over again to get school lunch, after school programs, food stamps, dance classes or anything else you want to give your child. Have you ever seen the movie, Parasite? The old system is very similar. Poor people competing with each other for the benevolence of the rich over and over and over again. We actually kept our old system up so others can learn from our mistakes.

Our Honor System Pricing model is revolutionary in that we, the organization, have no power. The power is with the people. Parents have the power to make sure their child and ALL children get a high-quality education. EDMO® does not give scholarships or financial aid. We only create a space for families to stand in their values. Rather than a transactional relationship, we create a transformational relationship with our families. Parents decide if they enroll at our regular price or even donate more. Parents decide if they need financial help. Parents decide if a sustainable model of education will survive. This new economic system is based not on fear, but on human dignity, trust and love.

Source: Camp EDMO
Q: In developing a “virtual” version of Summer camp, what is lost and what is gained?

A: What is lost in our new online model is the old system of power and inequity. What is gained is the ability for any child from every socio-economic background, to learn, collaborate and connect with each other instantaneously. A child from East Oakland, California can instantly go to camp with a child from Westford, Connecticut.

What is gained is the potential to start addressing the root causes of implicit bias and racism. What is gained is parents becoming a force for equity and the bridging of the digital divide. What is gained is a new model of education that can fill the learning day gaps for every child once school partially reopens in the Fall.

The capacity to create real meaningful change is boundless. As of the week of June 8th we’ve had kids logging on to our platform from 43 different states and 7 countries including Singapore, Domincan Republic, Japan, Puerto Rico, Canada, Kuwait and India.

What is gained is the potential for nationwide and worldwide equity in education.

Eduardo Caballero is Executive Director of Edventure More. In addition, Eduardo has been active on the SF Department of Children & Youth’s Summer Work Group, The Big Lift collaborative’s Inspiring Summers Workgroup in the Peninsula, the Marin Promise in Marin County and the Oakland Summer Learning Network. He has also represented the Bay Area at summer funding lobbying events at the state capitol through CalSAC. Eduardo contributes to the field as a speaker at local and national summer and afterschool conferences. He has completed the Leadership for Equity & Opportunity (LEO) learning-in-action program and is learning to be a better equity ally every day.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Hey Afterschool Leaders, We've Been Called In

By Guest Blogger Julee Brooks, Woodcraft Rangers
(Note: To read my full article, click here.)

Julee Brooks, Woodcraft Rangers
To me, publicly-funded afterschool programs work to bridge gaps in an inequitable education system, supplementing with quality programs and building power among young people. Afterschool programs empower youth, nurture young talent, even level the playing field, but despite doing this important work daily, the painful truth is that conditions of schools, neighborhoods, and economies just never change.

Trying to rectify inequities in an inherently inequitable system is a Sisyphean task until there is change in the systems themselves. So, we find ourselves, though well-intended, propping up a system that still doesn’t equitably serve all the people in this country. As agency leaders, we are witness to, and work daily against, the pressures, politics and punishments of this inadequate system. We recognize our own vulnerability in the face of scarcity, and we stand on the thin edge of demanding change while fiercely gripping the ground beneath us.

With municipal budget season upon us, agency leaders must stand in solidarity with racial justice movement leaders and take swift action. The values shift in this moment is palpable and budgets are values. But how? With a coalition of 17 afterschool agencies here in Los Angeles, so far, this is what we have done or have learned. (See below for a full list of agencies.)

With the swell of public support, change will be the result of decades of the tireless efforts and sophisticated strategies of Black leaders. We are not here to co-opt but to contribute to ensure codified change in policy that will deliver greater investments to historically under resourced communities —  in education and housing and healthcare, and with them, a more equitable society. If you aren’t connected to racial justice movement leaders already, read, listen, follow. Find your Black Lives Matter chapter or organizations like LA Voice, Community Coalition and the People’s Budget LA. And Listen.

Understand the goals and identify the assets you have to forward them.
In our initial BLM solidarity statement to staff, we asked our Woodcraft Rangers team what actions they wanted from the organization. A site coordinator responded:

“I know very recently we were part of an organized coalition of groups advocating for after-school funding…The lack of adequate funding for social programs in under-privileged neighborhoods is exactly the kind of racial injustice these protests are all about. Given our connections within the city, we have a unique opportunity to catalyze meaningful change through a powerful unified demand for justice and reform.”

My work is always defined by those closest to the work, and I respected him calling me in. Afterschool organizations have valuable assets -- strength of parent, youth and staff voices; privileged access to policy makers and funders; data illustrating success – and we must be ready to leverage them. We began with political pressure.

Source: www.medium.com

The next day, I invited a few colleagues to test their willingness to engage in budget reform and its messiness. Leaders, especially white leaders like myself, need to acknowledge seeking perfection or “handling the politics” is often in service to the system itself, not to those we are charged to serve.
It is budget season in America and the clock is ticking. The next day, I saw a call to action about  People’s Budget LA, calling for public comments at the upcoming LA City Council Budget Committee meeting. It gave us a platform, a deadline and a tactic all in one.

Using the language of organizers is important. However, the frame is easy for afterschool as BLM advocates for an aligned approach of nurturing communities and advocates are vocal that afterschool programs make communities safer. This includes Defund the Police. Potentially uncomfortable, these words are precise and intentional. Using them shows solidarity, against brutality and for community investment.

Within 48 hours, 16 organizations had joined mine to sign onto the letter. With collective strength, leaders didn’t fear political fallout individually, but stood together. A couple of organizations declined deeming the letter “too political”. Frankly, this moment requires moral courage, and I am proud to stand with so many exhibiting it.

Source: www.woodcraftrangers.org
The letter made our case, opened the door and framed the conversation in solidarity. While the next steps are unfolding, it is imperative for leaders who hold positional power, especially white leaders, to push hard, with community organizers who have pushed for so long.

We must continue to pressure decision-makers and the public — a full-court press that, as our staff member pointed out so powerfully, we do when our inadequate dollars to support communities are at stake. Why wouldn’t we do it when lives are at stake? This is a moment of reckoning. For our society where Black lives have not mattered, for systems that have not served Black and Brown children, for leaders who have not been willing to risk their own comfort for the liberation of others.

I, for one, am committed to doing the continual soul-searching this moment requires. To evaluating how I am complicit in upholding systems that oppress. To evolving my understanding of what solidarity means. To taking every next action that is required because Black Lives Matter. I firmly believe that until there is racial justice in this country, we cannot deliver on the promises, no matter how well-intended, we make to the youth we serve.

Afterschool leaders, I am calling you in to join me.

Julee Brooks is the CEO of Woodcraft Rangers, that has served Los Angeles youth since 1922 and currently provides afterschool programs to over 15,000 young people annually. She brings 20 years of experience in service to youth in youth development, arts education and human services. She is a Kentucky native and mother of two boys.

List of Supporting Agencies: Woodcraft Rangers, After-School All-Stars Los Angeles, LA’s Best Afterschool Enrichment, Heart of Los Angeles Youth, Los Angeles Education Partnership, The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health, TXT: Teens Exploring Technology, arc, Para los Ninos, Inner-City Arts, EduCare Foundation, Boys and Girls Clubs of Carson, GAP:Gang Alternative Program, LACER Afterschool Programs, A World Fit for Kids, KYDS, and Team Prime Time Afterschool Programs.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Promoting Youth-Adult Partnerships in the Era of COVID-19

By Sam Piha

Jessica Tseming Fei, Deepa Sriya Vasudevan and Gretchen Brion-Meisels served as editors of At Our Best: Building Youth-Adult Partnerships in Out-of-School Time Settings. We interviewed them to ask about the forming of youth-adult partnerships in the era of COVID-19, social distancing, and distance learning. Their responses are below. (Note: In a future blog we will hear from them on their new book and more about youth-adult partnerships.)

Q: We know that one of OST’s superpowers is promoting positive adult-youth partnerships. With school closures and social distancing, promoting relationships can be very difficult in the era of distance learning. Can you comment on this?
A: Relationship-building in the era of distance learning can definitely be challenging. When we are physically apart from each other, maintaining a sense of togetherness with others requires intentional and robust efforts. This type of effort is necessary, though, for OST programs to continue playing a key role in young people’s learning and growth. Nurturing our sense of connection to people and places –– that represent community and care –– is essential for our mental health and well-being. Although the work can be daunting, this is an important opportunity for us to explore new ways of being in community and operating as collectives. It does take significant initiative, and perhaps a leap of faith, for adults to bring this sense of possibility in relationships to an online setting. For both adults and young people, it can feel strange and surreal to work closely together outside of the shared physical environments of their OST programs, both in continuing relationships and in starting new ones with summer programming.

Yet, with a lot of checking in (individually and with one another) about our experiences and how we can show up for one another, our relationships can become even more responsive and resilient. With creativity and commitment, the principles and practices of relationship-building that anchor our in-person OST settings can be translated into the virtual space. We’re confident that the promotion of relationships can remain a superpower of OST, and become an even more meaningful and purposeful part of our work.
Source: Alyssa Liles-Amponsah

Q: Given the difficulty of developing partnerships between youth and adults when they are interacting remotely, which children are at greatest risk?
A: In some ways, this time mirrors and exacerbates issues of access already happening in programs and schools. Having individual phones, laptops, and reliable internet connection, for example, are critical for continued relationship-building, and there are systemic discrepancies in access when it comes to these utilities.

In this particular time, many children and youth have parents who are essential workers - in healthcare, food, and sanitation. Older youth have had to step up in their caregiving responsibilities to younger siblings and may not feel like they have time to engage in synchronous structured programming or activities. At the same time, they may desire the routines and community that OST spaces provide. As educators, we have to recognize where we fit into the ecosystems of care right now, know that we might play a role in providing essential services, and also honor our roles as social and emotional support providers for our students and their families.

Most young people (and adults!) feel stressed or overwhelmed by the constraints of stay-at-home orders, distancing, and the trauma of lives lost during this pandemic. For youth in particularly vulnerable communities, this can be an even more difficult time, particularly for:  youth with parents working outside the home in essential services or who are themselves working to support their families, youth experiencing mental health issues, illness, and physical disabilities, undocumented and mixed status families who have been excluded from government assistance, queer youth who may not be out or safe at home, incarcerated youth or youth in group homes, youth in uncertain home circumstances (e.g. foster care, domestic violence), and youth of color – particularly African-American youth, whose communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and Asian-American youth, many of whom are experiencing increased violence due to anti-Asian racism and xenophobia.
Source: YMCA of Greater Long Beach

Q: Can you state any strategies that programs are using to maintain and promote relationship building (adult-youth, youth-youth) in the era of COVID-19 restrictions? 
A: At Sadie Nash Leadership Project, a community-based youth organization where Jessica serves as Director of Programs, educators have continued to use rituals like opening circles and games to sustain and deepen the interpersonal relationships between youth. Adults and youth engage together with prompts that invite vulnerability and storytelling—grappling together with topics that range from self-care to family life and coping with grief and loss. Group activities--for example, mindfulness activities, feminist fashion shows, and singing games--continue to create a sense of joy and healing that strengthens the bonds between individuals.

In addition, there are many ways to take collective action while socially distanced, and the processes around these actions can further fortify relationships and solidarities between groups. Throughout Sadie Nash programs, educators facilitate project-based work through which young people can enact their own visions, with support from peers and adults.

Recently, Sadie Nash has leveraged youth-adult partnerships to facilitate wellness events for LGBTQQIA+ college students and communities of color, develop awareness campaigns about the impacts of COVID on youth in foster care and on people experiencing domestic violence, and conduct outreach via social media about the Census. The organization has also expanded relationships by doing more parent/family engagement--offering support to whole households through workshops on financial planning, intergenerational game nights, and small grants that provide emergency financial assistance for basic necessities such as food, groceries, and rent. The overarching strategy has been to lean in to the program’s embeddedness in community--staying present in this collective experience, attuned to the differences in vulnerabilities, and rooted in the values that have long guided the organization.

We are encouraged by the flexibility and nimbleness of OST educators in response to this moment, and by the commitment to partnership-oriented relationships with young people that we have seen. At the same time, we recognize that OST educators and community-based organizations are particularly vulnerable right now, often providing significant physical and emotional labor without having the financial security that should accompany this. Keeping this in mind, we hope that funders understand their role in offering financial continuity and stability for programs that foster partnership. We also hope that adult program staff make intentional space for honest conversations, affirmations, and ongoing team building to buoy one another. For adults, supporting and caring for each other more holistically in these uncertain times can model the kinds of positive relationship-building we aspire to with our young people.
Jessica Fei is the Director of Programs for the Sadie Nash Leadership Project. As an educational researcher and practitioner, she seeks to center the voices and leadership of youth, and to build relationships and communities grounded in authentic care.

Deepa Vasudevan is a visiting lecturer in education at Wellesley College, whose research focuses on the occupational identities and expertise of community-based youth workers, constructions of care work in education, and youth engagement in out-of-school learning experiences.

Gretchen Brion-Meisels is a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, whose work draws on critical participatory action research approaches to understand how schools and communities can become more equitable and loving spaces.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Calling For Racial Equity

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

By Sam Piha

The recent protests demanding racial equity have resulted in many supportive statements from afterschool intermediaries and providers marking a turning point, hopefully, in our country. We were inspired by the rally and march organized by youth at Oakland Technical High School (which is two blocks from my home). It was very successful and well attended- over 15,000 in attendance (read more here about how they did it). Oakland Tech High School has a strong history of student activism. Students from this high school lobbied the California legislature in the early 80’s calling for a holiday to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr- which contributed to a national movement.

Source: Akil Riley, 19, one of the co-organizers of Monday's massive youth-led action against
police violence that started at Oakland Tech. Photo: Darwin Bondgraham, www.berkeleyside.com.

Pedro Noguera, UCLA
“Educators. This is a teachable moment. Don’t be afraid to teach about the meaning of justice and the murder of George Floyd by the police. Our students are watching.” -Pedro Noguera, UCLA

“It is not enough to acknowledge the inequities that exist. Now is the time to direct our collective outrage to create real change.” -Karen Niemi, President & CEO, CASEL

It is important that we educate ourselves and others and serve as allies and lend support to youth to take the lead on this issue. There are many resources being offered by OST organizations. Below are a few resources that may be helpful which were suggested by the California Afterschool Network (CAN).

“The out-of-school time field is one of liberation; it has always been a space fertile for the birthing and development of a future we have yet to behold. A future where the hearts of our children are on fire with possibilities, their minds are filled with images of wonder, their ears are filled with freedom songs and their bodies are FREE. Their bodies are FREE. FREE to live, to grow, to be.”- Isabelle Mussard, JD, Executive Director, CalSAC


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Engaging Youth in the 2020 Election

By Sam Piha

(This blog was authored prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point the decision to re-open schools in the Fall, and afterschool programs, is not yet clear. Thus, at the end of the blog, we list some suggestions on how youth can be involved in the Fall election digitally.)

The 2020 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth and with recent Black Lives Matters escalating efforts, there is no better time for youth to be involved in making a change through the ballot box. We can frame these efforts as “meaningful participation”, “civic engagement”, “youth leadership” or “community service”. There are a number of organizations and initiatives that have designed curriculums, program tools and other materials to assist afterschool providers in their efforts to engage youth in the 2020 election.

Source: Getty Images

Did you know that young people can pre-register to vote at the age of 16-17? I didn’t, until I learned this from some of these materials below. There are a number of ways that youth can be involved in the 2020 election, even if they are not old enough to vote. These include sponsoring a voter registration event, supporting family and friend’s participation, uplifting stories and issues they care about, supporting a candidate’s campaign through volunteering or being part of the election process.

Donny Faaliliu,
After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles
We asked Donny Faaliliu, Director of Leadership and Community Outreach with After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles, how they are planning to engage youth in the 2020 elections. He responded, "After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles plans to engage our high school students through our youth leadership programs. The expectations would be for each school to host informative meetings on campus to educate students to use their voice through the voting process. The Democracy Class curriculum will help us to accomplish this goal. This curriculum is user friendly and the activity plans are easy to follow. It is a great resource for students because it provides valuable information on voter education, registration and the importance of voter turn-out. The webinar trainings were also very helpful and informative on how to best maximize this wonderful resource."

We also learned about how teachers and youth workers can use a video by rapper, Yellopain, entitled, "My Vote Don't Count," which can be viewed by clicking on the image below. 

Source: Yellopain, "My Vote Don't Count"

Below are a number of resources that you can check out:
You can also learn more by exploring these websites:
Digital tools for youth who want to engage in the 2020 election:

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Re-Opening Afterschool: Priorities and Practice

By Sam Piha

We know that young people missed a lot of classroom learning time when schools were closed due to the COVID-19 crisis. We also know that afterschool programs will likely be pressured to help make up for this classroom time that was lost. Afterschool programs may feel pressured to make up for these missed instructional minutes by doubling down on academics. But we know that afterschool programs have something much more important to offer. High quality afterschool programs specialize in positive relationships, safe and supportive environments, and engaging activities. All of these rejuvenating experiences will be essential to get students’ brains re-balanced and ready for learning after an incredibly disruptive spring and summer. We can anticipate that the transition to learning will be particularly hard for students who may be coming from unstable or stressful environments. Afterschool programs can play a vital role in supporting learning and well-being by focusing on their core areas of expertise and experience.
Katie Brackenridge (L) and Dr. Deborah Moroney (R)

On May 18, 2020 we sponsored a webinar entitled, COVID-19 Era- Afterschool’s Whole Child Approach featuring Katie Brackenridge (Turnaround for Children) and Deborah Moroney (AIR). You can view a recording of the webinar here

Katie offered Turnaround for Children's “3-R’s Framework” (Relationships, Routines, Resilience) to describe how we should prioritize our work when we re-open afterschool programs. Below she offered relevant practice examples:

Relationships: For example-

  • Learn about your students’ lives
  • Talk to students one- on- one
  • Check-in with families
  • Run morning meetings/ advisories
  • Loop teachers for more than one year

Routines: For example-

  • Co-create and practice norms and routines
  • Keep it simple- clear instructions, written signs and non-verbal signals
  • Model ways to organize and prioritize tasks 

Resilience: For example-

  • Liberally spread oxytocin with smiles, hugs and laughs
  • Be attuned to individual students’ emotions and reactions
  • Use mindfulness, journaling, movement to calm the brain



Katie Brackenridge joined Turnaround for Children in 2019 as a Partnership Director. Katie has worked in and with schools, school districts and community organizations for her entire career. Before becoming a consultant, Katie was the Vice President of Programs at the Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY). Katie’s work is grounded in her nine-year experience as Co-Executive Director for the Jamestown Community Center, a grassroots youth organization in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Dr. Deborah Moroney is the Managing Director, American Institutes of Research (AIR). She specializes in bridging research and practice, having worked as a staff member for out-of-school programs early in her career. She's written practitioner and organizational guides; co-authored the fourth edition of Beyond the Bell®, A Toolkit for Creating High-Quality Afterschool and Expanded Learning Programs, a seminal afterschool resource. Presently, Dr. Moroney serves as the principal investigator on national studies of afterschool initiatives.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

How Can Afterschool Address Menstrual Equity?

By Sam Piha

Maggie Di Sanza, Bleed Shamelessly
Different communities and individuals have strong opinions about how schools and youth programs treat the issues surrounding human sexuality. We were interested in hearing the views of a young person who is taking a stand on one of these issues.

Maggie Di Sanza is a 16-year-old high school student and advocate for menstrual equity. We first learned about Maggie through her article in EdWeek and her website, Bleed Shamelessly, which works to put an end to the harmful stigmas against menstruation and further gender equity through journalism, education, and protest.

Below are Maggie’s responses to some of our interview questions regarding her work.

Q: How would you define ‘menstrual equity’?

A: Menstrual equity refers to the idea that period hygiene should be a fundamental human right. It encompasses the philosophy that everyone who needs menstrual products, should be able to get them, and that natural need should not inhibit access to education or work. The reason that the term ‘equity’ is used as opposed to ‘equality,’ is because of the economic and social disparities that plague our society.

Q: You have written about the role of schools in supporting menstrual equity, but what about out of school programs that serve a large number of older girls? 

A: Afterschool and summer programs carry the same barrier that typical school programs do when it comes to menstrual equity. From supplying menstrual products in all public restrooms, to complete and inclusive education. As a start, ensuring that all restrooms provide pads and tampons for free. No student should be concerned with paying for their menstrual products; as to not get in the way of their education, afterschool and summer programs can ensure that the district or individual school provides said products. This involves clear cut and administrative advocacy.

If it is the job of an after school or summer program to prompt sexual or reproductive health conversations, make sure that you are promoting inclusive and accurate information. If we open the conversation up to gender-expansive and transgender people, much more testimony and accurate information surrounding menstrual stigma becomes clear. Especially when it comes to adolescents, who are already questioning a great deal about gender and sexuality, affirming their bodily experiences regardless of sex or gender, is incredibly important.

Q: How can staff promote menstrual equity while being inclusive to transgender or non-binary youth?

A: Staff can affirm this idea through using gender neutral language when referring to menstruation. Instead of addressing period-having people as women, girls, or females, I do my best to use gender neutral language. This is because not all menstruating people are women, and not all women menstruate.

As we know, typical gendered language does not apply to the transgender, or gender-expansive community; these groups are constantly disregarded when speaking about reproductive health, healthcare, and education. Thus, it is the job of all advocates for menstrual and reproductive healthcare to include all folks in the conversations. I urge all people beginning this conversation to refer to period-having people as menstruating folks, as opposed to using strictly feminine-tied language. Thus, we will eventually disassociate womanhood, with menstruation.

Next, we can ensure that our education is inclusive and accurate by respecting and sharing testimony and menstrual experiences. Everyone experiences menstruation in different ways, shaming someone for not properly experiencing a bodily function is unproductive and dehumanizing. Instead, we can promote the different ways that menstruation occurs by sharing, recognizing, and valuing the encounters of others.

Everyone will, at some point, come across someone who is on their period. Simply because one does not identify with a particular group or experiences does not negate the fact that it is important to have sensitivity regarding the issue. Imagine the compassionate and inclusive society we could have, if we did not limit our education to such outdated binaries.

Q: What about youth programs that offer information related to sexuality?

A: We must make sure to bridge the gaps that traditional schooling excludes from menstrual education. Teach about what healthy menstruation looks like, and equally, what unhealthy menstruation can look like. Educate students about the products they can use to manage their periods, and how to properly take control of their own healthcare and bodies. Inform them of where to get menstrual products, and how they can support their peers who may not have access to menstrual products. Include information surrounding the menstrual disparities that plague our world, and how we can all take action in terms of abolishing social stigma as well as the systemic barriers to menstrual products.

Q: If the schools in which these programs exist do not have any policies or support for menstrual equity, how can after-school programs take on an advocacy role? 

A: Those working for and managing afterschool and summer programs can write letters to head administrative staff in a district or school, and ask why certain bathrooms do not have free menstrual products. Urge them to promote not only the wellbeing, but education of all students in order to maintain productive and just educational environments. This can be as simple as an email-writing campaign, or a call to a principal or superintendent.

When advocating for free menstrual products in schools, it is important to emphasize the impact on the productivity of students. How can we expect menstruating students to succeed educationally if we do not give them the tools to manage their periods? If we ensure that menstrual products are physically accessible, it removes the common barrier to education and productivity that many period-havers face. It is the job of out-of-school programs to promote menstrual equity through education and conversation. By pointing out the ways in which students are inhibited by the system itself, administrators are far more likely to adjust their policy.

Source: www.bleedshamelessly.com
Menstrual hygiene should be a fundamental human right; we should no longer perceive making menstrual products accessible as a privilege to those receiving them. It is not a privilege to have a period; but rather it is a necessity for those in power to provide the tools to manage it.

You can also advocate by uplifting student testimony. Listen to and value the experiences of students within the program who have faced similar inequality when it comes to menstrual education or a lack of accessible products. Use their stories to advocate for your position and push for their experiences and values to be heard.

[Read this article on this topic from a Philadelphia newspaper.]

How are afterschool programs supporting girls through menstrual equity? 
Please write us regarding any activities you conduct in you program. 


Maggie Di Sanza is currently a junior at James Madison Memorial High School in Madison, Wisconsin. Social justice has always been a large part of her life, and promoting the wellbeing of all people. She is currently the Co-President of Memorial’s Gender Equity Association, and a member of our Sexual Assault Prevention Club, GSA, and Student Activist Club. She has lobbied for rights at the capitol, protested alongside her peers for equal rights, and presented the importance of equality at multiple educational institutions. She started Bleed Shamelessly with the hope of educating others about the menstrual inequities that exist in our culture, and improving accessibility to menstrual hygiene products; because she believes no one should feel incapable due to their period.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

COVID-19 Crisis: Articles by Dr. Shawn Ginwright (SFSU) and Jennifer Peck (PCY)

Shawn Ginwright and Jennifer Peck are important leaders in the afterschool and youth development movements. They have both been frequent contributors to our blogs and conferences. Below are articles they recently published during the COVID-19 crisis.

Coronavirus Underscores Need for Healing America's Racial Divisions 

By Dr. Shawn Ginwright

A history of policies that exclude and inflict harm have led to higher rates of persistent traumatic stress environment, leaving African Americans and Lations more vulnerable in the fight against COVID-19.

Now is the time to shape a new world and remedy past injustices. The reports of racial disparities among COVID-19 victims should not surprise us. African Americans and Latinos have typically experienced disproportionate exposure to a range of health issues. (Read the full article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 14, 2020.)

Source: Getty Images/ iStockphoto

Summer Matters More Than Ever

By Jennifer Peck

There are some unique challenges in front of us as we think about this coming summer, when learning loss, social disconnection and mental health challenges will be as intense as ever.

We should be doubling down on supports for kids over the summer, but there are a lot of unknowns. We don’t yet know to what extent we will be allowed to congregate in groups and when. We don’t know what the resource picture will look like. We don’t know how we can staff programs. The barriers seem immense, and feel overwhelming while our system is still trying to implement distance learning at scale.

What we cannot do is become paralyzed. There is too much at stake. Right now, we must be planning for different scenarios so that we can be ready to serve as many students as possible with various combinations of virtual and small group in-person time, including creative, project-based activities for students. (Read the full article published on Ed100.org on April 24, 2020.)
Source: Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY)

Shawn Ginwright is professor of Education, and African American Studies at San Francisco State University and chairman of the Board of Directors for the California Endowment. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Pivot: A Dramatic Shift Toward a Healing Centered Society. Dr. Ginwright has been a frequent contributor and speaker for Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation.

Jennifer Peck, Executive Director of the Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY), has led the organization since its founding in 2001.  During this time, she has grown PCY to be the leading California intermediary building access to high quality expanded learning opportunities for students living in our state’s lowest-income communities. Jennifer led the creation of the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance, the California Summer Matters Campaign, the California Community Schools Network, and HousED which builds on-site learning supports for students living in public and affordable housing.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Supporting the Whole Child in Afterschool

By Sam Piha

Katie Brackenridge
(Note: The COVID-19 pandemic has been very disruptive to afterschool providers and we will cover this topic ongoing. However, as afterschool leaders plan for Summer and next Fall, we will also offer posts that advances thinking for the afterschool movement.)

Katie Brackenridge is a long- time pioneer and advocate for afterschool learning opportunities which promote positive youth development. She recently joined Turnaround for Children, and we interviewed her regarding their Developing the Whole Child project. Below are some of her responses.

Q: Can you say something about Turnaround for Children. 

A: Turnaround for Children was founded immediately after the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Our founder, Dr. Pamela Cantor, was commissioned by the NYC Board of Education to assess the impact of the attacks on the city’s public school students. She found that 68% of the children observed were experiencing trauma that impaired their school functioning. But, the trauma was not related to the attacks, rather it was from their on-going experience of adversity and stress from growing up in poverty.

This realization led Dr. Cantor to initiate a set of supports in New York City that involved intensive mental health services for students in schools in high poverty communities. Turnaround for Children has since expanded beyond New York City to schools and school districts in Washington DC, Chicago, Tulsa and the San Francisco Bay Area. It is a member of the Science of Learning and Development (SoLD) Alliance, which includes the Learning Policy Institute, the Forum for Youth Investment, the American Institutes for Research, Education Counsel and Populace.

Katie Brackenridge will be joined by Dr. Deborah Moroney (AIR) to host a webinar on COVID-19 Era- Afterschool's Whole Child Approach.
Q: Regarding your work on the Developing the Whole Child project, can you cite the main takeaways of the brain science that undergirds the work?

A: I’ve been working in the youth development field for a very long time. As a young after school educator, I figured out quickly that having good relationships with students made my job easier and more enjoyable for everyone. In my thirties, I was involved in all the great San Francisco work that you, Sam, were leading with the Community Network for Youth Development where I learned the research backing for positive relationships and supportive environments.

From the science, I’ve now learned that relationships and environments are important because that’s how our brains are wired. You can find a full description in this article and in this video on the SoLD Alliance website. The key takeaways are:

  • The brain develops in response to our context - the experiences, relationships and environments that surround us.
  • This process happens over our lifetime, not just in early childhood as previously thought.
  • The fact that context matters so much is both an opportunity and a vulnerability.
  • Negative contexts - with ongoing and unbuffered adversity, trauma and stress - can be seriously damaging to children’s brains and bodies. This is the biological consequence of too much cortisol and adrenaline over extended periods of time.
  • On the upside, oxytocin (the “love” hormone) is a powerful counterbalance to cortisol and adrenaline. Oxytocin is released as a result of positive relationships and experiences. This is why you feel good when someone smiles at, compliments, or hugs you.
  • Children experiencing toxic stress are primed to respond quickly to perceived threats and danger. This instinctual response often shows up in classrooms and youth programs as misbehavior, inability to focus and difficulty learning.

This science provides the biological rationale for the positive relationships and safe, supportive environments that researchers and practitioners have found to be so important and effective.

Q: Can you cite the primary essentials for the Developing the Whole Child framework that supports all aspects of child development?

A: Youth developers will see the immediate parallels to expanded learning quality standards and the principles of Learning in Afterschool and Summer from Temescal Associates.

Turnaround’s Vision for Student Success takes the Blue Wheel into practice for schools (and possibly youth development organizations) by defining resources and tools at the educator, classroom and school level, all supported by strong leadership and shared ownership. The Turnaround wheel looks like this:

For each of the components of the Vision for Student Success (VSSS), Turnaround has professional development resources and practice toolkits. The “Whole Child Inventory” allows staff to self- assess their current strategies, structures and practices against criteria in each component of the VSSS.

Q: The concepts represented in your blue wheel are very similar to earlier research on youth development, the features of quality afterschool programs, the YPQA, etc. What do you think are the added benefits of the Whole Child wheel? 

A: What’s exciting to me is that this framework and the science of learning are a strong and concrete affirmation of the youth program quality standards, in place across the country. They provide further call to action for school systems and youth development organizations to work together to provide more consistency and coherence in young people’s experiences.

YD Guide 2.0
The frameworks and related tools provide some new and more specific approaches for some of youth development’s tried and true practices. Turnaround, for example, has taken the concept of relationships and further defined - based on research - the exact characteristics that need to be in place for a relationship to be developmental and therefore impactful. These characteristics include emotional attachment, reciprocity, joint activity and balance of power. The message is not different from youth development principles, but provides a level of detail based in science that can help practitioners be more intentional.

Turnaround also names the specific skills and mindsets (the Building Blocks for Learning) that young people need to succeed. Executive Functions, for example, are the skills that everyone needs to get things done and include remembering what you’re supposed to do, keeping yourself on task and being flexible when things change or don’t work out. These Executive Functions are particularly challenging for young people who experience adversity because they require high functioning of our pre-frontal cortex (regulation) and hippocampus (learning and memory) and not as much from the amygdala (reactions and emotion). Teachers and youth developers can help students build Executive Functions by teaching them to use tools (ie: calendars, check lists, breathing) and structures (ie: visual reminders, quiet spaces) that help them succeed academically and in all kinds of tasks. This additional information and the way it is translated into practices can help educators, including youth developers, be more intentional and individualized in their support for students.

Q: Does your organization offer any tools or resources that will help afterschool program leaders implement practices that support the development of the whole child?

A: Turnaround is primarily focused on K-12 education, but, clearly the science of learning and development is relevant to the youth development field. Many of the tools and resources could be easily adapted for youth development leaders and practitioners. The Forum for Youth Investment is a member of the SoLD Alliance and is intentionally working to ensure that the perspectives and strengths of the youth development field are understood and leveraged as the momentum around the science of learning and development builds. The science of learning and development is a significant asset to after school and summer programs, particularly those that are hoping to align more closely with the school day. The science clearly validates youth development practice and supports the building of authentic partnerships for student skills and success.

Katie Brackenridge joined Turnaround for Children in 2019 as a Partnership Director. Katie has worked in and with schools, school districts and community organizations for her entire career. Most recently, she was an independent consultant focused on improving learning conditions and social-emotional supports for young people through public school systems. Before becoming a consultant, Katie was the Vice President of Programs at the Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY), a nonprofit intermediary organization focused on improving practice and policy for after-school and summer programs in public schools and affordable housing. Katie’s work is grounded in her nine-year experience as Co-Executive Director for the Jamestown Community Center, a grassroots youth organization in the Mission District of San Francisco. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Pause: Cultivate Grace for Yourself and Your Community

By Sam Piha

For many years we have been promoting the effectiveness of mindfulness activities in afterschool- both for adult staff and youth participants. We have posted blogs, offered trainings to schools and created a 16- week mindfulness curriculum for afterschool leaders.

In this COVID-19 world, activities that help adults and young people release stress, be aware of one’s emotions, and stay in the moment have never been more important.
Mindfulness provides immediate feedback to adult staff. Taking a breath while letting the thought pass is indeed helpful when your inner voice is shouting doom and gloom. Interrupting the critical voices in one’s head allows a pathway for creative thinking (which is always necessary for afterschool programs adult staff).”- Allison Haynes, Riverside County Office of Education 

On Thursday, May 7th, 2020 (10:00am-11:00am PST) we invite you to participate in an upcoming webinar entitled, Pause: Cultivate Grace for Yourself and Your Community. Grace is most easily found in the present moment. Journey with Laurie Grossman and Stacey Daraio to learn mindfulness practices that you can share with your community to live in the present. You will leave calmer than when you arrived and with resources to use and share.

Laurie Grossman
Laurie Grossman is the Director of Social Justice & Educational Equity for Inner Explorer. She cofounded Mindful Schools in 2007. With Angelina Alvarez Manriquez and 4th & 5th grade students at Reach Academy in East Oakland, California, she wrote Master of Mindfulness How to Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress and Breath Friends Forever.

Stacey Daraio
Stacey Daraio is Co-Director of Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation. Along with Laurie Grossman, she co-authored the Mindfulness in Afterschool, a 16-week curriculum, and has supported its implementation in schools and afterschool programs throughout California.

To learn more and to register, click here.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Can Youth "Check-in" Remotely? There's an App for That

By Sam Piha
Source: L- weareteachers.org, R- HelloYello

One of the most important things about expanded learning programs (ELP) is for youth to have the opportunity to check-in with a trusted, caring adult. This is reinforced by the literature on positive youth development, social emotional learning (SEL) and trauma informed practice. We have written several blogs and articles on the importance of checking-in with youth.

But how can we continue that when our programs are closed due to COVID-19 and our afterschool participants are sheltering in place?

Source: Temescal Associates
Brandon and Ryan Sportel,  brothers and educators, developed an online application to allow young people to check in, called HelloYello. We first learned about HelloYello while researching our paper “Promoting SEL and Character Skills in Expanded Learning Programs.” We will offer a webinar introducing this application and showing afterschool practitioners how to use it. Below we include some responses from an interview we did with Brandon. (Because this was developed for teachers, they use the terms “student” instead of “youth,” and “teacher” instead of “youth program leader”).

Q: Can you briefly describe what the Hello Yello app is for? 

A: The HelloYello App is for strengthening student/staff relationships. It is a web-based app that students use to "check- in" with their teachers to express their thoughts and feelings, and share their daily experiences. Teachers, educators, counselors, and afterschool staff use HelloYello to understand all of their students from a "whole child" perspective, monitor their students' emotional wellness, and sustain trusting relationships.

Q: Can you briefly tell us the origin story about the development of the app? 

A: Our work began with students that struggle with emotions and behaviors.  As Education Specialists, we noticed that students benefited significantly when given opportunities to send us confidential messages about their feelings and experiences. So, we created a platform that validates student voices, and guides educators to be mentors and support staff. To read more about the origin story, click here.
To register and learn more, click here.

Q: During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, do you think this would be a good resource for afterschool programs that are shuttered, but want to maintain contact with their youth participants?

A: Yes, especially because it allows meaningful connections but maintains important social boundaries.

Q: Can you briefly describe how the HelloYello app works?  

A: Students login and are invited to share their feelings (using emoticons), thoughts and/or experiences; program leaders view a feed of student comments, and respond by simply letting the student know they got their message. We invite people to visit our website to learn more.

Source: HelloYello
Q: Is the app easy and safe for children to use?

A: The app is designed to be very easy to use and is completely safe since students can only share information with the leaders/coordinators in their ELP.  HelloYello is also registered with The Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC).

Q: If program leaders are interested in contacting HelloYello, can you provide an email address/ name?
A: helloyelloteam@gmail.com Brandon Sportel, CEO

Ryan Sportel is a Dean of Students at Goleta Valley Junior High and Brandon Sportel is an Educational Specialist that runs a Learning Center at Barbara Webster Elementary. Both have combined experience of over 37 years in education. Brandon was the 2014 Milken Educator for CA, 2015 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, and 2014 Carpinteria Teacher of the Year. Ryan was the Principal at Deveruex of Santa Barbara, a non-public school that served students at all grade levels. Both are highly regarded as pioneers in the social emotional learning space, and have had significant success in leading professional development training for districts on how to work with students that need mental health and behavior support.
Click here to review a recent article entitled, "There's An App for That- School Counseling and SEL Go Online."

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