By Sam Piha
We are continuing to post a series of blogs to inform and encourage expanded learning programs to start today infusing civic engagement and activism in their afterschool program. NOTE: There are many program resources on the topic, some of which are detailed in our paper, Youth Civic Engagement and Activism in Expanded Learning Programs. You can view previous blogs from this series here. We also conducted a webinar on this topic which can be viewed here.
In this blog, we hear from afterschool program leaders on the challenges they face when offering civic engagement and activism activities and share some tips to consider.
Challenges Encountered – School districts are conservative when it comes to "lobbying", so we have to educate the local education agencies on the difference between lobbying and civic engagement. And encourage them to think more broadly.
Tips - Look for programs and processes that work and make sure to do professional development with line staff who are the kid magnets. They need to re-learn civics too! Look for programs that already exist and join in before trying to start something on your own. - Brad Lupien, ARC Experience
Tips - We had two remarkable college students involved in the design of the program, and they were the direct contacts for the teams to connect and progress in their projects. That was a huge factor in this program's success. The college students had been in afterschool programs just a year prior, and their fresh perspectives were really valuable. - Julie Groll, ASAP Connect
Challenges Encountered - Staffing this year was a MAJOR challenge, for both adults and teens; inconsistent number of children that come out to the playground and playstreets make it hard for the teens to stay motivated; the heat can also decrease motivation. Fundraising can be a challenge because many see this as an expensive program. The program itself doesn't cost a ton and many things can be donated or can get sponsorship (like their uniforms/t-shirts); what does cost the most is the salaries. This is a workforce development program, so we invest in people. We have low staff/youth ratios, we pay above minimum wage, aiming to get our TEENS to $15/hr. within the next 3-5 years. They are currently paid $9/hr. and adult staff starts at $15-20/hr.
Tips - Plan, plan, plan and then be prepared to throw all of those plans out the window. This project relies on many partners and large systems, the more of those you have to interact with the more you have to rely on them. So, deadlines often get pushed, information often comes late, and so we end up grinding the two weeks before the teens start for training because finally all of the information we’ve been waiting on since MAY, comes through. Once the teens start training and then are on the Play Streets, just lean into it and have fun! - Rebecca Fabiano, FAB Youth Philly
To help others interested in this initiative, they published Play Captain Initiative: Start- Up and How- To Guide.
Tips - Setting up a foundation of safety and support can provide intentional mechanisms for conflict resolution between youth. Provide as much space for youth to take on leadership roles and design programming. - Jenifer Hughes, Youth & Government, YMCA of San Francisco
Tips - Incorporating meaningful civic engagement opportunities into youth programming is so easy to do! The mechanisms for young people to engage with their elected leaders are the same for adults. Have them create a presentation for their community board, testify at a public hearing, call or write to their elected leaders, create a petition...these are such great projects for young people to do together and you can do so much related skill building as you go through the projects: public speaking, debate, consensus building, media literacy, etc. - Laura Jankstrom, YouthAction NYC
Challenges Encountered - Our expertise is in youth development and science education. Participants would benefit from more collaboration with experts in government and community organizing.
Tips - Youth seem to thrive when there is a clear purpose and overall framework in which they can make choices about what they are most excited to do and how they wish to do it. They are very creative -- give them the space and support to achieve their goals. - Laura Herszenhorn, California Academy of Sciences
Throughout the month of November, we'll be promoting The How Kids Learn Foundation Giving Tuesday fundraiser. Why donate to The How Kids Learn Foundation? Because, since their launch, they’ve contributed so much to the afterschool field, including over 38 Speaker’s Forums; 82 educational videos, attracting 33,400+ views; 38 briefing papers and over 480 blog posts attracting 716,000+ views. Help HKLF continue their work in 2022. To learn more and donate, click here.