Tuesday, August 2, 2022

An Interview with Outgoing PCY Founder, Jennifer Peck

By Sam Piha

“After 21 years of incredible service, Jennifer Peck, Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY) founding CEO, will step down from her leadership role in the organization on June 30th." - Partnership for Children & Youth

I've had the pleasure of working with Jennifer on promoting access to quality afterschool programs for over 20 years. She has partnered with Temescal Associates on several projects throughout the years and has proved to be an incredible leader and innovator. I interviewed Jennifer recently about her career and accomplishments and we share her responses below. To read comments from afterschool leaders who share their thoughts on Jennifer's impact on the field of afterschool, click here.

Q: What has influenced you to focus your energies on young people’s well-being?  
A: It’s been multiple things – one is that I came from a family of educators so that was sort of ingrained in me, though my career path was very unplanned and really a series of opportunities that I took advantage of at different moments. I started my career in politics and after working on a presidential campaign, found myself at the U.S. Department of Education which was an incredible learning experience and where I became inspired to pursue the career I’ve had.

Q: Why did you think it was necessary to found a new non-profit organization to promote this mission?  
A: When the federal government and California first began investing in afterschool, a lot of communities in great need for these resources couldn’t or didn’t access them, because the funding and policies didn’t  reflect the realities of running programs on the ground. There was a need for an entity to better communicate those realities and improve how public funding and policies served kids, so we dove in.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
A: It’s such a hard question to answer, there’s a lot I’m proud of, but right now I’m feeling immensely proud that there’s so much more attention to and investment in summer learning. PCY’s staff and partners over a lot of years did so much to raise up summer as a critical time and opportunity for young people, and it feels like it’s really arrived.

Q: What accomplishment was the most difficult? 
A: Also hard to answer, a lot of things were difficult! But I’d say winning an increase to the daily rate for ASES and 21st CCLC -- it’s a tough sell in a political environment to be fighting for more money to serve the same number of kids, but that’s what was needed.

Q: What do you see as the greatest challenge for the afterschool movement? 
A: The biggest challenges on my mind, are figuring out how to build systems to recruit, train and adequately pay the workforce, and how to sustain the positive attention on afterschool and summer right now. Both will take really focused and smart policy, communications and system-building work – and PCY’s new leadership is ready and able to take these things on!

Q: Looking ahead, what do you see as the greatest opportunities for the afterschool movement? 
A: The big one in my opinion, is to really solidify a change in the public education mindset from one that saw learning as happening primarily from 8-3 and between September and June, to one that sees learning as happening all day and all year, with a diverse set of adults facilitating. I also can’t help but be really, really excited about summer and the opportunity to expose so many more kids to amazing, fun, life-changing summer experiences.

Q: Looking back, what do you think you will treasure most? 
A: Most definitely the people and the relationships I’ve developed over all these years. There’s so many amazing people in this work – like my old friend Sam Piha. 

Q: What did you learn most from being a parent to Emilia?  
A: Wow – so many things, and an interesting moment to think about it as Emilia is headed off to college in a month. If I had to pick one thing, it’s that you have to meet kids where they are – my daughter is really different from me in some ways, and I had to learn how to adjust my parenting over time to support her in the way that best helped her grow. It has made me think a lot about the work of educators and how important it is to know and care about every kid -- at the end of the day, it’s the most important thing.

Jennifer Peck
MORE ABOUT... Jennifer Peck led Partnership for Children & Youth since its founding in 2001. During her tenure she developed and implemented initiatives to build high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs, access to meals and health care for students, and integration of social and emotional learning in the education system across the state. Prior to forming PCY, Jennifer spent eight years as an appointee of President Bill Clinton at the United States Department of Education, where she supported implementation of initiatives including student loan reform, School-to-Work, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Jennifer is the proud mother of Emilia.

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