Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Meaning and Importance of Music Participation in the Lives of Youth: What Afterschool Leaders Say

Source: NAMM Foundation

By Sam Piha

We believe that opportunities for youth to participate in a music program is important for their development, especially in light of the fact that many schools have eliminated music education to make more time for math and reading instruction. We also believe that afterschool programs are perfectly positioned to fill this gap.

We will continue to post on the importance of music featuring interviews with innovative practitioners and a summary of research. To learn more, we reached out to afterschool programs across the country to share their thoughts on this topic. We heard back from program leaders across the country, serving all ages of youth. These programs reported that they engage youth with music in a number of ways, including listening to music, learning how to play an instrument, learning DJ skills, making beats, recording music, spoken word, playing in a band, song writing, singing and drumming.

Below are some of the responses we received from afterschool practitioners to our questions.

Do you think music is important to youth? If yes, why?

  • “We currently have a music program at our site and have witnessed the beauty of music. Kids love to learn and filter their emotions through the music.” – ELP Site Lead, San Joaquin, CA, serving youth ages 5-11.
  • “Music provides so many emotional development attributes, that can lead to social, academic, personal and economic accomplishments and endeavors throughout their lives. Further, it’s something that they get that is theirs and stays with them for the rest of their lives to be used whenever and however they want, it’s god's gift forever playing.” – Afterschool Staff, Cleveland, OH, serving youth ages 12-14.
  • “It builds confidence and teaches them how to work with other people. It’s a discipline that teaches students to persevere.” – Instructional Associate, Vista Verde, CA, serving youth ages 5-11.
  • “It allows a scholar to be creative. Music reaches the inner depth of a person. A good sound can resonate on the sternum of a person and create calmness. It can also create a release of energy, etc.” – Afterschool Staff, Redwood City, CA, serving youth ages 12-14.
  • “I believe music encourages self-reflection. Through reflective moments we are able to engage and analyze our thoughts to help us make more informed decisions.” – Afterschool Staff, Euclid, OH, serving youth ages 5-11.

Please describe one example of how your program engages youth through music.

  • “We have a community partnership which places teaching musicians in our programs to teach ukulele. These instruments are affordable for us and fill a needed gap now that our elementary schools no longer have music programs.” – School District Coordinator of Expanded Learning, Vallejo, CA, serving youth ages 5-14.
  • “We have had weekly drumming classes and have opportunities for these classes to play at our fund raisers, end of the year performances, as well as performances around the city.” – Director of Staff & Student Development, West Palm Beach, FL, serving youth ages 5-18
  • “We partner with Women’s Audio Mission every semester. We have apprenticeships on how to build instruments, like a guitar, we have offered spoken word apprenticeship courses.” – Afterschool Staff, Redwood City, CA, serving youth ages 12-14.

Source: Mark Pan4ratte, unsplah.com

What benefits do you think come from youth engagement with music?

  • “There are academic and social-emotional and engagement benefits to the way we engage with music in our expanded learning programs” – School District Coordinator of Expanded Learning, Vallejo, CA, serving youth ages 5-14. 
  • “It allows children the opportunity to build self-esteem in a skill or something that they love and enjoy.” – School Age Coach, Dayton, OH, serving youth ages 5-11.
  • “Youth in the project live mostly in communities that have a lot of high-risk challenges. Many have experienced direct and indirect traumas on a regular basis. Many are faced with making decisions everyday as to whether to fight or flight, being involved in out of school activities that include music is beneficial to their physical and emotional survival.” – Afterschool Staff, Cleveland, OH, serving youth ages 12-14.
  • “Children find their personalities in music, it can be soothing and calming in times of stress.” – Afterschool Staff, Redwood City, CA, serving youth ages 12-14.

Source: www.pexels.com, photo by nappy

What benefits do you think carry into adulthood?

  • “My hope and aspiration are that these experiences not only create fond memories for them, but that for some it sparks a lifelong desire to make music.” – School District Coordinator of Expanded Learning, Vallejo, CA, serving youth ages 5-14.
  • “Music helps connect people and is a great tool for social emotional development.” – School Age Coach, Dayton, OH, serving youth ages 5-11
  • “Many attributes carry into adulthood. First, they learn that if you practice, put in the time you will become proficient at your task. Second, they learn discipline, follow direction, and stick to the order given and your results will be good. Third, they learn the importance of teamwork, brother and sister hood and build relationships that can last a lifetime. Fourth, they learn the essence of commitment, how to live up to your decision, to show up on time, follow through on time and to be there on time all of the time.” – Afterschool Staff, Cleveland, OH, serving youth ages 12-14.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

New Survey Shows that Afterschool Programs are Still in High Demand

Source: NHP Foundation

By Guest Blogger, Nikki Yamashiro (Previously published by The Afterschool Alliance)

Back-to-school season is in full swing and intermixed with the uplifting news stories on students’ return to the classroom are stories of the challenges taking place after the school day ends, from families waitlisted for afterschool programs to program providers struggling to find staff to fill open positions. A new brief, based on responses from nearly 1,500 parents or guardians of school-age children, conducted May 12-June 28, 2022, provides insights into both the issues families face when looking for afterschool programming, as well as the motivations behind wanting to enroll their child in a program. Four key takeaways from “Access to Afterschool Programs Remains a Challenge for Many Families,” include:

  1. Unmet demand for afterschool programs remains high during the pandemic. There are 24.7 million children who are not in an afterschool program, but would be enrolled if a program were available to them. Now, for every child in an afterschool program, there are four more who are waiting for an available program.
  2. Cost is the top barrier to afterschool program participation. More than half of parents without a child in an afterschool program (57 percent) report that programs being too expensive was an important factor in their decision not to enroll their child.  Other barriers include lack of a safe way for their child to get to and from programs (52 percent), inconvenient program locations (51 percent), and programs’ hours of operation not meeting parent needs (49 percent).
  3. For kids who are able to access afterschool programs during the pandemic, programs are keeping kids safe, connected, and engaged in learning. Fully 95 percent of parents are satisfied with their child’s afterschool program and 90 percent rate the quality of their afterschool program as excellent or very good. Most parents report that their program is helping their child with everything from building social skills (91 percent) to providing homework help (79 percent) and from providing time for physical activity (87 percent) to connecting their child with caring adults (79 percent).
  4. Parents agree that afterschool programs are providing critical supports to children and families during the pandemic. Strong majorities of parents agree on the positive role of afterschool programs, including keeping kids safe and out of trouble (82 percent), helping young people build positive relationships with caring adults and mentors (78 percent), providing working parents peace of mind that their children are safe and supervised (85 percent), and helping working parents keep their jobs (83 percent). Eighty-three percent of parents agree that all young people deserve access to quality afterschool and summer programs.

As a recent EdWeek Research Center report finds that nearly half (49 percent) of program providers surveyed in May and June 2022 said that they currently had a waitlist of students, similar to Afterschool Alliance’s Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19 spring 2022 survey, it’s clear that additional public and private investments at the local, state, and federal levels are needed to ensure that all young people have access to quality, affordable afterschool programming. Thanks to COVID relief funding, there are programs who have benefited from the additional support and have been able to meet the needs of their children and families, with one spring 2022 program provider respondent writing, “We would not have been able to stay in business or provide the same quality of care and programming without financial assistance. Or, we would have had to greatly increase the cost of our programming at a time our families were least able to afford it.” However, with only 1 in 5 program providers reporting receiving COVID relief funds, there is still more to be done. Read the full brief to learn more about the current afterschool program landscape. 

Nikki Yamashiro
Nikki Yamashiro
joined the Afterschool Alliance in June 2012. In her current role, Nikki coordinates, manages, and advances the Afterschool Alliance’s research efforts, including developing the organization's research goals and agenda and effectively communicating findings on afterschool and summer programs to policy makers, afterschool providers, advocates, and the public. Current major research initiatives that are a part of Nikki's portfolio include America After 3PM, a longitudinal study of how children in America spend their hours after school, and Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19, a multi-wave tracking survey documenting the pandemic's impact on the afterschool field.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Afterschool and the Power of Music

Source: Long Beach Youth Institute 

By Sam Piha

Because music is so important to young people’s development and identity, we wanted to interview an afterschool innovator on how his organization engages with young people through music. We first learned about the Youth Institute (YMCA of Greater Long Beach) many years ago when they were training young people and afterschool staff how to use computer technology to make movies. Below is an interview with the Youth Institute’s Director, Les Peters, on how they are paving the way for the use of music in afterschool. We also spoke with Kevin Peraza, a Youth Institute Alumni from 2007.

Q: In terms of your music program, what ages of youth do you serve?
We manage afterschool programs for all ages of youth,  but our music programs serve youth ages 15 - 18 (High School). 

Q: Do you think music is important to youth? If yes, why?
Yes, it is very important. It provides an opportunity to express themselves, if they have difficulties expressing feelings and emotions. It uses the same side of the brain as math and science. We teach digital music production, guitar, and drum lessons to our youth. 

Source: Long Beach Youth Institute 

Q: Currently how does your program engage youth in music? 
A: We currently engage youth with music by teaching participants how to play an instrument, teaching them Dj skills, how to make beats, record music and sponsoring youth to play in a band.

Q: Please describe one example of how your program engages youth with music?
For the past 21 years, in the Long Beach Youth Institute (YI) we have used music as one of our engagement strategies to support academic success, creativity expression and workforce development. It began with teaching the guitar to introducing digital music production and keyboard (piano) basics to evolve into making beats for their short films. For those teens who progressed in guitar & piano playing they started to record themselves and other teens started to use them for their films. Guest musicians and producers would volunteer with the YI to further develop the skill sets of the youth. Those youth who were in band and orchestra in high school would practice at the YI, because they didn’t have the space at home. Our youth formed a rock band and organized a battle of the band event for local area youth. In 2017, the YI was fortunate to have a partnership with Levi’s and a local musician/artist who wanted to give back to their community. Rapper and North Long Beach local – Vince Staples came to the YI to provide his experience in the music business and Levi’s provides financial support to expand our Digital Music program. Levi’s shot a commercial at the YI, with our youth as extras. 

[You can view a brief video about the Levi's/ Snoop Dogg project that features Snoop Dogg working directly with kids.] 

Then in 2019, Levi’s came back to us with another opportunity – artist Snoop Dog wanted to work with us, and he spoke to the youth about his career, and he brought his producing staff and taught professional beat making, song arrangement, and DJ skills. Snoop Dog even purchased a few of the beats our youth made during that time. At our new building location, the YI has a dedicated music room, with all the equipment we received from Vince Staples, Snoop Dog, and Levi’s. This music room has created an opportunity for our youth to have space to express and create. Our youth have started to create Podcasts, recording, and practicing their drums and guitar.

Source: Long Beach Youth Institute 

Q: What benefits do you think come from youth engagement with music?
A: The benefits we see are creative expression, improved social skills, manage emotions & stress, self-esteem booster, and perform better academically. The Youth Institute (YI) historically has been recognized for its ability to engage youth at different levels with a vast array of program activities; with music being one of the most popular. Many of our youth pursue post-secondary degrees in music because of their engagement in the YI. Workforce development is another benefit, with our social enterprise business – Change Agent Productions. Some of our youth are hired to create background music, loops, and narrative for videos and commercials. 

Q: What benefits do you think carry into adulthood?
As our youth transition into young adulthood, we have seen them have increased self-confidence, social growth, more creative and have a greater awareness of tolerance. We have seen youth come to us quiet, shy, non-social, but evolve to being social, leaders, and staff in the Youth Institute or other afterschool programs.

Below we share responses from YI’s 2007 alumni, Kevin Peraza.

Q: Do you think music is important to youth, If yes, why?
I think music is an important part of finding identity. Culturally speaking. Different genres can affect a young person’s personality. Going further and learning how music is made allows youth to dissect the parts of music that resonate with them. Which can be a really cathartic experience.

Kevin Peraza playing in his band.

 Q: Give one example of how the Youth Institute program engages youth with music?
A: On a base level the YI gives youth their first and, in some cases, only experience with music. The equipment that’s readily available makes it so easy to try it. Whether it’s garage band on the macs or picking up a guitar that many mentors have lying around. In my experience the YI bought band equipment so that some of the youth could try their first experience at playing music with a collective group of like-minded individuals. In the past they have even held a battle of the bands for local Long Beach high school bands. Which was for most participants their first experience of being on stage performing for a crowd.

I think the YI understands the importance of music and the positive effect it can have on youth with a deep desire to express themselves.


Les Peters
Les Peters
currently works for the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, Youth Institute, a national recognized Teen Youth Development & Digital Media Arts program as the Executive Director of Youth Institute & Curriculum Development. He has over seventeen years of experience in youth development and over fourteen years in digital media arts technology. He develops and implements after-school and year-round programming for low-income urban youth of color, provides diversity training and develops creative academic & social skills through the use of multi-media technology.

Kevin Peraza
Kevin Peraza is a Youth Institute Alumni from 2007 who was fortunate to participate in all of their music activities: playing guitar, took part in YI’s youth band and did work with Change Agent Productions. Today Kevin is a young adult who is a filmmaker and still plays in a band. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Afterschool and the Education Culture Wars (Part 2)

By Sam Piha

In part 1 of Afterschool and the Education Culture Wars we introduced the issues that many schools are facing regarding critical race theory and the call to ban books dealing with identity issues (racial and gender). In part 2 we offer some tips on how to avoid entanglement in these education culture wars and how to combat misinformation in the community. 


When Describing the Program, Sharpen the Message; Avoid Acronyms and Jargon 
When describing your program in written outreach documents, remember your audience are not afterschool insiders- they might be parents and community members. It is very useful to have parents and community members review the text to ensure that it is understandable to an outsider. This is also a good way to build parent advocates for the program who can speak out and support if the program comes under scrutiny.  

Source: Nicolas Picard, Unsplash.com

“The first question they [parents] had was, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’” he said. “’I get math. I get reading. What the hell is social-emotional learning? ’When commissioners explained they wanted schools to nurture qualities such as discipline, self-management, and relationship skills, “they’d [parents] say, ‘Oh yeah, we’re for that,’” - John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises

Terry Peterson
“Working on education improvements and reforms for almost fifty years, I have observed that almost any education innovation using initials [or acronyms] is likely to invite pushback. Also, describing development and learning in shorthand “buzz words," not mainstream terms, also invites problems. Case in point: We give very conservative critics great aid by providing them both initials, SEL, and words like social emotional learning. Instead, say practically that we are working to strengthen: self-management skills, social awareness skills, responsible decision-making skills, and teamwork skills”
- Terry Peterson,  Afterschool Alliance

Double Down on Commitment to Program Values

“We all just have to continue to believe in what we do and stick together and not back down.” - Bridget Laird, CEO of WINGS for Kids 

While it is important to steer clear of trouble, we have to remain committed to our views. Below are some inspirational statements taken from As Terms Like ‘SEL’ Draw Fire, Organizations Supporting Schools Sharpen Their Message by Libby Stanford for ED Week.

“Although the rhetoric surrounding critical race theory and SEL can be loud at times, it has not deterred education organizations from being vocal about their work. ‘If anything, we’ve doubled down on our values, we’ve doubled down on our program,’ Peter Shulman (CEO of Urban Teachers) said.” 

“Urban Teachers isn’t coy about its stance on race and racism in its messaging. On its website, the organization writes “Structural racism and inequality have kept generations of urban children from receiving the education they deserve.” 

Get Involved, Especially in Your Local Community

Support for afterschool is not guaranteed and may have a shelf life. Thus, it is vital that we get involved in decision making to protect afterschool. Below are some suggestions. 
  • Support candidates and groups that agree with your values. 
  • Vote for local, state and federal candidates that agree with your values.
  • Keep up on what’s happening locally and across the nation.
  • Write to your elected officials to continue supporting afterschool.
Participate by:
  • Running for school board or a local office 
  • Follow or attend local school board meetings. They are often televised, or video recorded and publish their notes and future meeting agendas on community websites. You can view a recorded school board meeting from Polk County, Florida, as they discuss the banning of books.  

On September 13, 2022, Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation will be sponsoring a webinar on this topic to further discuss the issues behind the current education culture wars and how it affects afterschool. Panelists will include Terry Peterson (Afterschool Alliance), Michael Funk (CDE), Bridget Laird (WINGS for Kids), Melissa Schlinger (CASEL) and Femi Vance (AIR). To learn more and register for this informative webinar, click here.

Youth Vote 2024: Benefits of Youth Civic Engagement

Source: www.urge.org By Sam Piha The 2024 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth. But these opportunities require i...