Monday, July 22, 2024

Let Youth Lead

Source: FAB Youth Philly

By Guest Blogger, Rebecca Fabiano, Founder & President, FAB Youth Philly
(This was originally published on the FAB Youth Philly Blog for Youth Workers.)

Rebecca Fabiano
We know that Out-of-School Time programs are in a unique position to support young people in their demands for safer schools, equity and justice. For many of us, a social justice lens is at the core of our work with children and teens. Helping them develop their voice and providing opportunity for them to develop leadership skills is key to our approach in support of their moral, social, emotional and cognitive developmental needs. 

Whether it is through a project-based learning (PBL) approach, through service learning, in support of their social & emotional learning (SEL) or through college and career preparation with an emphasis on 21st Century Skills like communication, problem solving and team work. It's one of the things we do best. As youth are finding their voice and establishing their demands, we must continue to offer safe spaces for them. 


This includes spaces where participants are looking out for each other and empower them to look for signs of depression, anxiety and trauma. Do you have a process whereby youth can get help when they think something is 'wrong' and a peer might be depressed or acting differently? Does your program encourage and embrace mistakes? 

Do you look for teachable moments as opportunities for growth? Life is an iterative process and sometimes we learn the most when a caring adult or peer is there to help us reflect on our experiences. Include young people in the rules- making; and include them in the process for establishing and upholding the consequences. Do participants know it's OK to be 'different'? Safety also means being able to make mistakes or to be different without fear or ridicule. Is your space decorated with artifacts that represent the people you work with? Are you using language that is inclusive and culturally appropriate? Are there mechanisms in place for everyone to come together as a community? Some programs start and each day collectively, others come together for special occasions or other traditions. The more we can come together as a whole, the more we can take care of each other. Provide time for your staff to come together to get support and for training if they need it or ask for it. 

While there are many other things you already do to keep youth safe, remember: always be honest. Because we work with children and youth of all ages, do it in a way that meets them where they are at. You don't have to have all of the answers or be right. Go back to the suggestion about creating teachable moments; when we show youth that we are learning too, and often learning FROM them, it is empowering. If we have a different opinion than a colleague or our agency or a difference in politics, it's an opportunity to learn and connect. 


Something to keep in mind during this time: Schools may have a harder time doing some of the things that we do so well; what ways can you partner with schools during these times? Can youth provide peer to peer support? Workshops or training? Can your staff mentor or work on a project alongside a school teacher? While the OST field plays an important role is supporting and empowering youth, we must also take seriously their demands and put pressure on the systems and policy makers to meet those demands. When we do, everyone can be more safe, and our world more equitable and just. Read this statement from the National Afterschool Association on their stance on the #PowerOfAfterschool and their commitment to supporting the filed.


Rebecca Fabiano is the president and founder of Fab Youth Philly. For nearly 25 years, she has worked in various capacities across nonprofit and youth-serving organizations, served on boards and helped to build solid youth programs that engage, encourage, and create spaces for positive development. 

Fab Youth Philly (FYP) has a unique, holistic model for youth development. Their three-pronged approach to youth development is aimed at creating relevant, engaging, and empowering learning opportunities at the individual, professional, and community level. First, they provide innovative, award-winning summer and afterschool programs for teens with a focus on workforce development programming. Second, they connect with youth development professionals working with or on behalf of youth through their Center for Youth Development Professionals (CYDP), which offers competency-based professional development and networking opportunities. Third, they consult with other youth-serving organizations to provide a range of consulting services, ranging from curriculum development to retreats and small


Monday, July 8, 2024

Field Trips Are Good for Adults Too and Great for Professional Development


By Guest Blogger Rebecca Fabiano, Founder and ED of Fab Youth Philly

I recently wrote a blog about why field trips are a good idea for adults and a great tool for professional development. Read more of our blogs here

Some of my most memorable experiences of school and my time afterschool are of the field trips I took! Tons of research reports that field trips can make learning more engaging, they can deepen social skills, expose young people to things they may not have known about or thought they had access to, and also provide the opportunity for young people to make real-life connections to what they are learning.

Why limit all of these great things to young people? As adults, our learning can also deepen when have the opportunity to make real-life connections, when we can apply what we are learning in meaningful ways and when we can strengthen and expand our networks or access to information and opportunity. These are a few reasons why we include field trips in the professional development strategies we facilitate. Whether it's hosting the monthly Sandbox in a local coffee shop, or visiting various youth programs through one of professional learning communities we facilitate or with our own staff to expand our networks or resources. 

Before heading out on your field trip, provide some context. For example, before I took a group up to visit the Wooden Boat Factory, I had them watch a brief video about their work and peruse their website. This allows staff to ask informed questions. Maybe you have them do a 'scavenger hunt' while they are at the location, where they have to meet certain people, or gather certain information about the program. Just the same way you would if you were taking a group of youth. Being intentional about the experience you want your staff to have is 50% of what makes it meaningful.  

There are SO many places to go on a field trip, and quite a number of them don't have to cost very much, if anything at all! 

Below are some examples of potential field trips for your staff that would also make for great professional development opportunities. 

  • Go visit another OST program! There are scores of youth programs in your city. Go for a walk with your staff in the neighborhood where your program takes place, and map or count how many other youth programs there are within .25 miles. You might be surprised. 
  • Visit your local library. Many are FILLED with all kinds of resources; computers, maker spaces; some even have a café. They are not the old, dark places where the librarian used to come around and ‘shush’ you if you were too loud. Many have recently undergone serious make overs!
  • Visit a Board Member’s office. Some of us have board members that work in fancy or interesting places; take your staff to visit a board member at his or her office. It’s a great way for staff to learn more about the board (at least that particular board member) and, depending on where the office is may expose staff to a new business or organization or a new part of the city.

If you're still not sure where to go, ask your staff. Then, get out there! 


For nearly 25 years, Rebecca Fabiano (She/Her/Hers) has worked in various capacities across nonprofit and youth-serving organizations, served on boards and helped to build solid youth programs that engage, encourage, and create spaces for positive development. As a program leader, she has successfully raised funds and managed program budgets; hired and supervised staff; developed and sustained strong community partnerships and designed award-winning programming.

Fab Youth Philly (FYP) is a Philadelphia-based youth development organization that provides innovative, award-winning programming for youth, with a programmatic focus on workforce development opportunities for teens ages 15-19. 

Monday, July 1, 2024

Why arts education matters: A conversation with Jessica Mele


By Guest Blogger Karen D’Souza, Ed Source Writer
(This blog was originally published on Ed Source. To view the original post, click here.)

By day, Jessica Mele is a mild-mannered program officer in the performing arts at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation specializing in arts education. By night, she’s a sketch comedy maven best known as a founding member of a cheeky San Francisco-based troupe. She’s also a writer/performer working on a solo show about the drama of motherhood, “Eat the Mama.” 

A lifelong arts advocate, from serving as executive director at San Francisco’s Performing Arts Workshop to being part of the national advisory council of the Teaching Artists Guild, Mele recently made time to chat about the inequities in arts education in California, where research shows only 11% of schools offer access to a comprehensive arts education, and how Proposition 28, the groundbreaking Arts and Music in Schools initiative which launches this fall, may be a game-changer for creativity in learning.

Q: How did we ever let the arts get cut from the public schools? 
A: The public divestment from arts education in California is directly tied to the public divestment of education in California. Prop. 13, coupled with other anti-tax legislation from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, has led to a financially starved system. In that state of starvation, cultural expectations about the arts as “enrichment” or a benefit for the “talented” kids drive funding decisions that de-prioritize arts and culture. This feeds existing racial and class inequities in arts education access and teacher demographics because those educators who are more likely to have firsthand experience with the arts tend to be those whose families could access the arts through private means, often white or Asian, and wealthy. 

Q: How do you feel about the passage of Prop. 28 in 2022? 
A: Prop. 28 is something to celebrate. I never thought I would see so much money for arts education in California schools in my lifetime. It isn’t perfect, and it will require a lot of adjusting on the part of the California Department of Education and schools to distribute and spend the money wisely. It’s not nearly enough, given the size and scale of the student body in California schools. And at the same time, it’s more money than we’ve seen for arts education in this state in decades. 

Source: Spotlight: Girls

Q: What challenges lie ahead? 
A: Principals and schools are going to be challenged to figure out how to spend it. Arts teachers and arts organizations will have a responsibility to do something they’ve never had to do before: instead of plugging holes in a school’s arts education program, they can provide thoughtful guidance to principals on how to develop an arts education program that is responsive to their school community’s culture and needs. It is a game changer. And now it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that it’s implemented thoughtfully. 

Q: How does being a mom impact your view of the arts in education? 
A: I guard my child’s right to imagination. I try to cultivate that at home in play, drawing and painting. I try to ask questions about his thought process, his feelings as he was creating his artwork, the creative choices he made. In early childhood education, this is just good pedagogy. But, often in arts education at the secondary level we stop at the product: “What is it?” But those comments and questions don’t treat the artwork for what it is: an expression of a child’s learning process and their view of the world. I try to help him make meaning out of the things he creates. And I try to say “yes” to every creative impulse he has, even if I feel silly. And I tell him that his imagination is one of his most important assets. 

In preschool, my son would come home with artwork that ignored the lines. He used so many colors – he loves colors – and filled the page with shapes and scribbles. It was impossible to understand what something “was.” And he was disappointed because kids in school told him that his art wasn’t “good” because it didn’t look like the thing it was supposed to be, a train or a car or a Pokémon or a rainbow bear. I tried to ... encourage him in his own creative journey. Art doesn’t have to look like something to be beautiful. It doesn’t have to be clear to be interesting or to have meaning. 

Q: What do you think people outside the arts most need to know about how arts ed can touch children’s lives? Perhaps especially now, post-pandemic? 
A: Art and creativity is not a panacea. But it is certainly a balm, especially for many teens right now who are suffering from mental health issues post-pandemic. The creative process involves a reflective process of observing a creative problem, making a judgment about it, responding or expressing within an art form, and then – this is key and often missed in arts education — reflecting and revising. In other words, the creative process is a way of learning that helps young people make meaning out of their world, express their take on that meaning, and reflect on the interaction between their artwork and their surroundings, school, community, friends, family. In adolescence in particular, this cognitive process is key to developing abstract thinking skills. 


Karen D’Souza
covers arts education, literacy, and early education. She is an award-winning writer who comes to EdSource after covering lifestyle, parenting, health, housing, education and the arts for the San Jose Mercury News. She is a four-time Pulitzer juror and her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle Times.

Jessica Mele
is a Program Officer in Performing Arts at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. She manages a diverse portfolio of grants, with a particular focus on arts education advocacy and policy. Previously, Jessica was executive director at Performing Arts Workshop, an arts education organization in San Francisco. During that time, she was also an active arts education advocate, serving on the executive committee of the Arts Provider’s Alliance of San Francisco, the steering committee of the Alameda Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership, and the national advisory council of Teaching Artist’s Guild. In addition, Jessica advocated with community-based organizations outside of the arts sector as part of the steering committee of the Family Budget Coalition in San Francisco, which was active in drafting legislation and re-authorizing the city’s Children’s Fund and Public Education Enrichment Fund in 2014.

is a nonprofit newsroom devoted to covering equity in education which believes that access to a quality education is an important right of all children. They believe that an informed, involved public is necessary to strengthen California’s schools, improve student success and build a better workforce. EdSource works to engage Californians on key education challenges with the goal of enhancing learning success. It does so by providing timely, useful and accurate information to key education stakeholders and the larger public; advancing awareness of major education initiatives being implemented in California and nationally; and highlighting effective models and strategies intended to improve student outcomes, as well as identifying areas that are in need of repair or reform.

Let Youth Lead

Source: FAB Youth Philly By Guest Blogger, Rebecca Fabiano, Founder & President, FAB Youth Philly (This was originally published on the ...