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Afterschool Spotlight: YWCA New Britain - House of Teens

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Afterschool Spotlight: YWCA New Britain - House of Teens

Adapted from our November 2018 issue brief Promoting Civic Engagement Through Afterschool, developed in partnership with the Asia Society Center for Global Education.

Civic engagement starts with our nation’s young people. The afterschool field is an essential partner in ensuring that all children have the ability to participate in relevant, experiential civic engagement opportunities. As 3 in 4 superintendents agree that preparing students for engaged citizenship is a challenge for their district, afterschool and summer learning programs are critical partners in strengthening student civic engagement and helping them become informed, involved, and conscientious individuals.

In 2007, a needs assessment highlighted a concern about the obesity rate of Latina teens in New Britain, Connecticut, many of whom who were not passing physical education (PE) classes and therefore faced potential delays in graduating. The Community Health Center responded by forging a partnership with YWCA New Britain to implement an obesity prevention project. The Healthy Tomorrow for Teens Program found its home at YWCA New Britain as an afterschool PE credit recovery program that taught healthy eating and physical activity and engaged Latina teens in a leadership-training project called Photovoice. With the continued support of community partners, the program evolved into a full afterschool program with the establishment of the YWCA House of Teens Center.

While there have been some improvements, according to the 2016-2017 New Britain District School Profile only 38 percent of 10th graders meet the Health Standard in Physical Education. The House of Teens program works to improve those numbers by tracking participants’ attendance, earned credits, and high school graduation rates.

Designed with a comprehensive approach to healthy living in mind, YWCA’s House of Teens program engages high school girls aged 13 to 19 in activities intended to equip them with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to address barriers to health in their neighborhood, speak out to generate change, and lead overall healthy lifestyles.  Afternoons begin with scheduled time for academic mentoring, followed by structured enrichment activities that focus on fitness and wellness or life skills development, with the potential for earning school PE credits. Stress management, career and college preparation, and nutrition advice from mentors from the Community Health Center are just a few examples of the many classes offered. On Fridays, youth are in charge of planning and running activities for the day.

Moreover, as the program provides teen girls with access to health services, it also prepares them to play a role in influencing the social, civic, and communal factors of good health by equipping them with the tools to become health promotion advocates. Program staff foster a supportive environment, and within the safety and comfort of this “home away from home,” young girls are encouraged to make personal strides, building the confidence and independence that shapes them into leaders. As teen girls build on their knowledge of well-being and achieve personal health goals through enrichment classes, they also have the opportunity to exercise their advocacy skills and act as leaders in their community. For example, teens can participate in the decision-making process by joining the House of Teens advisory board, which plans YWCA community events and projects aimed at strengthening neighborhood ties.

Teens are also able to connect health and fitness to leadership and character through Photovoice, a yearly capstone project where girls explore their neighborhoods using digital cameras to capture barriers to health, such as neighborhood blight and lack of child-friendly public spaces. The photos are the basis for critical dialogue; girls in the program collectively reflect on and identify issues of concern, then develop solutions to mitigate those problems. They create photo-based presentations to share their recommendations and advocate for policy change.

Girls in the program have presented their proposals to local policymakers, school administrators, health providers, and community members. One Photovoice project capturing closed local swimming pools and littered, graffiti-filled parks initiated beautification efforts in their community that included the installation of new splash pads and field turf. Moreover, girls in the program report gaining confidence and leadership skills in their small-group discussions and personal reflections. House of Teens girls also express a desire for more opportunities to engage in the community and make their voice heard.

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/13/22

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BY: Guest Blogger      03/25/22

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      03/23/22

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      02/24/22

Staffing takes top spot as primary challenge for afterschool program providers in new survey

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      01/27/22

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/13/22

New survey shows that afterschool programs are still in high demand

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10 minutes of your time can help us continue to tell the story of afterschool

A recent Associated Press story highlighted the staffing challenges afterschool programs are grappling with. A Youth Today article last fall described the how the demand for summer programs was outpacing programs’ resources. Thanks to afterschool and summer program providers’ responses...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      03/23/22

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      02/24/22

Staffing takes top spot as primary challenge for afterschool program providers in new survey

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/04/21

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BY: Guest Blogger      09/27/21

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/13/22

New survey shows that afterschool programs are still in high demand

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...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      08/30/22

Staffing and student well-being remain top concerns for afterschool program providers in new survey

“Community awareness of the need for out-of-school time (OST) care and support has increased dramatically.  However, without more directed funding efforts, hiring and retaining staff at a livable salary remains difficult, and is veering toward impossible,” one provider shared in a...

BY: Sophie Kidd      08/01/22

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As summer is very much top of mind for many of us as temperatures rise and the unofficial start of summer now in the rearview mirror, a new Afterschool Alliance survey finds that program providers are gearing up for a busy summer. Throughout the pandemic, the Afterschool Alliance has been tracking...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      06/02/22

10 minutes of your time can help us continue to tell the story of afterschool

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      03/23/22

A look at the afterschool field through the pandemic

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      02/24/22

Staffing takes top spot as primary challenge for afterschool program providers in new survey

“COVID-19 has put stress on an already stressed programming system. I feel like this has put a spotlight on the need for our programs and the staffing issue” one survey respondent reports in Afterschool Alliance’s most recent survey of afterschool program providers. Another says,...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      01/27/22

NCES data release shows increased opportunities for summer learning and more mental health supports

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BY: Sophie Kidd      08/25/22

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BY: Sophie Kidd      07/22/22

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BY: Tierra Easter      12/13/21

Making learning outside of school count

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/23/21

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The mental, emotional, and physical well-being of children has been top of mind throughout the pandemic—for parents, for educators, and for youth development professionals. In a prescient research endeavor, conducted by Edge Research and with the support of The Wallace Foundation, Learning...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/04/21

Afterschool and summer programs may hold the key to post-pandemic recovery for young people

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BY: Guest Blogger      09/27/21

Latest highlights from Impacts Database point to summer learning's efficacy

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BY: Sophie Kidd      10/11/22

NCES data release shows increased opportunities for summer learning and more mental health supports

In early August, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a part of the Institute of Education Services, the research branch of the Department of Education, released findings from its June 2022 School Pulse Panel (SPP) study. The study’s goal is to collect data on the impact the...

BY: Sophie Kidd      08/25/22

Staffing and student well-being remain top concerns for afterschool program providers in new survey

“Community awareness of the need for out-of-school time (OST) care and support has increased dramatically.  However, without more directed funding efforts, hiring and retaining staff at a livable salary remains difficult, and is veering toward impossible,” one provider shared in a...

BY: Sophie Kidd      08/01/22

New examples of COVID relief funding for afterschool from National League of Cities

In the next phase of our COVID work and to celebrate the launch of the Engage Every Student Initiative, we have collaborated with the National League of Cities (NLC) on the next iteration of our map that shows where COVID funds are supporting afterschool & summer programs across the country....

BY: Sophie Kidd      07/22/22

How COVID Relief Funding is a Lifeline for Afterschool and Summer Programs During the Pandemic

A blog post earlier this year outlining the opportunities for afterschool and summer learning programs through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds asked the $500 billion dollar question, “…have funds been invested in such programs? What are they accomplishing?” The new brief,...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      07/07/22

Meeting the moment: Cities increase investments in young people to support pandemic recovery and beyond

By Bela Shah Spooner, Program Director, Education and Expanded Learning, National League of Cities Over the last two decades, the National League of Cities (NLC) has cultivated, as well as monitored, the growing support among local elected officials for youth-serving programs and their...

BY: Guest Blogger      03/25/22

A look at the afterschool field through the pandemic

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      02/24/22

Staffing takes top spot as primary challenge for afterschool program providers in new survey

“COVID-19 has put stress on an already stressed programming system. I feel like this has put a spotlight on the need for our programs and the staffing issue” one survey respondent reports in Afterschool Alliance’s most recent survey of afterschool program providers. Another says,...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      01/27/22

Public support for quality programs for children and youth remains a top priority for American families and businesses

While Congress continues to work on its appropriations and reconciliation packages, Americans continue to voice their strong support for programs that help them work while providing enriching experiences for their children. In addition to our America After 3 PM Survey, which has consistently...

BY: Jillian Luchner      11/02/21

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