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In the Field Snacks
AUG
26
2016

IN THE FIELD
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How an afterschool program recruited a US Senator as a powerful ally

By Robert Abare

LA’s BEST has long been creating Better Educated Students for Tomorrow—since its founding in 1988, the program has grown to serve over 25,000 kids at 193 elementary schools across Los Angeles, particularly in neighborhoods vulnerable to gangs, drugs and crime. US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has been an ally of the program for almost just as long, dating back to her first site visit to LA’s BEST in 1992.

Hosting Boxer at a site visit was a critical way for LA’s BEST to establish a relationship with the Senator, who then boosted the profile of the program locally and nationally while securing funding for programs across the nation. Most recently, Boxer helped accomplish this goal by working to preserve and strengthen the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative in the nation’s new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Boxer, who is retiring after her term ends in 2016, recently capped off her championing of LA’s BEST and afterschool in general by visiting the program for a final site visit earlier this month. During the course of her visit, she interacted with kids as they showed off the many opportunities offered by the program, including digital learning and coding lessons, a dance performance and learning math through Legos.

Boxer held a press conference following the visit, where she took questions from both the media and youth who participate in LA’s BEST. Boxer described how her experiences with LA’s BEST inspired her to become a national champion of afterschool.

“…when I saw [LA’s BEST], I knew I had to take it nationwide. And we did it together,” she said. “We created that national program, which serves more than a million kids every single day and it’s because of LA’s BEST…”

Gurna elaborated on how the partnership between LA’s BEST and Senator Boxer not only benefitted LA’s BEST, but afterschool across the USA. “The relationship with Senator Boxer is ideal because it developed from her being inspired by our program to her becoming a national advocate for afterschool.”

“This is a great example of how elected officials need to have a personal experience with a program to see what they are accomplishing,” Gurna explained. “Officials need to see how afterschool provides critical experiences that expand learning and horizons, and see how afterschool opportunities are not that different from what they want their own kids to experience.”

“Our more than 25 year relationship with Senator Boxer is testament to the fact that we have to get officials out there meeting kids, staff and seeing the power of afterschool with their own eyes.”

Gurna added, “Elected officials just need an access point—and any high quality afterschool program can fill that role.”

AUG
22
2016

IN THE FIELD
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HEPA provides Santa Clara YMCA with sense of commitment, common language

By Robert Abare

Written by Matt Freeman

Kids enjoyed reading a book with Andrew Tarbell of the San Jose Earthquakes during a YMCA of Silicon Valley summer meal program event. Photo courtesy of the YMCA of Silicon Valley on Facebook.

For Mary Hoshiko Haughey of the YMCA of the Silicon Valley in Santa Clara, California, the push toward healthy eating and physical fitness has been underway for a very long time. “We were working on this long before the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards were developed,” she says, “so once the YMCA-USA signed on to the standards, we were early adopters.”

Haughey is Senior Vice President for Operations for the local YMCA, and her pre-HEPA work brought the Y and its afterschool programs into partnerships at the federal, state and local levels. Working with a Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, they worked to combat diabetes in the Latino community. Two Carol M. White Physical Education Program grants helped equip afterschool programs and train staff in evidence-based curriculum. In addition, the Y was a demonstration site for the California Healthy Behaviors Initiative, a joint effort between the state Department of Public Health and the nonprofit Center for Collaborative Solutions.

That effort paved the way for a partnership with the Santa Clara county health department in which the Y’s afterschool programs were a vehicle for an effort to increase youth physical activity and encourage healthy eating. The county produced a resource guidebook, Fit for Learning, aimed at fully integrating healthy eating and physical activity into school lesson-planning, and the Y produced a corollary for afterschool programs, Fit for Afterschool. Both guides have since been integrated into one resource.

When HEPA standards came along, the local Y of Silicon Valley was quick to embrace them, and the standards are now in place in all of its 108 afterschool and early learning sites, as well as its summer learning and camping programs. In addition, the Ys employ the SPARK curriculum, a research-based physical education program, as well as several nutrition education curricula from various public health partners.

Each of the sites offers daily physical activity for children, providing opportunities for the moderate to vigorous exercise called for under HEPA. “We’ve also restricted screen time,” Haughey says. “Now if there’s a screen on, it’s because a child is doing homework or some activity specifically targeted at academic enrichment. They’re not watching a movie!”

“We’d made a lot of headway on healthy eating and physical activity before HEPA, but the standards still helped us in important ways,” Haughey added. “HEPA gave us a sense of commitment to a shared effective practice, and a common language to talk about it with our colleagues locally and across the nation. When I get together with colleagues from Tennessee, we can talk about the challenges and successes.”

Overcoming obstacles to build a healthier community

The effort continues to face some important challenges, and Haughey says the Y has learned a lot along the way. “One thing that becomes clear when you really start working with communities living in poverty,” she says, “is that you can’t just tell people, ‘go eat healthy food and be active.’ There are food deserts that make it hard for people to find fruits and vegetables. And the built environment in their communities isn’t safe. So we’ve really dug into it with our community, challenging ourselves to think about how we make it doable for families living in poverty.”

One other aspect of HEPA that Haughey particularly appreciates is that it’s a vehicle for feedback and engagement with parents. “We let our parents know about HEPA,” she says, “and they help hold us accountable. We’re not perfect, and sometimes staff get a little ‘creative,’ and then I get phone calls from parents. I’m glad to hear from them, and it’s helped create a broader awareness among our parents and families. It’s good to be accountable to them.”

AUG
18
2016

IN THE FIELD
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US Senator praises Afterschool Ambassador named 2016 Champion for Kids

By Robert Abare

From L to R, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) with Afterschool Ambassador Julie Wild-Curry at the 2016 Afterschool for All Challenge in Washington, D.C.

Current chair of the Alaska Afterschool Network and Afterschool Ambassador Julie Wild-Curry has been recognized for her advocacy for Alaska's youth and out-of-school time programming by being named a 2016 Champion for Kids by the Alaska Children’s Trust. Wild-Curry is the Director of Afterschool Programs for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and a White-Riley-Peterson Fellow.

Throughout her 25 year career, Wild-Curry has advocated for increased out-of-school time opportunities for children and working families, both in Alaska and across the country. Her work helped create a strong out-of-school time network in Fairbanks, AK, which has ensured families have the support they need, and that more children have access to safe and enriching environments during the after school hours.

A letter from Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was read at a reception celebrating Wild-Curry’s receipt of the Champion for Kids award on Wednesday, August 17. “What many people here this evening may not know about you is that, in addition to being an outstanding program director and mentor, you are a national leader for after school programs,” said the Senator of Wild-Curry.

The Senator went on to praise Wild-Curry’s work, in partnership with the Afterschool Alliance, in drafting and advocating for the Afterschool for America’s Children Act, which sought to strengthen the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative (21st CCLC). “The bill reflected your many years of experience and your commitment to ensuring that children have the most enriching, safest after school and summer experiences possible,” she said.

Senator Murkowski added, “I was proud to sponsor that bill because I know that whatever you recommend is worth supporting. That bill became law with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act this past December.”

Indeed, the Every Student Succeeds Act preserved and strengthened 21st CCLC despite significant challenges, an accomplishment that would not have been possible without the support of champions in Congress like Senator Murkowski and advocates like Wild-Curry.

Through the Champion for Kids award, the Alaska Children’s Trust annually recognizes an individual that has demonstrated dedication and commitment in working toward eliminating child abuse and neglect by ensuring that children are living in safe, supportive, and nurturing communities. 

AUG
17
2016

IN THE FIELD
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August Congressional recess is great time for site visits

By Jen Rinehart

Amanda Colecio, 13, shows off a robot that she helped build through the SHINE program. (AMY MILLER/TIMES NEWS Copyright, Zubek-Miller Photography.)

Every August, the Afterschool Alliance encourages afterschool providers to think about inviting Members of Congress, who are back in their home districts for much of the month, to come visit programs. The Afterschool Alliance offers tools to help plan a site visit, case studies of past site visits, and Q & A blogs with providers who have successfully hosted visits to make it easy to host a policy maker at a program.

Last week, I joined Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA-11) along with his chief of staff, a staff member from Senator Casey’s office, numerous state legislators and legislative staff and local superintendents for a visit to the SHINE Afterschool Program in Jim Thorpe, PA. The SHINE Afterschool Program, funded in part by a grant from 21st Century Community Learning Centers, started in three centers that served 90 students across two counties. This year, it will serve 1,200 students from 16 centers in Carbon, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties.

Creativity and flexibility are key to a successful site visit

SHINE is no stranger to organizing site visits, but they faced a unique challenge that other providers might also face in mid-late August:  no students. SHINE offers summer programming, but it had ended by last week. In August, SHINE's model shifts to focus on home visits as they gear up for a new school year. So, SHINE did what they always do; they innovated. They invited a group of guests to Carbon Career & Technical Institute and arranged for staff, students and parents to give the invited guests a sample of what SHINE has to offer to students and families.

During the visit, we heard about the philosophy and quality principles behind SHINE, we experienced a home visit with one of the SHINE home visit teachers, we observed students engaging in activities similar to the opportunities they have during the school year, and we heard from a grandmother who is raising her grandchildren and values what SHINE has offered her grandkids over the years.

Policy makers praise the benefits of afterschool

Reflecting on his first visit to SHINE in 2011, Rep. Barletta said, “This program is exactly what we need to change the direction and lives of our children… Changing the direction and lives of our children is the best thing we can do for America.”  Rep. Barletta views SHINE as not only a model program for Pennsylvania, but for our country. State Senator Yudichak talked about meeting children and parents who talked about how much SHINE empowered them and how impressed he was by the evidence based, data-driven program that has a success record spanning more than a decade. In his words, “SHINE is improving lives in the classroom, after school and in the community.”

After seeing students using computer design software to design and build cars, program robots and test out engineering skills by building bridges, it became clear why Barletta and Yudichak are such champions. In the end, it was a grandmother who stole the show, by revealing her heartfelt appreciation for SHINE and the help and safety it provides her grandchildren despite lots of challenges.

Congratulations to Rachel Strucko, Director of SHINE and the Pennsylvania Afterschool Network, PSAYDN, for getting state and federal policy makers and local media to see what SHINE is all about, and why state and federal investments in afterschool are so important.  

AUG
9
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Register for National Voter Registration Day on September 27!

By Elizabeth Tish

photo by Amanda Nelson

In 2008, 6 million Americans didn’t vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn’t know how to register. In 2016, National Voter Registration Day is aiming to make sure more Americans are ready to vote on Election Day this November, and Nonprofit Vote is asking America’s nonprofit organizations to play a part. A coalition of organizations, community leaders and celebrities have already pledged to get out and register voters who might otherwise not have the opportunity to do so when National Voter Registration Day starts on September 27, 2016.

Sign up to become a partner today! When you sign up, you’ll receive a packet of posters, stickers, and a toolkit explaining how you can participate in more detail.

If you’re unsure of how to get involved with the election as a nonprofit, check out the Afterschool Alliance's Campaign for Afterschool Toolkit. It offers information about what an organization can and cannot do as a 501(c)(3), as well as advice about how to make the case for afterschool funding and support to candidates for public office at all levels of government.

After registering for National Voter Registration Day, consider sharing with your networks to get even more people involved:

Sample Tweets:

Celebrate our democracy on Sept 27 by signing up now for National Voter Registration Day at bit.ly/MyNVRD2016 #CelebrateNVRD

Sample Facebook or Google+ Post:

National Voter Registration Day 2016 is around the corner! Just It's never too early to start thinking about how your nonprofit will participate. Sign up now and NVRD will mail you posters, stickers, and a toolkit explaining how to participate. Use this link to sign up: bit.ly/MyNVRD2016 #CelebrateNVRD #BeReady2016 #NPVotesCount #VoterRegistrationDay

You can also share the National Voter Registration Day Facebook event.

share this link: http://bit.ly/2b6eNZ0
learn more about: Advocacy Election Community Partners
AUG
2
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool & Law Enforcement: Building relationships and trust

By Erin Murphy

A photo of the Philadelphia Police Athletic League (@phillypal1947) via the Afterschool Alliance on Instagram

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the third installment of the Afterschool & Law Enforcement blog series. Through interviews with police officers and public service officials, this post focuses on how afterschool programs and law enforcement partnerships help build relationships and trust between officers and members of the community. For more information on this topic, check out our previous blogs on motivations for partnerships and on the law enforcement caucus’ briefing on youth mentoring.

Partnerships between law enforcement and afterschool are playing an important role in building relationships and trust between police officers and their communities. For example, at the OK Program in Santa Barbara, CA, most students’ interactions with officers prior to their involvement in the program were through late night police calls in response to family or neighborhood disturbances. This trend allowed distrust to grow between youth and officers in their community—until the OK Program provided a way for beneficial relationships to develop.

The Corona Police Department in California had a similar experience, so the department began to look for a way to reach out to young people and give them more positive interactions with law enforcement. Partnering with afterschool programs was a natural way to do this. These partnerships allow officers to interact with youth in their community on a regular basis and support the work providers are already doing to keep kids safe and supported.

In the fledgling stages of these partnerships, many officers were met with reluctance and distrust. Most children and families in the Santa Ana Police Athletic and Activity League were intimidated by interacting with uniformed law enforcement officers, and Sergeant Ron Edwards of San Diego described the first time students met officers at their program as being similar to a high school dance, “except instead of girls and boys on either side of the room, it was youth and law enforcement.” Yet through these partnerships, officers and youth were able to break down barriers and develop strong bonds.

Here are some stories highlighting how officers worked with programs to build relationships and trust:

  • The Massena, NY Police Department recently launched a program called “True Blue”, where uniformed police officers spend a minimum of 30 minutes each day interacting with youth, such as playing street hockey or basketball. They use daily interaction, because the more time youth and officers spend together the stronger their relationships become.
  • Chief Fowler of the Syracuse, NY Police Department has partnered with and led afterschool programs for over 20 years. In his co-ed basketball program for teens, student teams were coached by officers. The students taught officers about basketball, and officers worked with students on team building and sportsmanship.
  • In the Youth Advisory Group, a program started by the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, all meetings are focused on team-building between sheriff deputies and youth. They eat, talk, and complete activities together in each session. They also bring the group together to talk about law enforcement and experiment with role playing, allowing both youth and law enforcement to better understand where the other is coming from.
AUG
1
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Teens become health mentors through Health Ambassadors Program

By Robert Abare

When Jason Smith first arrived at Hiram Johnson High School to help turn the struggling school around, he expected to find a community overrun by gangs and violence. “That’s not what I found,” he said. “I found kids with lots of potential, who wanted to do something in their community and make it a better place.”

Smith, who is currently the Director of Health and Wellness for the Sacramento Chinese Community Service Center, quickly identified the school’s health and physical activity environment as a key area for improvement. “Many of the sports teams were having trouble finding recruits, and the cafeteria wasn’t serving healthy foods,” he said. “The kids were not leading healthy lifestyles.”

To help turn this trend around, Smith spearheaded the creation of the Health Ambassadors Program at Hiram Johnson and Luther Burbank High Schools. The Health Ambassadors Program is an out-of-school time collaboration between the Sacramento Chinese Community Service Center and the Sacramento City Unified School District. The program trains high school students to become champions for change in their communities by mentoring elementary and middle school students through nutrition and health education workshops.

The Health Ambassadors Program provides critical academic support, community service experiences and work force development for disadvantaged Sacramento area high school students. “The Health Ambassadors get the opportunity to work in an organization that is deeply involved in the local community, and they gain experience that colleges are looking for,” said Smith.

The first three months of Health Ambassadors’ training consist of educational activities, guest speakers, and a field trip. The next month is focused on guiding the students to create an outreach plan for younger youth who attend elementary and middle schools that feed into Hiram Johnson and Luther Burbank High Schools. Smith explained that the Ambassadors’ training program and outreach plans are influenced by and consistent with the Healthy Eating and Physical Eating (HEPA) standards.

JUL
28
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Duluth YMCA finds 'intentionality' in HEPA standards

By Robert Abare

Kids from the Duluth YMCA visit a local farm. Photo courtesy of Duluth YMCA.

Written by Matt Freeman

When it comes to food choices, children at the YMCA in Duluth, Minnesota, are probably a lot like kids everywhere. “The truth,” says Tracie Clanaugh of the Duluth Y, “is that we’re kind of swimming upstream. Kids want sugary snacks, and many aren’t used to eating vegetables. So we’re not just providing them with nutritious snacks and meals; we’re trying to teach them good habits.”

At the Duluth Y’s afterschool programs, that effort got a big boost from implementation of the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards, making good on a commitment by national YMCA leadership to implement the standards at more than 2,700 Ys across the nation.

“In all the work we’ve done,” Clanaugh explains, “HEPA has raised our intentionality around health, nutrition and physical activity. Ys have always been healthy places; it’s who we are. And we moved toward achieving HEPA standards even before there were HEPA standards! But we’ve really appreciated that the new standards have provided that level of intentionality – giving us new tools and helping us think through the goals and the specifics for achieving them.”

At 13 sites across Duluth, Clanaugh’s Y branch operates afterschool programs in partnership with the local school systems. HEPA standards in hand, she and her team met with a district food service manager to work through an afternoon menu, and she says the standards allowed them to dig into the specifics. “In the past, that conversation might have resulted in granola bars and playground time,” she laments – snacks that were too sugary and physical activity time that was too unstructured. “The reality is that we want them to have protein, fruits, vegetables and a balanced snack.” She goes on to explain that HEPA standards have helped the Y find a balance between time on the playground for free play, and more active games that get children running around.

The Y programs also use the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) curriculum to help drive home the importance of healthy eating habits and regular physical exercise. It provides lesson plans, goal-setting and the context for one-on-one conversations with children about the importance of nutrition and physical activity.