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New video makes the case for data sharing partnerships

By Nikki Yamashiro

If you have ever wondered what a successful data sharing partnership looks like, or wished that there was a resource available to help you make the case for data partnerships in afterschool, look no further. A new video released by the National League of Cities—in partnership with the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) and the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA)—showcases the power of data in afterschool programming. This three-minute video, made possible with support from The Wallace Foundation, takes a look at the city of Nashville, TN and highlights the successful data sharing partnership between Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and NAZA, a network of high-quality afterschool programming serving the city’s middle school students.

Adam Yockey, Northeast Zone Director of NAZA, summarizes the value of data sharing partnerships, stating, “I believe that the afterschool providers want to be seen as a partner and a support for what is going on in the school day. If you only get data at the end of the school year, you’ve lost an entire year that you could have been working intentionally with that student. It helps the afterschool providers focus more on what the students actually need instead of just a program that they offer.”

This video is a great example of why partnerships like the one in Nashville are so critical if we are serious about making sure that all students have the supports in place both in and out of school that will set them up for success. If you are interested in learning more about what steps can be taken to promote data sharing among partners, you can take a look at a blog I wrote earlier this summer on four policy priorities released by the DQC outlining how district leaders can take the initiative to make data work for students. 

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learn more about: Evaluations School Improvement


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.”



Guest blog: Help kids reach for the stars with YouthAstroNet

By Rachel Clark

Written by Erika Wright, Science Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

How do we translate young people’s intrinsic curiosity about space science into increased interest in STEM careers, particularly among girls and those from underserved communities? That is exactly what the Science Education Department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics intends to learn through our YouthAstroNet Program and accompanying research project. You can apply to host your own YouthAstroNet program, and receive free training, curriculum, and access to the experts on the YouthAstroNet Team!

What is YouthAstroNet?

The Harvard-Smithsonian Youth Astronomy Network (YouthAstroNet) is an online community of youth, educators, and scientists that aims to help youth typically underrepresented in the sciences gain confidence and identity as someone who can do science through unique access to the resources of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. YouthAstroNet engages youth in grades 5-8 in a number of hands-on STEAM-related activities from image processing to engineering/design challenges. As a member of the YouthAstroNet community youth can take their own images using remotely controlled robotic telescopes, process those images using a professional-grade image-processing tool to learn more about space, and even speak directly with scientist mentors from the Center for Astrophysics. 

Contribute to the research

In addition to being a diverse online community, YouthAstroNet is an NSF-funded research project that aims to determine what strategies have the highest impact when it comes to turning interest in space into belonging and career aspirations in the STEM fields. By participating in the program, and utilizing the online portal with your youth, you and your students will provide valuable data about program factors that lead to positive outcomes for youth.

Join the network!

Educators from every style of learning institution—from afterschool programs to museums to traditional classrooms—are invited to join the network with their youth and utilize resources in a way that best suits their learning environment. No prior astronomy knowledge is required. Through a 3-week asynchronous online workshop, educators are trained to use robotic telescopes, image processing software, and the interactive portal itself, as well as given access to a proven set of hands-on curriculum. Following participation in the training, educators will have ongoing access to the wide array of learning resources, as well as support from YouthAstroNet staff.

Important Dates

Application Deadline: August 24, 2016 is the formal deadline, but applications will be continue to be reviewed for the following week.

Informational Webinars: August 29 at 3:30pm ET and 6:30pmET and August 30 at 1:00pm ET and 4:30pm ET

Asynchronous Training: September 7th–21st

If you are interested in participating, please complete this brief survey. For more information, check out our Recruitment Flyer.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science


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. 



Weekly Media Roundup: August 17, 2016

By Luci Manning

Summer Program Helps Kids Learn, Volunteer (Grand Haven Tribune, Michigan)

About a dozen Grand Haven students are building relationships with their community and stemming the summer slide at Grand Haven Area Public Schools’ Eastown Community Completing Homework in a Learning Lab (C.H.I.L.L.) program. The group meets twice a week to read, play math games, go on field trips and participate in a number of community service projects. The students have had a chance to serve meals at the Salvation Army, work in a community garden, help out at a food pantry and blow up basketballs for another summer recreation program. Coordinator Cathy Hegedus told the Grand Haven Tribune that the program teaches students to give back without it feeling like a chore.

A Few Swipes Swoop Youths into a New World (USA Today, California)

Low-income youths in Oakland often have little access to technology at home, so the East Oakland Youth Development Center is trying to build their digital literacy over the summer and after school. Apple recently donated 40 iPads to the Center, allowing students in the six-week summer program to go on virtual scavenger hunts, research life in other countries and mix music on GarageBand. “This is bringing a whole new world inside their backyard in a way that’s safe for them to explore,” Center president Regina Jackson told USA Today. The Center also holds afterschool tutoring, college preparation courses, music and art lessons and health and wellness programs.

For the Love of Running (The Garden Island, Hawaii)

An afterschool running and community service program is keeping students active and building supportive relationships among them and their peers. The program, which is put on by the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, held a fun relay activity last week for second and third graders at Kalaheo Elementary School. According to Robin Jumper, who runs the Kauai Marathon Youth Running Program, the group works with schools around the island to get kids up and moving. “We just want to inspire kids to get outside and have fresh air,” she told the Garden Island. “They don’t have to win races. They don’t have to be the best. It’s more about participation and just getting outside and getting some exercise.”

Students Create Pavilion for School (Thermopolis Independent Record, California)

Students in the Lights On Afterschool Green Construction Academy spent three weeks designing blueprints, hauling wood and building trusses to construct a new pavilion at Thermopolis Middle School. The Academy’s summer course tries to mimic a regular construction workweek – four ten-hour days every week – and even has students clock in and fill out time sheets. In addition to learning important entry-level construction skills, the youths also earn a $300 stipend and get to take home their own fully-stocked tool belt. Student Ashley Brawley said she’s glad to have spent her summer in the program. “I am not really the type to woodwork or build, to be honest,” she told the Thermopolis Independent Record. “This was a huge step outside my comfort zone, and I don’t regret it.” 



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.  



Guest blog: Spoken word gives youth a voice

By Robert Abare

Written by Chanelle Ignant, Youth Participation Coordinator at KQED, and Rachel Roberson, who leads the Letters to the Next President project for KQED. Also check out the Celebrate Youth Voices event idea for Lights On Afterschool 2016.

Sign up for the upcoming Lights On Afterschool webinar "Engaging Youth Voice & Letters to the Next President" next Thursday, August 25 at 1 PM ET.

Youth tap a deep vein of self-expression with spoken word performance. Whether they are speaking out against injustice or asserting an opinion, spoken word helps young people make their voices heard. 

With the election fast approaching, spoken word is one of many ways youth can express their views on issues that mean most to them. Teens can then publish their views on national platforms like Letters to the Next President 2.0, which launched in August.

But it takes time, patience and an open mind on the part of a mentor to help make spoken word happen.

“You can’t start with your own assumptions or preconceptions about what young people are interested in, what they’re into, what their cultural orientation is based on their appearance or on any demographic data that you have,” says M.C. K~Swift, a senior poet mentor with Youth Speaks Bay Area.  “You have to start really with who they are, and find out who they are from them not from anyone else.”

Once mentors discover what youth are interested in, it’s time to write. And write. And write some more. M.C. K~Swift recommends building trust by asking questions and keeping an open mind.

“When I’m talking to young people I find myself saying, “I don’t know about that, can you tell me more,” M.C. K~Swift says.

Mentors who are writers themselves can provide guidance. But it’s hard to teach what you don’t know.

“If you don’t love writing you can’t convince anyone else to. So be honest with yourself. If you don’t practice writing then you can’t be a guide in that practice,” M.C. K~Swift says. He recommends bringing in a writing instructor, creative artist or expert within your organization, if needed. 

M.C. K~Swift recently led a spoken word workshop at The Mix, San Francisco Public Library’s innovative teen space. The month-long series drew group of 12 young people interested in exploring the spoken word format.



Your community could win $25K through the Culture of Health Prize

By Robert Abare

Every year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) honors U.S. communities that are making strides and setting an example in the effort to lead more people to healthy lifestyles through the Culture of Health Prize. In 2017, up to 10 winners will receive a $25,000 prize, along with the opportunity to share their strategies and accomplishments with the nation through RWJF.

The Culture of Health prize recognizes and celebrates communities where businesses, nonprofits or civic organizations—including afterschool programs—law enforcement and schools have joined forces to improve the community's health and overall wellbeing. The deadline to apply for the 2017 Culture of Health Prize is November 2, 2016.

What are the judges looking for?

There are many ways a community can build a Culture of Health, including:  encouraging healthy behaviors, establishing clinical care, researching social and economic factors, and improving the physical environment. Judges will look to see that applicant communities are taking action across these areas. Judges will also look to see how a community responds to the unique needs of its citizens, and are particularly interested in seeing effective changes in education, employment/income, family and social support, and community safety.

Who is eligible to apply?

As the Culture of Health Prize is intended to honor U.S. communities at large, submissions representing the work of a single organization will not be considered. However, afterschool programs are doing their part to improve the health of kids, families and communities across the country. Your program could play a key role in the application process, and could stand to benefit if your community wins the Culture of Health Prize.

Applications to the Culture of Health Prize may represent any of the following:

  • City, town, village, borough, and other local incorporated places.
  • County or parish.
  • Federally-recognized tribe.
  • Native Hawaiian organization serving and representing the interests of Native Hawaiians in Hawaii.
  • Region (such as contiguous towns, cities, or counties). 
  • Neighborhoods, states and unincorporated local communities are not eligible to apply.