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MAY
29

IN THE FIELD
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Using data for quality improvement: Lessons from BUILD Chicago

By Dan Gilbert

In our recent issue brief, we discussed how data can serve as a valuable resource not only for afterschool programs, but also for young people and their families. One program that we had identified as having an exemplary system for using data to continuously improve program quality was BUILD Chicago, an in-school and afterschool program that provides mentorship, academic enrichment, and social and emotional supports to at-risk and underserved youth in Chicago, Illinois.

Since 2010, BUILD has very deliberately worked to improve its data intake system and to expand the quantity and types of data that it collects, using this data to create a powerful program improvement cycle. We recently had the opportunity to speak with BUILD’s Director of Operations and Quality Improvement, Bessie Alcantara, who shared some valuable insights about how this dramatic shift came to be.

Ms. Alcantara originally considered overhauling BUILD’s data collection out of frustration. In 2010, only half of BUILD’s program sites were providing timely and accurate data and case notes about program outcomes. Getting programs to comply with data collection requirements was a consistent problem. As BUILD considered a variety of options for improving BUILD’s data collection and use, the organization’s leadership began working with external evaluators to identify a set of common goals between their programs. They used these goals to identify a set of tools around measurable outcomes, and ultimately merged the tools into a single data intake form that sites could use to capture the information that BUILD needed for both internal and external purposes.

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learn more about: Evaluations
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MAY
29

LIGHTS ON
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Lights On Afterschool poster contest deadline extended: Flash back to past winners for inspiration!

By Rachel Clark

2014 winner: Ashley Parker

Good news, afterschool artists: The deadline for submitting entries to the 2015 Lights On Afterschool poster contest has been extended to July 1. If you’ve got submissions coming along that are close but not quite done, now you've got some extra time to put on the finishing touches. This is also great news for summer program participants, who may now have a chance to take part in this opportunity to have their artwork displayed at thousands of Lights On Afterschool events worldwide!

On #FlashbackFriday, one way for young artists to find inspiration for their submissions is to check out the creations of past contest winners—we’re always amazed to see how many unique interpretations young artists create to illustrate what afterschool means to them!

2012 winner: Felix Sanchez

Last year’s winner, New Mexico’s Ashley Parker, represented the Blended Zine afterschool program at her local library by drawing a colorful, Broadway-inspired design. Felix Sanchez, of the Schools-ACE program in Pasadena, TX, brought together his interests in drawing, soccer, and more to highlight the opportunities he’s had afterschool. Another Texan, Nicole Tanner of Birdville Independent School District’s ASPIRE, also illustrated the diverse activities offered afterschool, from academic enrichment to sports to STEAM. Even more past winners can be found in the Afterschool Storybook.

Feeling inspired? Read up on our contest guidelines to make sure artists’ hard work follows our rules for submission. The most important guideline: Be as creative as possible—we can’t wait to see what afterschool artists come up with this year!

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learn more about: Arts
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MAY
27

FUNDING
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Get fiscally fit: Take advantage of free financial planning resources

By Rachel Clark

Whether your program is in its early stages or it’s a long-running fixture in your community, it’s important to stay vigilant about maintaining fiscal fitness. The Wallace Foundation and Fiscal Management Associates have come together to create a hub for financial management resources specifically for nonprofits – you can read our overview of all of the resources here.

With the school year coming to an end, now may be a good time for programs to hone in on financial planning as school-year afterschool programs look ahead to the fall. The Wallace Foundation’s StrongNonprofits.org hub has a wealth of resources specifically aimed at good planning, which allows you to “find the most effective ways to deploy your organization’s resources – and meet your overall objectives.”

These planning resources span every aspect of developing a strong financial plan. Whether you want to learn more about the budget development process, projecting cash flow, finding the true costs of programs, or connecting your organizational goals with your financial realities, StrongNonprofits.org offers a deep dive into multiple resources on each topic. If you want to grow your program or just make sure you’re ready to address periods of financial uncertainty, resources are available to ensure financial stability.

Want to learn more about learning the skills to pay the bills? For an in-depth overview of The Wallace Foundation’s innovative financial management professional development program, tune into a webinar tomorrow, May 28, at 2PM EDT.

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learn more about: Sustainability
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MAY
27

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup  May 27, 2015

By Luci Manning

Bridging the Generation Gap with Chess (Wall Street Journal, New York)

Teenagers and senior citizens are learning to play chess together at Dorot, a Jewish social services agency on the Upper West Side. Inspired by his chess-based friendship with 91-year-old Herman Bomze, 14-year-old Zach Targoff donated his bar mitzvah money to fund the program, paying for staff, refreshments, transportation for the seniors, and chess equipment and training. The players meet once a week after school during the year, and many of them continue to play throughout the summer. “Teens go to seniors’ homes and bring the chessboard with them,” Dorot’s director of volunteer services Judith Turner told the Wall Street Journal. “We were so amazed by the outpouring of interest.”

Knitting Club Teaches Students Fun Skills and Helping Others (Pickerington Times-Sun, Ohio)

For years, Denise Yauch has been a fixture at Tussing Elementary School – she could always be seen knitting at a number of her grandson’s school programs. Last year, she decided to spread her love of knitting to a new generation by hosting an afterschool program that encourages students to keep up with their classwork, improves teamwork and socialization and teaches them a lifelong skill. “To watch them grow from, ‘I don’t know how to hold a needle,’ to casting on has been a delight,” she told the Pickerington Times-Sun. Almost 50 third- and fourth-grade girls meet three times a week to learn basic knitting techniques and create scarves, blankets and much more.

‘Fab Five’ Kids with Water App Idea Raise $51,000 (Fresno Bee, California)

Thanks to five tech-savvy elementary school students, Fresno residents may soon be able to receive real-time updates about their water usage to their computers or smart phones. The students first thought up the water-saving app as part of their FIRST Lego League robotics competition project, an afterschool program that requires participants to come up with a project that could positively impact society. After pitching the idea to a crowd of parents, business and city leaders, the students raised $51,000 to fund the development of the app that could be ready by September. “We didn’t really think it was going to happen. It might do some good if it did, but (we thought) we’d never get the funding or someone to do it,” eleven-year-old Jeffrey told the Fresno Bee. “Now we get to be part of it and learn how coders do things.”

Afterschool Program Helps Kids Stay Out of Trouble (KWWL, Iowa)

‘Dare to be King,’ an afterschool program at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, is trying to curb violence in Waterloo. The program gives kids a safe space to relax, talk about life and learn how to avoid or mitigate dangerous situations. “I like that they teach you to make the right decision when you’re getting stopped by the police or in a bad situation,” participant Camren Montgomery told KWWL. Program organizer Felecia Carter says one of the most important missions of the group is to prevent students from getting involved in local gangs. “I wish I could help everybody, but I know that if other churches open up their door and allow organizations to come in and hold programs, that will be so much more of a positive outcome,” she said.

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MAY
22

RESEARCH
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New Harvard Family Research Project commentary: Why student engagement matters

By Nikki Yamashiro

Leave Them Wanting More!: Engaging Youth in Afterschool,” a new commentary out of the Harvard Family Research Project, discusses the importance of youth engagement in students’ learning, relationship building and development, and the vital role afterschool programs play in engaging youth with the learning opportunities around them. The commentary delves into four dimensions of engagement:  1) cognitive engagement, 2) behavioral engagement, 3) social engagement and 4) emotional engagement. The piece not only calls attention to the need to create environments that engage students in these various dimensions, but outlines the many ways afterschool programs are encouraging student engagement. Below are a few examples of steps programs can take and have taken to leave students wanting more:

  • Cognitive engagement: Steps programs can take within this engagement dimension that deals with critical thinking, problem solving, developing new skills and learning new information include offering new activities that youth express an interest in; customizing and scaffolding activities that can facilitate students moving up the learning ladder; and providing encouragement and support to students as they navigate challenging activities and situations.
  • Behavioral engagement: Practices to support behavioral engagement—which refers to the attendance, behavior and participation of students in afterschool programs—include creating an environment where students can have fun and feel safe and relaxed, providing stability through the intentional structuring of the program, and offering a variety of learning experiences—such as field trips and technology training—to grow attendance and participation in programs.
  • Social engagement: Helping youth to feel like part of a community includes designing activities that create meaningful and positive group interactions, offering activities and devices that spur communication and collaboration, and building a sense of community for youth, both within and outside of the afterschool program.
  • Emotional engagement: Emotional engagement, referring to students feeling accepted and appreciated for who they are, can be supported through practices such as encouraging meaningful relationships between program staff and students and providing students leadership roles within the program.

“Leave Them Wanting More!: Engaging Youth in Afterschool” also includes data from Afterschool Alliance’s America After 3PM survey, which finds that parents view afterschool programs not only as a space that keeps their children safe, but also as an enriching learning environment. The commentary is a part of the latest edition of the FINE Newsletter, which you can access on the Harvard Family Research Project’s website.

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learn more about: America After 3PM
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MAY
21

IN THE FIELD
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This Memorial Day, think about inviting your elected officials for a site visit

By Rachel Clark

With Congress preparing to head home for the Memorial Day recess, now is the perfect time to think about inviting a Member of Congress to stop by your afterschool program while they’re back in your district. This year is a critical time for federal afterschool funding—giving Members of Congress and Senators the chance to experience the impact afterschool programs are having in their local community is invaluable!

To help make your event a success, we’ve put together a step-by-step planning guide including a target timeline and sample schedule, as well as case studies of site visits other programs have hosted. If you’ve never invited an elected official to your program before, you may be surprised to see how easy and rewarding the process can be! The all-inclusive guide also includes links to tools you can use to attract press coverage of your event, giving you a great opportunity to increase community awareness of your program while you build a relationship with your representative and their staff.

If the week of Memorial Day is too soon for you to plan a site visit, don’t worry—if your program is open during the summer break, there are plenty of opportunities later in the summer when your representatives will be back home. Check the House and Senate calendars to find a time that works for you and for your elected officials.

Inviting policy makers to visit your afterschool program is a powerful way to help them understand the value your program brings to the community. Having spent the spring working hard to call on Congress to protect afterschool, now is the perfect time to make this personal connection with your representatives!

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learn more about: Congress
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MAY
20

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup  May 20, 2015

By Luci Manning

Kids and Yoga Make for Relaxing Combination at Showell (Delmarva Now, Maryland)

An afterschool yoga class at Showell elementary is improving student wellness and helping kids unwind after a long day in the classroom. During the 50-minute class, pre-kindergarten teacher Amy Braciszewski leads students through a variety of poses, teaching them each pose’s Sanskrit name along the way. Assistant principal Joshua Hamborsky thinks the afterschool program is teaching kids a good way to work through their problems. “It’s not fluff,” he told Delmarva Now. “The course offers powerful breathing, thinking and mental exercises to help students cope with anxiety and stresses.”

Kids Learn Fitness, Life Skills from Circus Staff (Bloomington Pantagraph, Illinois)

Twenty-three Cedar Ridge Elementary School students participated in a unique physical education class last week when Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey circus performers visited their afterschool program. A clown taught them about healthy eating and several other performers, including a dancer and four unicyclists, taught them to juggle, hula hoop and jump rope. “CircusFit is designed to get kids moving and show that exercise can be fun,” Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey’s Jillian Kaplan told the Bloomington Pantagraph. “Hula-hooping and jumping rope are everyday skills that children can become proficient at instead of sitting and playing video games.” Students even got a bit of a performance from the King Charles Unicycle Troupe, who shot hoops and jumped rope while on their unicycles.

Students Design Prosthetics, Compete for First Place at Oregon MESA Day (Oregonian, Oregon)

At the 15th annual Oregon MESA Day Middle and High School Engineering and Science competition, more than 350 students showed off the inventions they had created that year through their STEM-based afterschool program. Oregon MESA (Mathematics Engineers Science Achievement) targets students typically underrepresented in STEM fields, pairing them with mentors who help them develop projects to present at the year-end competition. One group of students from Franklin High created a prosthetic arm out of cardboard tubes, clamps, metal tongs and rubber bands, which they used to pick up and move items and fasten screws to a wooden board. “My touchstone is just watching the kids go crazy,” MESA board chair Kevin Bell told the Oregonian. “They walk away basically believing ‘I can do this.’ It’s contagious.”

MDC Students Mentor Children through Literacy Program (Miami Herald, Florida)

With the help of mentors from Miami Dade College (MDC), seven-year-old Diana Arellano wrote a story about reuniting with her sister in Mexico and ten-year-old Joan Espinosa created an action-packed graphic novel about superheroes, the Miami Herald reports. The students are part of Pages for All Ages, an afterschool literacy program for students from the large population of migrant farm workers and low-income families living in South Miami Dade. Each semester, kids are matched with MDC students who help them improve their reading and writing skills. The stories they create are then hardbound and displayed at the college library. 

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MAY
20

RESEARCH
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New findings on high school graduation rates are in...

By Nikki Yamashiro

…And overall, the outlook is positive, with the nation’s high school graduation rate reaching 81.4 percent—the highest it has ever been. Last week, the 2015 edition of Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic was released and found that for the third year in a row, graduation rates have stayed on target to reach the goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. The report by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, and in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, uncovers that increased graduation rates among Hispanic and African-American students, a decrease in the number of “dropout factories”(high schools with low graduation rates), and 29 states reaching at least the national graduation rate average of 81.4 percent, have helped to move the national graduation rate closer to the 90 percent graduation rate goal.

To continue to increase graduation rates and reach the 90 percent high school graduation rate target by 2020, Building a Grad Nation singles out five key drivers to focus on:

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learn more about: Academic Enrichment
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