By Sam Piha
Being a youth worker is a very difficult job. They face a variety of challenges and dilemmas, as they work with a diverse group of young people. We collected a number of questions from youth workers and promised to engage experts and field leaders for their answers. Below are some of the questions we received and the answers that we sought out from field leaders, content experts and innovative practitioners. If you want to submit your own question, click here.
This blog is part 2 of our Q&A series. You can review part 1. Stay tuned as we continue to explore questions from youth workers. (Note: we know that there are many answers to any question. Below, we offer some well-thought-out answers that we received. Because schools and agencies may have specific policies, we recommend that youth workers share their questions with their immediate supervisor. At the bottom we provide a brief bio about the respondent.)
Q: Staffing is a HUGE issue for my program. I spent all this year down 2 staff members, and it looks like will be down 3 staff to start back in the fall. My organization offers low pay, low hours, and absolutely no perks (training, paying for school, free child care, etc). I also live in a rural area, and our community college serves older students who have families to feed and can't possibly work for such low pay. With these issues in mind, how do we not only attract talented staff but also retain them? - Youth Worker, serving youth 5-11, Nevada County, CA
A: "Staffing is always an issue, especially in rural areas. Here are a few ideas:
Gloria Halley works for the Butte County Office of Education. She has been in the Health Promotion / Community Development / Education field for approximately twenty-five years. She currently serves as the Region 2 Lead for the California Department of Education – Expanded Learning Division, statewide System of Support for Expanded Learning (SSEL). In her role she provides support services for state and federally funded before school, after school and summer learning programs that serve elementary, middle school and high school students in nine northern counties: Butte, Glenn, Tehama, Shasta, Trinity, Siskiyou, Modoc, Lassen and Plumas. Gloria is a highly-regarded trainer, coach/mentor and consultant. She has successfully facilitated several school-community initiatives.
By Guest Blogger, Ursula Helminski, Senior Vice President, External Affairs, Afterschool Alliance
WHAT YOU NEED TO BE DOING NOW
Earlier this month, Jen Siaca and Alison Overseth wrote a great piece in the Hechinger Report on 5 things afterschool programs need to be thinking about as we look toward fall. We wholeheartedly agree, and have a few more big ideas to add to the list – starting with an immediate call to action – and some challenges for us to address that can help put afterschool in a strong position to help youth, families, and schools during re-opening.
Reach out to your school and district leaders to talk about the role you are willing to play to support them and students in re-opening; schools share many of the same concerns we do around social and emotional support; learning loss; and children needing supervision, meals and support on days outside of school. We need to let them know we want to be part of the team to help youth recover and re-engage.
Contact Congress and your local policymakers to make sure they know afterschool programs are key to recovery, but can’t help without additional funds for smaller staff ratios, expanded hours, & PPE, and access to additional space.
Flexible, expanded schedules – As states begin to share guidance and ideas for schools to reopen, many call for staggered schedules to limit how many youth are in school at a time. Families will need supervised, engaging programs for children on remote learning days in addition to after-school hours. While schools are focused now on their own logistics, they will feel pressure to help parents who cannot be home when students aren’t in school, and to make sure remote learners have a space to log on. We’ve already seen what this might look like in Missouri, where a 21st CCLC program in Missouri re-opened in conjunction with their school district summer school to offer full day programming on a split schedule so that half of the students are doing enrichment with afterschool staff in the morning while the other half is with classroom teachers doing their summer school classes. They then switch during the afternoon. So, where the 21st CCLC program normally serves 350 students daily before and afterschool, they are serving 750+ until the end of June.
Alternate space & facilities – We’ve got to prepare for the possibility that schools may be closed to afterschool providers. If you have access to other facilities, this could be a great asset to bring up to local school leaders as you seek to partner with them on re-opening plans. If you usually operate in schools, think about how you might access other spaces or facilities. Think about libraries, parks, community centers, cultural or performing arts centers that may have under-used spaces. Talk to local city or county leaders about ideas. In Lincoln, Nebraska, afterschool providers are providing in-person care at churches and community centers in the area of the schools.
Staffing considerations – Programs will likely need to sustain staff ratios of 10-1 per health guidelines; prepare for the possibility that some staff may not be able or comfortable working tin the same capacity; and be ready for continued, or resumption of, virtual programming.
“Doubling down on social-emotional learning (SEL).” – The social and emotional needs of children have never been greater; make sure you are prepared to help students re-engage and re-connect, to when youth need additional mental health support, and have a plan for connecting youth to that additional support. The American Institute for Research released a new brief, Recognizing the Role of Afterschool and Summer Programs in Reopening and Rebuilding.
"Two very influential statewide education leaders not deeply involved in the field stated publicly that expanding learning is going to be a very critical, essential component to the reopening of schools. One of the biggest reasons that people embrace our field and believe in its work is the way that staff care and nurture for children in their programs. These benefits are based on the quality standards that call for positive relationships, safe supportive environments, and engaging activities."
- Michael Funk, Director, Expanded Learning Division, CDE
Enhancing academic support/enrichment – With estimates that students will experience more than a 50 percent learning loss this year, it is more important than ever to work with schools to complement school day lessons, open lines of communication with teachers to help identify youth who need extra help and shape your homework help, tutoring and enrichment activities to their needs. For instance, establish regular meetings between the afterschool program director and principals, assign staff members the responsibility of managing and maintaining communication, and host joint professional development opportunities for both school day staff and afterschool program staff.
Ursula Helminski is currently Senior Vice President of external affairs at Afterschool Alliance and has worked with the organization since its inception, as part of its founding team. She develops strategy and communications for the organization and oversees public awareness initiatives such as the national Lights On Afterschool event and Afterschool for All, a campaign uniting high-profile and grassroots voices from diverse sectors in support of afterschool. Before coming to the Afterschool Alliance, she was a Senior Associate at the communications and organizing consulting firm, Fowler Hoffman, where she worked on issue campaigns ranging from youth violence prevention to telecommunications, and advised foundations on their communications strategies. She has served as editor of a trade journal covering policy in Washington, D.C., worked in cause-related marketing at The Nature Conservancy and taught English in a Moscow public school.
By Guest Blogger Nikki Yamashiro, Afterschool Alliance
Since the first statewide stay-at-home orders were issued in mid-March, individuals across the United States have found their lives and livelihoods upended by the coronavirus. As states enact safety measures and transition between phases of reopening to combat the virus, families are struggling with school closures, job losses, food insecurity, and more. Afterschool programs are joining local efforts to address the urgent needs of children and families while facing an uncertain future themselves.
Throughout the crisis, many afterschool providers have been innovating to stay connected with students and keep them safe, healthy and engaged in learning, even while struggling to keep their own doors open. Many programs face budget shortfalls and will need additional staff and professional development, as well as more space and resources to provide consistent care for children and families as school schedules shift. In the first in a series of surveys, in partnership with Edge Research, we take the pulse of the afterschool field and it is clear that although afterschool programs remain a vital partner to help young people emerge from this crisis strong, resilient, and hopeful, they are in need of dire support. The future of afterschool programs is in jeopardy.
In our first survey we learned that afterschool programs are severely affected by the hardships created by the pandemic. As programs work to continue to provide services in their communities, they face their own struggles, from funding to staffing, with a majority unsure if the worst is over or yet to come (55%). Read the full report of survey responses at the following link: http://afterschoolalliance.org/documents/Afterschool-COVID-19-Wave-1-Fact-Sheet.pdf
There is also an interactive dashboard with the survey results to see the differences in response by region: http://afterschoolalliance.org/covid/Afterschool-COVID-19-dashboard.cfm
Help us keep up the story of how COVID-19 is affecting afterschool and summer programs by completing a follow-up survey that focuses on what programs have been able to offer this summer and plans for fall. The survey should take no more than 10-15 minutes of your time and your responses will be anonymous. To thank you for your time, 50 respondents to the survey will be randomly selected to win a $50 cash prize. You can start the survey at: https://3to6.co/survey
Nikki Yamashiro is Vice President of Research at Afterschool Alliance. She joined the Afterschool Alliance in June 2012, and works to coordinate and implement annual research activities, design surveys on pressing issues in the afterschool field and analyze research findings, communicating the need for and great successes of afterschool programs to policy makers, afterschool providers, advocates, and the public. Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, Nikki served in a variety of research capacities, including as Policy Advisor at Third Way, where she handled a wide range of domestic policy issues such as juvenile justice, and as legislative assistant to former Rep. Hilda L. Solis, where she handled education and youth issues.
By Sam Piha
While the decisions about re-opening schools and afterschool programs are still in process, it is increasingly clear that many afterschool programs will need to incorporate a distance learning model, relying on internet access by their participants. Developing distance learning using internet and video technology is a new skill set for afterschool providers.
We conducted an interview with one afterschool coordinator who has mastered the art of distance learning. Her name is Autrilla Gillis from ISANA Academies in Southern California, and we offer her answers to our questions below. We will sponsor a Speaker's Forum Webinar with Ms. Gillis and the EduCare Foundation on distance learning in afterschool on Fri. August 7th, 2020. To learn more and register, click HERE.
Q: What circumstances led you to develop a distance learning option for your afterschool program?
A: Like many schools in Los Angeles, ISANA Academies closed its doors on March 13th as a result of COVID-19. While school admin and district level staff began to strategize on what distance learning looked like at ISANA, I began to brainstorm ways that the Expanded Learning Program could provide an immediate solution to parents and students in the interim. This led to the formation of EXL LIVE, fun and engaging live lessons centered on Academic, Literacy and Social Enrichment every Monday – Thursday from 2pm – 5pm. The program ran April – June, and during the month of May, we served over 5,000 unique session visitors.
Q: What platform are you using to connect with students?
A: We exclusively use the zoom platform for EXL LIVE, using password protected rooms for each session.
Q: How many hours of programming do you offer and what is the main focus?
A: We offer three hours of programming per day Monday – Thursday. Each day is broken into three, one- hour sessions: Academic Enrichment, Literacy Enrichment, and Social Enrichment. Each session is broken into grade level cohorts and both Academic and Literacy Enrichment are standards based. In the Academic Enrichment block students participate in standards based lessons and activities that are aligned to the work they are completing with their school day teachers. In the Literacy Enrichment block, students in grades K-5 participate in a variety of group reading activities and comprehension tasks and students in grades 6-8 participate in current event activities and discussions.
Q: Were you able to offer any “virtual” field trips?
A: After spring-break we incorporated a weekly virtual field trip. They have garnered our largest single attendance numbers, bringing in up to 200 students in some sessions. To facilitate field trips, we created a master schedule and assigned a school a specific date. Each school site worked collaboratively to determine “where” they would take students virtually. For example, our first field trip was to Disneyland. We created a virtual field trip experience by combining the internet for virtual ride and theme park experiences and compiled them to create “A Day at Disneyland”. Students experienced walking through Main St, riding rides, visiting food stands, and watching a parade. We’ve also partnered with different venues across the country and world to host live virtual field trips. My favorites so far include a live Texas llama farm trip and an actual African Hippo Preserve trip.
Q: Did you establish attendance goals for each session and how are you tracking attendance?
A: Our attendance goal fluctuates each week, I consider 20-30 students per session a success in terms of that number being easily manageable. Ideally, our goal is to add at least 20 students each week. In April, our week one attendance was 266 students and by the time we reached our last session in June, we were up to 900-1200 students per week. Attendance is tracked through a shared spreadsheet. At the conclusion of each session the moderator logs daily attendance on the spreadsheet.
Q: What are some challenges you have overcome to get online programming off the ground?
A: Our major challenge was training the staff on the zoom platform and curriculum design. It was very important that program leaders took ownership of their lessons so that the implementation was natural and not forced. We also faced challenges in shifting program leaders’ perspective. It took lots of conversation to guide staff to the realization that everything was the same, we were taking the same program elements and high- quality implementation out of the school site and into a zoom room.
Q: Were there any surprises along the way?
A: The biggest surprise we’ve encountered is the room capacity for zoom. Prior to our first virtual field trip we had never exceeded the 100-person room capacity. Imagine our surprise when district office and site coordinator phones started ringing off the hook with calls from anxious parents trying to access the room. In response, we’ve purchased a zoom subscription which allows a much larger room capacity to avoid the same outcome in the future.
Q: How did you prepare and support your staff in developing the distance learning modules?
A: It was a rigorous process spread over several weeks that involved navigating the Common Core Standards Website: locating and unpacking standards, finding materials based on the focal point of the standard, creating a lesson plan, and implementing the lesson plan. This was a major shift for my staff, as before we moved to distance learning all program lessons and activities were created in the district office and disseminated to each site. Once that process was complete, the staff hit the ground running. I am very proud of the way that they have risen to the occasion.
In terms of live lesson delivery, we began with a standard Powerpoint training, a demo lesson provided by the District Level Expanded Learning Staff, after which each program leader conducted a demo lesson for the session they’d been assigned. Each received feedback and presented again until their implementation was perfected. Later we held trainings on indoor and outdoor lighting and sound to ensure that the video quality was high.
Q: Can you provide a link that would allow readers to view an example of one of your modules?
A: EXL LIVE is currently on hiatus until August 18th. We are currently running CAMP ISANA, which consist of an assortment of grade level specific, pre-recorded enrichment activities that can be accessed 24/7. CAMP ISANA also includes live instruction on Tuesday (Performing Arts), Wednesday (Physical Enrichment), and Thursday (Virtual Field Trip). The link below will give access to each of the components previously listed and provide access to EXL LIVE when it returns on August 18th. https://isanaacademies.org/distance-learning/
Q: Can you suggest any resources that may be helpful to afterschool programs seeking guidance on distance learning? (i.e websites, videos, papers, etc.)
A: My inspiration came from google searches on online enrichment programs. I would encourage programs to reflect upon what they do well on campus and how that can be transformed into a virtual setting, that will guide their search and help them to formulate a quality program.
(Temescal recommends: The Statewide Network for New Jersey's Afterschool Communities Virtual Afterschool Resource Guide).
Autrilla “Sheba” Gillis is Director of Expanded Learning at ISANA ACADEMIES, Los Angeles, CA. Her family legacy of Long Beach community service dates back to the 50’s and includes her mother, Sharon McLucas and late community activist grandmother Autrilla W. Scott.
As an educator, Sheba has been a middle school History teacher, curriculum specialist, vice principal and principal. On the County level she has twice been elected as the Co-Facilitator of the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Local Learning Community #8 which provides governance to charter school Expanded Learning programs throughout Southern California and served as a founding member of the CA Charter Schools Association Inaugural African American Charter Leaders Symposium. On the state level, she has served on numerous CA Department of Education Expanded Learning Steering Committees, been featured in numerous training videos disseminated throughout the state, and most recently appoint to the CA Dept. of Education Expanded Learning Policy Committee.
In addition to her work at ISANA Academies, she works closely with the Long Beach Branch of the NAACP, NCNW, Jack and Jill of America – Long Beach Chapter, and Forgotten Images Traveling Museum. Before pursuing a career as an educator, she spent years as an Advertising Executive at the Los Angeles Times and Press Telegram Newspapers. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Educational Leadership while balancing her career and most important role, mother to an amazing 6 year old named Aubree.
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.