Nominations were open to all. From a field of 125, a committee appointed by NAA selected those being honored.
We're pleased to present this year's list of next generation honorees. We hope you share in the excitement about these leaders and how their contributions are shaping the next generation of the afterschool field.
And we hope you'll appreciate their answers to the question, "What impact do you hope to make through your work in afterschool?"
"Through my work in afterschool, I hope to impact the current education system we use and the current culture we have on success. Our current education system is solely focused on academics and has an archaic principle on how students learn. Through the work we do at Higher Ground, we believe that other aspects of a healthy human being must be explored for our youth to be successful in their academics. However, our education system and teachers are academic educators and are being forced to become parents, social emotional experts, behavior specialists and social workers when they have little to no training in these issues. In this new generation of youth where trauma, poverty and lack of family stability are becoming prevalent, it is only through partnerships of schools and youth programs like ours that a youth can be effectively educated to become a whole person who contributes positively to the community. Through our work at Higher Ground, I hope to redefine success in our education system—from the current individual achievement to instead community contribution."
"I believe that all youth, regardless of their circumstances, have the right to feel like they are supported and are a part of something bigger than themselves. It is my hope that our programs expose our members to a variety of experiences that they would not have access to otherwise, igniting and inspiring passions and encouraging youth to identify and follow their dreams. This impact can be seen daily in our youth and staff."
"I hope that my work in afterschool will help kids to know that the things that make them different are what make them special—and that I am here to help develop those skills and talents, no matter how unique. I also hope, especially for our students with more intensive needs, that they know a responsible and caring adult is here to support them."
*Information at time of nomination.
"I hope to encourage even more schools to utilize afterschool programs as an opportunity to not only provide hands-on STEM learning opportunities, but also give students the experience they'll need to navigate in an increasingly global economy. It is exciting to work with students in a globalized Level Up Village classroom setting, where they work on projects together with partner students from other countries and get to know one another in a personal and meaningful way."
"I hope our programs' impact makes students smarter, safer and socially comfortable. We work closely with the teachers and administrators of our school to recruit the students who need the extra help and extra time to master academic skills. Our academic interventions have dramatically cut the number of students being sent to Summer School, because we address students' weak areas as soon as they're identified. The impact of this targeted instructional time is powerful for advancing students to be prepared for high school and beyond. We provide a number of clubs that afford students opportunities to take part in programs that may not be available to them during the regular school day, such as fine, performing and visuals arts. By keeping students engaged in fun and meaningful afterschool programs and clubs, we keep them off the streets and out of harm's way. This impacts the safety of our entire community when we are investing in positive things for kids rather than policing them. Simply getting students involved is one of the most effective ways to build self-esteem and confidence. Our programs and clubs are completely free to all students and supplies/materials are included—we even provide free meals every day to all students who want them. Strong afterschool programs and clubs impact students' social well-being for their entire lives, making them more likely to stay involved, seek out hobbies and pursue their passions. That's what I work for! I love being with the students and watching them grow as individuals. My thanks to our terrific program staff, teachers and administrators who have given me the opportunity to lead our afterschool efforts."
"To me, one of the most urgent challenges facing our nation is the inequitable distribution of opportunities to our youth, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Now, more than ever, we need creative and diverse minds to develop solutions for humans in a globalized economy. But providing genuine access to STEM education is a tall order. As a result, we tend to focus our energy on supporting students from advantaged populations, who then enter the workforce and generate solutions that only serve the most advantaged in society. Ultimately, many of these solutions fade out over time because they don't meet the needs of most humans in a globalized economy. In order to create lasting solutions, we have to cultivate genuine opportunities for people with differing identities and backgrounds to shape the landscape of technology. If we do this, students who are underrepresented will see themselves as leaders in STEM fields and these students can use STEM to improve the quality of life for everyone, including those who have been marginalized by our existing systems and innovations.
"Through my work with Learn All The Time, I hope to raise the bar of quality for out-of-school time programming in Central Texas. My goal is to create a system of high-quality and affordable professional development for professionals, in order to cultivate a network of leaders for the OST field in Central Texas."
"I hope that I impact the everyday life of every young person I meet. I want to engage them in STEM activities and ensure that they are in an inclusive afterschool program. By maintaining structure, a safe environment, and being a caring staff member I can motivate all 21 century learners."
"In Pittsburgh, through our work coordinating K-12 out-of-school time opportunities, we strive to ensure that all Pittsburgh students are able to develop the academic and nonacademic skills necessary to ensure success in school and in their post-secondary pursuits. Through this, we establish high-quality out-of-school time community partnerships and facilitate unique and innovative out-of-school time programs in order to ensure that all of our students can access these opportunities, in order to provide a pathway to educational success."
"I hope to provide young students with a fun and safe environment, where they can feel comfortable to be themselves, work through challenges and discover new strengths. I want to provide today's children with quality programs and activities that will not only ignite a lifelong passion for learning, but also allow them to experience excellence in their lives and foster a belief that they can do great things for themselves and their community, now and in the future. I want my work in afterschool to encourage children to be independent thinkers, creative problem-solvers, and positive contributors to society."
"We know that afterschool professionals are a cornerstone to program quality and that program quality is the key to positive outcomes in youth. I hope to help afterschool educators see themselves as professionals and recognize their value in this important work that greatly impacts the young people in this country. I want to ensure that the afterschool workforce has access to quality professional development opportunities and support in gaining knowledge and skills to improve their practice. The Click2SciencePD project provides quality STEM professional development resources to the field for free. Through this project, I hope to increase access to professional development opportunities for staff, help them feel confident in their ability to create meaningful STEM learning experiences for youth, and reinforce that we value the contributions they make to the youth development field. The goal of my work in afterschool is to professionalize the field to positively impact program quality and ultimately lead to positive outcomes in the youth afterschool programs serve."
"I decided to work in afterschool because I feel it's the best way to address gaps in youth development, decrease risky behaviors of students and provide students with more diverse learning opportunities. However, as a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I know firsthand that it takes a village to raise a child. I'm a huge proponent for public-private partnerships between education agencies and corporate entities that support afterschool programs and providers. These partnerships channel additional resources to our students and teachers that would otherwise be unavailable. It is my goal to build these relationships at the local and national level to ensure students have access to quality afterschool programming."
"I joined the afterschool field in college, as a center coordinator for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers at an alternative high school, providing homework help, tutoring, college visits and enrichment activities. I spent sleepless nights wondering how I could better engage and connect with youth. I spent countless hours watching ridiculous popular TV shows and YouTube videos. I kept up with pop culture and slang. I researched best practices. I participated in state and national conferences to learn what great things others were doing. In professional development opportunities, I saw the afterschool impact on youth. Though I often felt isolated and alone in my little program, during professional development opportunities I received support and networked with other passionate people. As my experience and knowledge grew, I advanced to program director and 21st CCLC state coordinator. I realized my purpose: Professionalize the afterschool field. Through learning new skills and perfecting our practice, afterschool will thrive and expand. I hope to keep people energized, engaged and excited about the endless possibilities, and to continue advancing the field by providing quality professional development and coaching to frontline staff. By professionalizing the field, we continue to show the world afterschool is more than three hours after the bell rings. Afterschool changes lives, providing social, emotional and academic development to youth."
"We have the rare opportunity and flexibility in out-of-school time to grow our students' leadership skills and expand their learning to new levels. The impact I hope to see is for all of our students to have their voices at the table to make change and advocate for what they believe in. We do this by creating an environment where students can grow their passions, ask questions, create, use their imagination, feel safe and included, and grow their confidence in who they are. From what I can tell, our future has never looked better!"
"The impact I hope to make in afterschool is simple: I hope to make a positive one. Being a product of afterschool myself is truly the reason I was inspired to do the same for as many students and staff as I possibly could. The afterschool program I attended had such an impact on me because it made me feel seen, it made me feel heard and, most important, it offered me a safe place to continue to learn. As a child, I didn't realize how important these things were to me; but today, as an adult, I realize all the reasons why they are. Afterschool programs provide students with opportunities to thrive and reach their full potential. They provide us with opportunities to instill leadership skills, opportunities for our students to explore different areas of interest, and the opportunity for our students to be authentic and shine. One thing is for sure, none of these things would be possible without great leaders along their side. Our leaders on a daily basis are able to make an impact on a child, and what I hope to accomplish through my work is to ensure that my staff realizes it and uses every opportunity to do so in a positive way. I hope to be a positive role model for someone and that my passion for what I do helps guide them to find what they are passionate about, so they can do the same one day and impact people's lives."
"I hope to emphasize and make contagious the idea that data drives quality efforts in afterschool. Youth deserve the best programs and staff, with intentional plans and attention to the reality in their programs and communities. I hope my impact is as simple as encouraging a positive outlook and appreciation for how data can inform and shape efforts for better afterschool experiences for the youth we serve."
"Whenever I engage with a child, I am reminded each time that I have an opportunity to transform and inspire the hearts and minds of young people. Through intentional programming that is centered in love and key strengthen-based practices, I seek every day to ignite youth's curiosity. No matter what difficulties a child is experiencing, I want them to be reminded that they are loved when they leave my program. Simply put, love heals and can remind us of the power we've been given, but oftentimes forget we have. If I can remind a child that they are the embodiment of greatness AND break some cycles/barriers while doing so—I know that I have done my job." #youthdevelopmentrocks
"I hope to impact the minds and hearts of the students, as they are our future leaders and deserve true motivation and inspiration. My heart is to help them love who they see in the mirror. I love the thought that I ponder daily, 'the created creates,' and I want my students to know that they are beautifully and wonderfully made. Each one of them has worth and they are unique individuals who will bring positive change to this world. My heart and hope is that the time I am blessed to spend with them will impact each of them as individuals in a very special way."
"In our afterschool program, we have an amazing bond with our kids. I'm glad to be surrounded by other staff that genuinely care for the kids like I do. I DJ all of the events for The City of El Cerrito and the kids and I really bond through dancing and music; through that I became the proud director of our cool talent show. The talent show is a huge deal in our afterschool program. Every day, the kids come to school excited to rehearse and they dedicate so much time into making the show a unique experience for everybody in the audience. They love being a part of the production, so we work all semester to make the perfect show for the parents. Creating something that they can be so engaged in makes coming in every day worth it. I'm happy to do the work that I do."
"My driving force has always been this quote: 'Be the person you needed as a child.' In the afterschool field, I am able to combine my passion for youth advocacy and literacy in a safe, nurturing and educational environment. Now, as the adult in these children's story, I am using my power to do good. The impact that I hope to make, through my work in afterschool, is to be the person these children need—to provide our youth with life connections that may positively alter their perspective and provide them with the tools they need to thrive—to not only be, but become."
"I hope to increase advocacy for and illuminate the benefits of afterschool programs in our communities; to let community members and parents know my staff and I provide a safe, nurturing environment for all, and are implementing strategies to help bridge the gap between students with extra supports outside of the classroom and those without. We hope to continue to provide enrichment opportunities that will challenge and inspire students to be catalysts of change and growth in our community. It is my hope our program can equip students with the knowledge, creativity, skills and confidence to know they are capable of achieving any goal they set!"
"I want to be a positive influence within the out-of-school time community and continue to break barriers of program activities, parent resources, staff training and community partnerships. I hope my commitment to recreation, wellness and access to innovative health services within out-of-school time programs challenges my community to take advantage of new opportunities and expanded advocacy for afterschool."
"I came to the U.S. in 2010 as a refugee, after spending six years in a refugee camp in Tanzania. During my time in the refugee camp, I was the youth supervisor at the youth center. Because of the difficult situation in the camp, most of the youth were involved in drugs, alcohol or early pregnancies. After a year in running program, we had a big impact on youth to get more knowledge about things they were involved in. After I resettled in the U.S. and saw most of the Africans and immigrants struggling a lot with the same problems, I felt more concerned and looked at ways I could help them. I created the Safari Youth Club, with the goal of helping them for their future life. At the beginning I started a soccer program as a vehicle for bringing them to the program. Getting to know them, I felt like they needed help with classes at school, especially mathematics and English, so I started the afterschool program. Sometimes, when you get here, they only look for your age to determine which grade you will start in. This gives them a hard time to integrate well and do well at school. That was my beginning of the afterschool program, which has a lot of impact, along with soccer, for my youth and helping them to get scholarships."
"Through my work with afterschool, I hope to spread the important message that out-of-school time programming is more than just care for the students we work with, but is a joyful and valuable time that we share with our students, families and communities each day. My goal is to share my passion with the students, staff, families, school communities, and local and federal leaders, so they can continue to see the important roles that programs play in keeping kids safe, supporting families and inspiring learning. When a student says, 'I don't want to go home yet, I want to stay after school,' I know we are doing our job right!"
"My goal is to provide high-quality, affordable and diverse afterschool care for our students, featuring an array of age-appropriate program options that reflect children's interests. We hope that we will provide peace of mind to working parents, who will know that their children, after a long school day, will be in a caring, safe, secure and fun environment run by highly professional and enthusiastic teachers, program administrators and counselors, assisted by an enthusiastic support staff. The program will maintain an open channel of communication between parents and staff, be responsive to parents' needs, and ensure that all staff members understand their roles and program expectations and are accountable for their performance. Perhaps most importantly, our program will be an enriching experience, culturally, academically and socially, for all participating children."
"I hope to make the same kind of impact in my work with the students of our program that my teachers made on me. My teachers worked extremely hard to offer me a safe place to learn and to provide me with the continual support I needed to reach my potential. My mission is to not only help provide my students with a safe learning environment and continual support, but also to provide them with another person who genuinely cares for them and is dedicated to guiding them on their journey to reach their full potential."
"I work with many afterschool programs to provide technical assistance and strive for quality. I serve on the Pennsylvania School-Age Child Care Alliance as a director and secretary. I enjoy serving to help impact the development in the afterschool community. Seeing youth learn and grow through unique opportunities and experiences they may not otherwise have brings me great joy. I truly enjoy forming positive relationships and connecting with youth. Visiting afterschool programs and being a part of the excitement the youth have makes each day rewarding. Making an impact on the lives of others is a special experience. Turning each moment into an unforgettable memory is what working with youth is all about!"
"I hope to empower young musicians to recognize the value of their voices, learn music technological and entrepreneurial practices, and organize impact on their communities through art. My aim is to have alumni interacting with the music industry in many different professional realms, performing, producing and promoting in whatever music medium they prefer."
"I hope to make a lasting impact on both youth and afterschool leaders. I strive to provide opportunities for youth that allow them to develop and grow through exploring their interests, learning how to work with others, making contributions to their community, building positive self-esteem, and developing good decision-making skills. I hope that my work in developing myself as a leader can make a notable impact on other afterschool leaders. I want to teach and empower staff leaders to learn and grow to positively guide the next generation of youth in afterschool programs."
"During my time in afterschool, I have strived to empower the next generation. Empower them by providing a safe place to be their authentic selves; a place to be free from judgment and the confines of a traditional classroom. A place to become who they were meant to be. My hopes for the programs I work with is to be a place of learning and to support students' social and emotional development. In creating a learning rich environment, everyone benefits—the students and their teachers. Nothing brings me more pride and passion than to see children realize their full potential. I hope that I can continue to engage youth and help them on their journey to become who they were meant to be."
"I wish to incorporate both my passion and professionalism for the field to be impactful on a local and national level by strengthening best practices, and expanding knowledge to the public about how important and beneficial afterschool hours are in furthering the development of young children."
"Afterschool programs allow youth to flourish beyond the school bell, give families a haven for their children, and create a safe community. Students' minds are opened to peer and community needs, rather than allowing empty time where they may experiment with risky activities. I hope to serve as a voice and advocate for afterschool's importance. I want to see my community flourish—to help establish a certainty in families that learning doesn't have to be restricted to school hours. I want to nurture recreation for growth and community involvement; it entwines the lives of youth and their peers. They learn to enjoy seeing each other succeed, developing positive relationships that benefit all."
"Learning is a continuous process. It doesn't just take place in the classroom. Extracurricular and out-of-school time activities enrich and aid in growth and development, offering different ways to engage with peers, topics, learning styles and trusted adults. As a participant in various out-of-school time activities, I felt I had a more complete education, allowing me to thrive socially and academically. It was a privilege not afforded to some of my peers, for lack of transportation, family responsibilities, part-time jobs, financial insecurity and lack of culturally competent staff. I aim to provide accessible, free, safe spaces for low-income, underserved, marginalized youth to explore and affirm their identities, interests and aspirations, and uplift one another. We center on Asian Pacific American histories, cultures and experiences in our activities and events. Workshops encourage youth to make connections between their and their peers' experiences; be critical thinkers; exemplify inclusive leadership. Field trips require youth to engage with the people, places and entities making up their community, and to support their community's health through service. Programming brings together youth of all ages to build partnerships, develop friendships and extend their support network. I hope that through extracurricular activities, youth have critical opportunities to learn, tools to be leaders, and an extended family of supporters. I hope I can offer places and spaces for youth to be represented, affirmed, and to thrive."
* Information at time of nomination.