Game On: Level Up Your Career Through NAA’s Convention

Soon after "leveling-up" from the classroom to the world of afterschool, I discovered NAA.

I submitted a proposal to present at the 2015 convention in Washington, D.C., mainly in the hopes that if accepted, it would motivate my employer to send me. It was and it did. Game on!

Attending is one thing; being accepted to present took this to a whole new level of anticipation and nervous excitement. But not to worry: The staff of NAA knew exactly how to alleviate my fears and concerns with their top-notch professional planning, organization and communication.

Game time! My presentation was in the last time slot on the last day. Great. How could I concentrate on anything else? Again, my fears were unfounded. From the opening keynote, through the special events, social activities and countless workshops, I was engaged and immerged. Not only was the information relevant, meaningful and delivered by experts in the field, but the social events and time between sessions allowed for networking with other professionals. Oh, and did I mention the exhibitors? Every kind of resource an afterschool educator could need.

So, my session closed out the convention. It was well-received by a full house, with luggage propped against the walls by attendees who had already checked out of the hotel and were getting a final dose of inspiration before taking flight. Having a later flight, I walked to a nearby restaurant and reflected on the experience as I gazed out over the Potomac. I knew then that I would be returning to this convention every year. My perspective as an afterschool educator had been forever changed. I was headed home with a wealth of information, resources, notes, handouts, books, samples and souvenirs. I looked over the many business cards from my new professional contacts. Cards I would also be filing under "Friends."

—Clint Darr, afterschool regional educator, Missouri AfterSchool Network.

I will never forget the day my Aunt Jacquelin and my brother convinced me to take the afterschool director position with Charlottesville City Schools in Virginia. It was a decision that would change my career path forever.

My supervisors, Beverly and Tracy, introduced me to many new things about the afterschool world, one of which was NAA. This was the first time I had ever heard of the organization or the convention they facilitate every year. I decided to go, but I had no idea what to expect. This was going to be my first time attending a national convention.

By the end of the convention, I had learned new trends within the afterschool field, I felt rejuvenated, I connected with thousands of other afterschool professionals across the country, and I was hopeful about my career path in the afterschool field. I was the only person from my organization to attend the convention, so I had to quickly make some new friends. I met Ben Trentleman from the Utah Afterschool Network, who later introduced me to the entire state of Utah afterschool professionals attending the convention. The connections I made with the afterschool professionals from Utah would later land me a position with the Utah Afterschool Network as an out-of-school-time specialist.

Taking the position with the Utah Afterschool Network has been the best career decision I have ever made. I would have never had the opportunity if I hadn't attended the NAA Annual Conference.

—Kwamane Harris, out-of-school time specialist, Utah Afterschool Network.

Want to level up your career? Register for NAA's Annual Convention in Dallas, Texas, March 19 – 22, 2017.