Executive Extra

Monthly content focused on leadership exclusively for the Executive members of NAA.

A Response to ‘Summer. Learning. Loss. Leadership.’

A recent blog by the Readiness Projects Coordinating Partners provides four big considerations as a starting point for building back better and broader together as the only way to ensure we don't exacerbate inequities that existed before COVID-19.

Outlined in the blog are several new COVID-19-induced realities every organization and adult is dealing with:

  • The inadequacy of current applications of and uses of virtual platforms, even when available, for virtual-only academic instruction.
  • The heightened visibility and exacerbation of many different kinds of inequities such as health, emotional wellness, family resources, food, and housing insecurity.
  • The certainty of traumatic effects.
  • The uncertainty of reopenings.

The blog also asserts, "Some of the most deeply held assumptions and traditions are related to four top-of-mind topics: summer, learning, loss, and leadership."

NAA's Vice President, Heidi Ham, responds to the blog with a call to action for afterschool and other leaders interested in creating systems that help youth thrive.


Many people will read the above blog and agree, but ask: "How?"

This question is valid—and at this point, there are many more questions than answers about rebuilding. There's one question, however, that needs to be answered immediately: "If not now, when?"

The. Time. Is. Now.

WE KNOW systemic inequities exist. And though these inequities have become even more visible because of COVID-19, they have existed for hundreds of years.

WE KNOW the science of learning and development (SoLD) holds implications for learning and development across all settings and systems where youth live, learn, and play. SoLD integrates findings from neuroscience, human development, and psychology to tell us what we know about human development and how to put science-informed strategies into place.

Let's use this knowledge, research, and our valuable practical experience to work together to drive equity and excellence in the educational system and others that directly or indirectly impact young people.

I ask again: "If not now, when?"

And I will say it again, for the people in the back: The. Time. Is. Now.

Written by Heidi Ham, the National AfterSchool Association's VP of Programs and Strategy, who represents NAA as a co-strategist on the Readiness Projects. The Readiness Projects is a collaboration that believes together we can dramatically change the odds for youth if we commit to upend inequities, embrace science-informed strategies, and accelerate progress.

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.