Awards & Recognition

NAA and our partners are doing some great things to elevate the field of afterschool!

NAA’s Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders 2018

NAANextGens 2018UPDATE

In selecting NAA's Next Generation of Afterschool 2018, proudly sponsored by S&S Worldwide, the National AfterSchool Association sought to highlight emerging young leaders who are afterschool champions and believers in the power of afterschool.

Young leaders who are active in the afterschool community and who are starting to design programs, professional development and other contributions that will influence their programs and organizations—with the potential to provide broad and long-term impact. From a field of 100, a committee appointed by NAA selected those being honored.

We're pleased to present this year's list of next generation performers. 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 is the result you want to see, feel and hear through your work in afterschool?"

NextGen 0006 Abby MayAbby May | Development Manager, Michigan City Area Schools Safe Harbor, Michigan City, Indiana

Students deserve a learning environment that is inclusive, holistic, engaging and culturally responsive. As afterschool professionals, we have the sacred opportunity and obligation to help young people see themselves and each other as powerful contributors to the world around them. By providing affordable access to these enriching afterschool programs, we can empower all students—both academically and socially—to identify and celebrate their strengths, challenge themselves, and achieve both short-term and long-term goals. I hope that my work in afterschool builds a generation of passionate citizens who are confident in their abilities and dedicated to their wider communities.


NextGen 0000 Aimee MoodyAimee Moody | LearningWorks AfterSchool Director, LearningWorks, Waterboro, Maine

I believe in the power of afterschool. I believe that all children can be successful. Afterschool programs can bestow a low-stake, hands-on, loving and flexible environment that caters to our students' needs and meets them where they're at. LearningWorks AfterSchool strives to provides not only academic, but social programming for our young students to gain confidence and skills to become productive, empowered learners and leaders. Results are not always seen immediately, but I've witnessed over time how programs like ours can positively guide the next generation in our community by providing them a safe, creative place to thrive. Being that person, creating that place is beyond rewarding.


NextGen 0001 Alberto BarajasAlberto Barajas | Quality Assurance Coach/Trainer, Think Together, San Bernardino County Region, California

At the beginning of my career with afterschool, I was uncertain of what my ultimate career goal was going to entail. The more I developed a relationship with the students, school site staff and community, I immediately knew that I wanted to continue to make a big impact in the educational field. Through the years, I have been able to experience afterschool programs in different roles. In my current position, my promise is to continue to provide a safe and supportive environment for students to unleash their hidden talents. With my leadership, I will help develop new frontline staff to live and breathe the organizations vision: All kids receive a great education to prepare them for college and career readiness. My goal is to support staff to embrace all diversity and overcome any challenges that they may face when supporting our future generations. Furthermore, I'd continue to be the bridge that links school districts and expanded learning programs to help support and achieve district specific benchmarks.


NextGen 0002 Alvaro LozaAlvaro Loza | Staff Development Trainer and Coach, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, Menlo Park, California

Nothing would bring me greater joy than to see every child in Silicon Valley's under-resourced communities participate in quality afterschool programming that aids in improving their self-concept, social footprint and overall impact as citizens of this world. I believe every student regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic background deserves the opportunity to be successful. I want every one of our students to know that the circumstances into which they were born do not need to determine their dreams, aspirations or goals. I want our students to know that they too have a choice and a voice. I will know that my vision is coming to fruition when I begin to see that every one of the students in our programs are submitting college applications with ease and when I hear them break the news to their parents that they have been accepted to the college of their choice. I will know that my work in afterschool has been impactful when I see our students knocking at the doors of our city council members advocating for their beliefs, their schools and their families—and doing so gracefully. When every one of our students believes in themselves even more than I believe in them, I will know that I have done what I set out to do.


NextGen 0003 Angela PortilloAngelica Portillo | Associate Project Manager, After the Bell Alliance, Dallas, Texas

Throughout Dallas County, 100,00 kids ages 5 to 14 are home alone between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. There are only enough free and low-cost afterschool program seats to serve 17 percent of low-income students in Dallas County. As a result of my work, I want to see expanded access to free and low-cost seats to ensure that each child has access to a safe space, a meal and the academic help they need afterschool. But beyond these necessities, I can't wait to hear from children that they are happy to be in the afterschool programs, because they either get to play with their friends instead of going home to watch television alone, realize the talent they have through an art club, or discover there are unlimited possibilities for their future even if they are not making the grade during the school day. The out-of-school time is a unique space for children to grow their love for learning and a necessity for working families; therefore, I would like to feel the support of businesses, funders, community leaders and program partners in Dallas County to not only increase the number of seats but to ensure these are quality programs.


NextGen 0004 Bianca ZBianca Zaharescu | Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, Spring Initiative, Clarksdale, Mississippi

Through my work in afterschool, I am most excited to see young people break through any of the limitations that they have internalized or been confronted with, and instead to experience freedom and confidence as they build thriving lives for themselves. Spring students and adults collaborate in the long-term work of building up the emotional, social, academic and logistical resources necessary for young people to succeed—in a context where they have not been provided with equal access to the life opportunities promised by the American Dream. In my work, I see the brilliant potential, unique creativity and mind-blowing resilience of the students I am so lucky to know and work with. The most exciting result of this relational commitment is when you get to see students step into their own greatness that has been there all along, declare to themselves and the world that they are valuable and have amazing things to share, and live out those unique passions and desires with full confidence and joy!


NextGen 0005 Brigette GurdenBrigette Gurden | Chief Professional Officer, Boys & Girls Clubs of Lawrence County, Bedford, Indiana

Through my work, I want to see an improved quality and understanding of the programs we provide in our field. I want our programs to make a lasting and deep impact with our youth. I want to show people that afterschool programs are game-changers for these youth. Afterschool programs can inspire and create future leaders, employers and innovators.


NextGen 0024 Caleb DuFresneCaleb Dufresne | Program Director, Youth Run NOLA, New Orleans, Louisiana

I got into afterschool programming because I saw that kids could think differently, act differently, and were open to making mistakes and growing in a way that wasn't happening in the classroom. I am not in the business of just babysitting kids—we are in the business of opening different avenues for lives. If kids learn how to be kind, push hard and laugh now as kids, then their lives as adults are going to be much more enjoyable.


NextGen 0007 Cassie BCassandra Benton | Program Coordinator, Health Initiatives For Youth, San Francisco, California

The program that I've had the pleasure of coordinating is called Leadership In Diversity. It focuses on youth leadership development and empowerment for middle and high school students. Through this program students look at their own various identities, explore how those identities relates to their community, and where that community fits on larger systems of oppression.

Through this work I'd like to see students grow as radical community allies. Sixth-graders who begin to think critically of which identities make them who they are. Seventh-graders who understand institutional oppression and what they can do about it. Eighth-graders who are school advocates and bring attention to students' needs. Freshmen who lead assembly on the importance of social-emotional health in communities of color. Each year will grow stronger and bigger, as students advance in their education and community work.

My goal is to support the next generation of peer educators, forum leaders, health workers, policy rebels and parents. The end result is an "each one teach one" generation of self-advocacy and social change that all started from an afterschool program that encouraged celebrating differences and self-empowerment.


NextGen 0008 Chasidy CelestineChasidy Celestine | Program Coordinator, CASE for Kids – Harris County Department of Education, Houston, Texas

My passion in life is to be a resource to the youth in my community. As a child, I enjoyed many afterschool programs. Afterschool gave me exposure to places, people and activities I would not have received if I had not been a part of those programs. Because of that exposure over the years, I became more involved in various activities. Once I made it to college, I volunteered and later worked in afterschool programs as a youth development coach. Now, I am a professional in a growing afterschool field, and I am forever grateful for my afterschool experiences. As a byproduct of dedicated educators, OST staff and afterschool programs, I am a personal testament to how youth can be impacted positively. As a program coordinator, I am embracing the opportunity to give back through my work in afterschool. I want to continue to expand access to resources and enrichment for youth who experience gaps in opportunity, by coaching and delivering professional development for OST professionals. I take pride in developing creative, hands-on, fun and informative workshops.

My desire is to SEE underserved youth engage in activities that pique their creative interests and broaden their perspective beyond the classroom. I like the idea of allowing them to find passion and voice through afterschool, where they learn they can do and be whatever they want regardless of where they started. I want youth to FEEL motivated by the things that they are exposed to. I want to HEAR a million times how great, how smart, and how qualified they are while pursuing their dreams because of the impact of afterschool. I believe my commitment to OST will lead to better afterschool outcomes for youth in my community. Youth are to be empowered and purpose driven, and I'm thankful to be a part of their journey.


NextGen 0009 Christianna BurwellChristianna Burwell | Public Policy & Legislative Affairs Manager, Texas State Affiliate of YMCAs, Austin, Texas

By bringing awareness to both the need for and the impact of quality afterschool programming on a macro level, my goal is to advance legislative policies and encourage partnerships that would ultimately enhance the quality of care available to families. I firmly believe that each child deserves the best care available and no individual organization or institution can accomplish this alone. Rather, it takes community support and collaboration to effectively promote a holistic approach to afterschool programming.

Afterschool programs have a unique opportunity to not only support schools in their efforts to foster academic growth, but also to cultivate the values, skills and relationships that can lead to positive behaviors, better health and education achievements. Through developing policies that positively impact and promote afterschool programs, my hope is that program administrators and staff would be empowered to advocate for systemic change that strengthens the diverse communities they serve.


NextGen 0010 Derrick HatchDerrick Hatch | Youth Ministry Leader and SMART Assistant, Urban Youth Impact, West Palm Beach, Florida

Some people are just dying to be heard. Students go to school day after day in search of an identity, feeling like they don't belong. I want students to have a safe place where they can wrestle with who they are. A place where they are free to ask questions, to dream and succeed without fear of what might be. My goal is for them to know that they are created and loved by God; that in the struggles of life, God has not abandoned them, but rather, wants to be with them in the midst of their pain. God wants to empower these students to live a new kind of life marked by faith, hope and love. Also, to create an environment where the barriers of prejudice and status are torn down so that students can live freely at peace with those in their homes, schools, communities and world. I long to see students serving one another in humility, to feel the difference they are making in the lives around them, and to hear from every single one of them: "This is where I belong."


NextGen 0011 Edgar GomezEdgar Gomez | Youth Program Coordinator, Urban Neighborhood Initiatives, Detroit, Michigan

I want to know that I am making a difference in the lives of the youth I work with. By difference, I mean by being an impact on their motivation and inspiration to pursue a brighter future. I want to see what my mentors have done for me, and that is opening the doors to newer opportunities that were not possible to find on my own. I want to know that my involvement has challenged my youth to reach higher.


NextGen 0012 Erin BrennanErin Jo-Ann Mariah Brennan | Youth Program Director, Rankin Christian Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Through my work, I want to encourage children that no matter what their circumstances are, they are valued. My afterschool program is a safe environment where they are free to ask questions, learn, and get help from trusted adults. They will always have a home at the Rankin Christian Center, and always have someone here to support and encourage them. I want to see an ongoing passion for learning that isn't deterred by socioeconomic circumstance. I want these kids to feel that they can succeed, in whatever way THEY define success. I want these kids to hear that they are important, that they are not forgotten, and that they matter.


NextGen 0013 Hada GuzmanHada Guzmán | Program Manager, Girls Inc. of Alameda County, Oakland, California

My dad, in his broken "Spanglish," has a saying: "Open la door o me brinco por la window." Meaning: "Open the door or I'll jump through the window." He has used this personal saying throughout his life, every time a door has closed in front of him. This simple and humorous, yet profound saying has taken a deeper meaning in my life. There is always another way to reaching your goals.

As I train, my goal is to build empathy while exploring developmentally, culturally responsive and trauma-sensitive supports for our youth. I strive to prepare my team and staff to become allies for our youth. For me this comes from constant learning, training, and professional development. As our youth, communities and politics change, we work to become a safe support system for them. Once the teams' skills and tool set have developed in the field, we are able to focus on our youth and build trust and rapport, making them feel safe and engaged. This enhances the learning process. They are able to learn STEAM, find their voice, explore social activism, communication skills, develop healthy relationships, start career and college exploration, and see themselves in a new light.

This success level is just the beginning. Once we have a successful program, the development cycle for our afterschool program staff continues to grow and specialize into a unique set of skills and abilities. At the end of the day, I want to see these young girls filled with pride when they realize that they are capable of reaching far higher goals than what the odds against them are. I want staff to be successful in this entire process, and to be prepared for the next challenge.


NextGen 0014 Jimmy BulmerJimmy Bulmer | Director of Operations, Boys & Girls Clubs of Albany, Albany, New York

I'm not confident that I can pinpoint the root of my passion for the afterschool field. Whether it's my experience as a Club kid, the desire to see others succeed, or anger for not all students being provided a fair and equal opportunity, all I know is that I love doing what I do. My hope is to inspire others to find their passion and realize that every individual has their own version of success.


NextGen 0015 Katie EverhartKatie Everhart | Education Coordinator, Bright Horizons, Mount Joy, Pennsylvania

Through my work in afterschool, I strive to provide quality education and experiences for each child and family that I support. My hope is to see an inclusive and holistic learning environment that teaches and fosters a love of learning that encompasses all developmental areas, while providing a safe and nurturing relationship between the children and myself and peer-to-peer. I want to see children engaged in learning experiences and feel their excitement as they explore and construct new knowledge. I want to hear laughter and open discussion as they work together to continue their explorations and engagements in content areas, as well as social and emotional discovery. I continually strive to foster each child's own individuality that allows them to openly express themselves freely.

I keep these words by Nelson Mandela in the forefront of my mind, to help me continuously examine my own teaching methods so that I am providing quality education that can change the world: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."


NextGen 0016 Katie LakeyKatie Lakey | Data and Grant Coordinator, OregonASK: Expanded Learning Partnership, Wilsonville, Oregon

Scientists, artists, mechanics, athletes, chefs—they are all born from the opportunity to explore, create and imagine. For thousands of children in Oregon, afterschool programs provide that opportunity. These programs are safe, supportive, engaging environments that awaken creativity, inspire curiosity and foster strong, positive relationships. But for every Oregon child attending an afterschool program, there are two more on the sidelines, waiting for an opportunity to participate. According to Wes Moore, "Potential is universal. Opportunity is not."

As the Statewide Afterschool Network and the NAA Affiliate of Oregon, OregonASK strives to ensure that all our youth, no matter who they are, where they live, or where they're from, have access to the same opportunities to attend high-quality afterschool and summer programs. Through our work, we hope to raise awareness, support afterschool programs and their staff, and advocate for policies that support for all our children. We are the voice of afterschool and summer programs in Oregon. My job is to help tell the story of afterschool: the triumphs of afterschool programs and the students they serve, but also the stories of the students still waiting for an opportunity. Through telling these stories, I hope to help build strategies and systems that create opportunity for every child not just in Oregon, but across the country.


NextGen 0017 Kristi EschbergerKristi Eschberger | Senior Program Coordinator, Girlstart, Austin, Texas

Through my work in afterschool, I hope to impact generations of girls to feel empowered to create change. From our college-age frontline staff to Girlstart's After School participants, I hope their experiences with Girlstart teach them to be brave enough to try new things, to embrace mistakes as opportunities, and to be confident in their creativity and problem-solving skills.


NextGen 0018 Kyla ChristensenKyla Rae Christensen | Site Coordinator, Kids Club Kids, Spearfish, South Dakota

Something I have been working on in the community is acceptance and compassion, specifically with mental health. I feel it is our job as individuals to care for our neighbor like our brother. I encourage people to speak out and be heard for what they believe in and to be open to the world around them—and most importantly to always, always be kind. One I have been working for in the school community is molding the person you want to be seen as; meaning I model who and how I want people to perceive me, as well as encouraging staff and children to do the same.

I emphasis to the children that choices you make is like taking a step with relationship: A bad choice is equal to taking a step away from someone in a relationship and the opposite for a good choice. It's important for kids to understand their actions have consequences; however, the most important thing I do in my job is providing support and creating relationships with the kids. It is extremely important to me that the kids know that there is someone who believed in them and someone who will be consistently there, no matter what. I grew up seeking support and never really found it, and I want and will always provide that support to children that I needed growing up. We have to start somewhere! I am not naive enough to think I can change the world overnight, but I do think one good act, one moment of compassion, one brave word, or one courageous act at a time is a good way to start. We have to start with ourselves and reach out in order to make a difference. Whether we are affecting one person or 100,000, it's a difference and it's a start.


NextGen 0019 Liz LevineLiz Levine | Programs & Volunteer Coordinator, 826NYC, Brooklyn, New York

Every day, students ages 6 to 18 bound into our afterschool tutoring center experiencing the widest spectrum of human emotion––they are nervous for an upcoming test, they are excited to see their friends or their favorite tutor, they are frustrated by a subway delay or assignment. As they begin the daily writing prompt or dive into algebra homework, laughter and chatter and questions fill the space. The unique landscape of afterschool education allows our center to be transformed by these students, from simply a place where homework happens, to a magical adventure, to Cat Planets and underwater clubhouses and friendly races through multiplication tables. I feel so lucky every day that I get to witness the remarkable and often hilarious outcomes of these adventures up close, to build a space alongside these students where every idea and every attempt has merit and every young person is challenged to harness their own tools to pursue their future goals.


NextGen 0020 Matrex KilgoreMatrex Kilgore | Associate Program Director of Out of School Time, Creative Action, Austin, Texas

I want our programs to spark and support the social, emotional and academic development of young people through the arts. I want to see our students dreaming big in what they create and the impact they want to have within their community. Our students should be standing up to the injustice they see around them, and helping when they see people in need. Our students should shift their thought from thinking about what they can't do to how they can learn the skills to achieve their goals, and always strive for excellence. Community Building is an essential part to every one of my programs, because connecting with others around us and creating something out of nothing strengthens our similarities, while also celebrating our differences. Most important, I want our students to be having fun. I want students to be excited to come to our programming and asking their parents to stay just little bit longer, because they are having so much fun being engaged that they don't want to leave programming.


NextGen 0021 Nicki JimenezNicki Jimenez | 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program Director, Ronan School District No. 30, Ronan, Montana

I want my afterschool program to be part of the fabric of our community and play an important role in the lives of my students and their families. I want my students to read every day, explore the world around them, and get a chance to just be kids! I want my families to know that their students are safe, learning, and growing while they are attending college or at work. I want my students to feel supported, cared for and excited to be at After School Club; to hear their teachers helping them, believing in them and celebrating them; to see that when they work hard they become better readers, learners, and citizens of our school and community.


NextGen 0022 Paige BellancaPaige Bellanca | Associate Program Specialist, California AfterSchool Network, Sacramento, California

My hope for the future of afterschool is that our country and communities see the power and impact of expanded learning programs. Afterschool programs provide youth opportunities to participate in exciting enrichment activities, specialized skill development, collaborative partnerships and social emotional learning that they might not have exposure to during the core instructional day. The unique structure of afterschool programs foster leadership in our students, provide them with exceptional life skills, encourage youth voice and empower them to strive for excellence. I hope the students in afterschool programs feel supported in their endeavors and empowered to be brilliant. I want to see youth continue to succeed in the face of adversity, break through barriers, and become the change they want to see in the world. I believe afterschool programs provide a platform for students to do this.


NextGen 0023 Rachel RoseberryRachel Roseberry | Literacy Manager, ExpandED Schools, New York, New York

At ExpandED Schools, I work to build the capacity of afterschool educators to support the literacy lives of students. I want afterschool educators to see themselves as reading and writing mentors to the students in their programs, and I want all afterschool programs to be deeply literacy-rich environments filled with books that both reflect the lives of students and give them windows onto the wider world. I want students in afterschool programs to find a love for reading and be given the opportunity to write to express their opinions, their creative ideas and their identities. Afterschool and expanded learning spaces built upon the principles of positive youth development—a focus on youth voice, a strengths-based approach and a long-term commitment to students, families and communities—provide a remarkable opportunity to show all of our students that literacy is for them.

Grace Paley said it well: "Our idea was that children—by writing, by putting down words, by reading, by beginning to love literature, by the inventiveness [of] listening to one another—could begin to understand the world better and begin to make a better world for themselves."


NextGen 0025 Selena LevySelena Levy | Program Manager, California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC), Berkeley, California

I want to hear out-of-school time staff say they feel valued and supported because of my work. I want to feel that staff are empowered to lead their programs and their staff. I want to hear staff say they have the confidence and tools they need to be successful with their youth and in their life. I want to see out-of-school time staff receive the national recognition they deserve for all their hard work and for the impact they have on young people.


NextGen 0026 Suzie VueSuzie Vue | Senior Program Coordinator, Minneapolis Beacons, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Through the work of Minneapolis Beacons, I would love to see all our youth be a leader in their schools and community. For all the youth leaders to be proud and confident of who they are, so that they can fearlessly pursue their dreams all the while being their best authentic self.


NextGen 0027 Taliya BrioxyTaliya Allen, M.S.Ed. | Director of Cultural Enrichment and Arts Education, 1Hood Media Academy, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

It is very important to me to see young people challenging, engaging and creating, manifesting the beauty that is in their hearts and minds. To this end, I want to see spaces that welcome this vision, especially through arts education and out-of-school programming. The world is increasingly shedding the ideas that once bound us, and we are challenged to create spaces for children and young people that are boundless. I hope that through my activity in out-of-school programming, I am continuing to create these spaces, and inspiring those in my generation and those older and younger to lift creative spaces as safe places for youth to learn, grow and not only be sustained, but be liberated so that they may go on to liberate our society.


NextGen 0028 Victoria MoralesVictoria Morales | Afterschool Activities Coordinator, Good Samaritan Community Services, San Antonio, Texas

I grew up in a neighborhood where the effects of poverty are evident. When your neighbor is worried about their light, electricity and food, it can be difficult to think of plans for the future. As the Afterschool Coordinator, I want our families to know they are supported. The afterschool program is a safe space for our children; they continue to learn in a fun an educational environment. Our program provides a place where children can develop a love for reading and building relationships within the community.


NextGen 0029 Weston WhiteWeston White | Site Manager, YouthPlaces, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

My ultimate goal, in a nutshell, is to have each and every young person realize what their purpose in life is and to be successful in their eyes. Success looks different through each person's lens, and our young people need to realize that. Faced by pressures of peers—and on a broader spectrum, social media—success of an individual is so often intertwined with that of another person's reaction. "You are special, you are an individual, you are inspiring and you are GREAT!" I want this to be embedded inside the minds of the youth in our communities! You can break barriers; you can be the person to be the change needed improving your home, community, city, even the world! This is my inspiration daily, to assist those young people with setting and accomplishing their goals!