In selecting NAA’s Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders 2020, the National AfterSchool Association sought to highlight emerging leaders who are making contributions that influence programs and organizations, and have the potential for long-term and broad impact on the afterschool field—who are active in the broader afterschool community; demonstrate the NAA Core Competencies; and possess passion for the profession and for their work as an emerging leader, have a clear purpose in their efforts to support others, and show determination to grow as a leader in the field of afterschool.
We’re pleased to present this year’s list of outstanding 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 questions:
"What are you most proud of, regarding the contributions for which you’re honored?”
“What immediate impact have you seen from your efforts?”
“What—ideally—are the long-term, bigger-picture results of these efforts?"
I’m proud of the staff I’ve been able to work with and create in our area. Seeing teachers have “aha” moments with their own teams and groups of kids, create relationships with their schools and families, and feel excited about their programs shows me that they understand that the work they do is meaningful. I feel proud that I’m able to be a part of their journey and excited about what we can accomplish as we keep going!
When I first began to step away from being with the kids and hands-on teaching every day, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to have the impact that I wanted in their lives. I grieved the transition a little, despite being excited, because it felt like I was having to leave a part of my heart behind. However, being in a role where I’m able to support other leaders fiercely advocate for what’s best for their kids and families, I’m able to see that we’re able to have a much greater scope of impact on the area as a whole. I still get to see kids all of the time and I’m able to help other teachers bring their magic to their programs. I’m seeing confident, engaged staff, kids and teams. My heart grew much bigger.
I’m really passionate about changing the way we look at leadership and “bosses” and coaches. I think that people in this industry are really hungry to make a difference, so our leadership model needs to reflect that. Our greatest efforts toward creating high-quality afterschool programs should be investing in helping educators grow so that they have the tools, resources, confidence, and support to run unique and exceptional programs for the students in their community. We all deserve the opportunity to be reflective of our practices, so that we can grow as individuals and show our youth what it looks like to not just exist but to thrive.
I will be successful when all my staff feel supported and empowered to lead. My staff are the ones in the classroom every day, leading activities, and I want to continue to support their development as they continue to support our students.
The immediate impact I have been able to see from my efforts is creating a space where all my students feel safe and welcome. BGCP has become a family for them within their school—a place where there is a group of caring adults that they see every day. I see my staff work relentlessly to create a welcoming space for their students—a space in their school where they’re able to be open and express themselves.
My long-term goal is to create a culture where it is always OK to ask for support. I am a firm believer in cultural capital and that the students we serve are capable of and have the resources to be successful, which is why BGCP’s mission is important to me.
I am most proud of the knowledge-sharing and capacity-building we provide to the afterschool field. Recently, I worked with Every Hour Counts' Executive Director, Jessica Donner, to plan this year’s We Can Move Mountains: National Institute for Building Expanded-Learning Systems. At our institute, we gathered more than 200 afterschool system-builders from nearly 40 communities across the country to learn from our network and discuss how they can develop systems that truly move mountains for young people. Our conference featured workshops themed around pressing topics in our field: continuous quality improvement; data; policy, advocacy and sustainability; equity; youth skills and development; and partnerships. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to learn from other systems-builders across the country and witness their collective motivation to increase opportunities for young people!
I am really passionate about the racial equity work that our coalition engages in. While the impacts are not necessarily immediate, they are real and most meaningful to me. In June we gathered nearly 40 participants from 13 communities across the country to take part in our racial equity workshop, facilitated by the Racial Equity Institute. After that training, we heard from several participants about the ways they’re shifting their organization’s practices to be more racially equitable. One of our members, Megan Addison, Executive Director of Collective for Youth in Omaha, said, “The training has moved my board member so much that she is advocating for a youth training, our partners being trained, and a training open for the community of Omaha. Also, we have never looked at our data based on race, so we are looking at our youth outcomes based on race and our staff survey; that way, we can see the disparities in our own system.” Our blog, Looking Back to Look Ahead: Reflections from Every Hour Counts’ Racial Equity Training (http://bit.ly/EHC_LB2LA), details how several participants were impacted by the training and what their next steps are to move the work forward.
Ideally, our efforts around racial equity would result in afterschool systems that place equitable outcomes for young people at the heart of their work. When we look at our afterschool systems, and other interconnected systems that are designed to rectify inequities and injustices or to create solutions to problems that disproportionately affect communities of color, it’s important to ask ourselves whether they are really working to these ends. Through our coalition’s racial equity work and the knowledge-sharing we provide the field, I hope to impact how system-builders are analyzing, working, and committing to making their systems more equitable for young people.
I am most proud of the relationships I have formed with the young people in the afterschool hours. I believe relationships with young people can completely transform a young person's life, partnered with intentional and safe-space programming! I am most proud of these relationships because it is in those relationships that I have learned some of the most valuable lessons that serve me in my work, my parenting, and my life! I also get the chance to give back after my experience in afterschool, which is an honor to see things in my own life come full circle.
Some immediate impact I have seen from my efforts has been the spark of understanding in the eyes of the young people, their change in demeanor in regard to themselves and their circumstances, a renewed sense of self-confidence, and improved attendance as well as the young people being more civically engaged and the community being more supportive and receptive of the young people!
Long-term, bigger-picture results of these efforts would be healthy self-image, workforce development skills, healthy decision making, low risk-taking activities and retaining youth in our area. By being active in their community, the young people ideally will feel more invested and valued in their community and therefore want to stay. With adults validating and supporting young people in their own experiences, ideally the outcome would be the development of a healthy self-image and therefore a reduction in high-risk activities and increase in healthy decision making. Workforce development would be an outcome due to their contributions and experiences in programming, being responsible, and being reliable as well as feeling a part of a team!
The opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of the students I service is a rewarding experience. I started working with Saint Peter’s University 21st Century Community Learning Center Program eight years ago as an intern and have worked my way up to becoming the Project Director. During those years, I have had the chance to interact with many extremely amazing students who taught me patience, empathy and adaptability. Their positive souls and personalities make the work I do fulfilling. Empowering the youth is a passion of mine and I look forward to continuing to do so for many years to come.
Student participation in the Saint Peter’s University 21st Century Community Learning Center Program has increased each year. We have gone from servicing 201 to 320 students daily. A key component to this growth is the use of Saint Peter’s University students as University Interns. The University Interns play a key role in the lives of our middle school students as they bridge the gap between teacher and student. They are viewed as “Big Brothers and Sisters” to the students and are better able to interact with the students because of the proximity in age. In addition, several of the middle school students who participated in our program and graduated have returned to us. These students become High School Interns who work collaboratively with the University Interns, middle school students and staff. It is impressive that after graduation from middle school, our students return to provide additional support to their community in a leadership role.
The long-term, bigger-picture results of these efforts are ideally:
- To get all students, in the schools we service, to participate in the afterschool program.
- To have a 0% retention rate for students who participate in the afterschool program.
- To create a program that runs from 3 to 6 p.m. and also 6 to 9 p.m., which will provide a safe learning and enrichment environment and become an integral part of the community.
I am most proud of the impacts I’ve been able to provide to programs around the state through my ongoing support and training as well as the impacts I’ve been able to have on programs and communities through the regional network I’ve supported. I have always made a point to focus on the relationships I can build with the programs I serve, to ensure they receive support that is relevant and focused on their specific goals. I always try to pull from my own experience in supporting youth as a BSA Camp Director, where I was engaged with youth outdoors, and as a program director, where I was able to work more closely with youth and support a team of staff to provide a high-quality program that kids enjoyed.
In my focus in providing personal support to programs through observations, coaching, and mentoring, I’ve seen several of the programs I’ve worked with implement strategies we’ve discussed that resulted in an overall improvement of their program quality where the programs have run more smoothly and staff have built stronger relationships with youth.
Through my efforts with the regional network, I’ve seen several organizations cross organizational borders and overcome competition to better serve the youth of their communities. Organizations have aligned and opened up training opportunities to one another, co-facilitated several events, including an annual Lights On Afterschool festival, and built stronger peer-to-peer relationships to provide encouragement and support.
Through my efforts, I hope to see long-lasting change in how programs approach program quality, including systemic implementation of best practices to create the best possible atmosphere for youth. I hope to see the youth attending these programs enjoying a richer, more beneficial experience, which will help them be more successful as they grow.
I am most proud of the impact of the work I do on my students’ actual lives. When I see how confident they are; how great they become at reading, research, getting their points across; and all of the skills of policy debate, I am so humbled to have been even a small part of their development. Then, when I see the way that debate affects their determination and focus, social and emotional learning, and their leadership skills, I can’t wait to see who they’ll continue to become in this world.
The more immediate impact I’m able to see from practice to practice and tournament to tournament is my students applying themselves—learning more about the national topic: arms sales, growing in their understanding of our government and critical race theory, and a plethora of other complex concepts and ideas. They read more clearly, they enunciate more, they write with more directness, and they advocate for themselves and their peers much harder. I’ve had students fail their FSA tests, join debate and then pass. I’ve had students who didn’t think they could go to college out of state join debate and, a couple years later, go off to Ivy League schools.
I want to help my students fulfill their wildest dreams. I hope debate encourages them to imagine their best selves and chase those desires. Debate can be a passport to a lot of understanding and opportunity and the long-term results are that these scholars move confidently into college and careers where they are challenged to envision and create a better world for us all.
I am proud to be part of an agency and team of passionate and inspiring individuals who give their all when it comes to the young people we serve. From the first time I walked through the doors of our center, I felt at home with my work and where my passions lie. It is truly a team effort when it comes to working with youth and I have the best team out there. From the events and workshops we host to everyday programming, I can count on a team of exceptional youth workers to be by my side and to support me through the obstacles. We have developed our own policies, curricula and program structure that best suit the young people we serve. We offer year-round services for school and out-of-school time. We host cultural events and workshops, and overall strive to inspire and instill passion in our young people and help them to succeed in their lives.
I see the immediate impacts of our programming every day through our young people. It can be anywhere from understanding their math work or reading a book fully through to using their words to express a problem or inviting new youth to sit at their table during snack time. It is amazing to see the bonds that have grown between youth over the three years I have been here and how this program has evolved into a community where youth can feel a sense of belonging and family. Every day, they are growing and building stronger ties with one another and the community we reside in. It is such an honor to help lead our youth through these times and witness the change they are experiencing. They are all developing into such outstanding humans, and I am eager to see what the future brings to each and every one of my Precita Kids.
In the future, I would like our program to expand in various ways. First, by partnering with more schools in our community, so we may serve more youth and families. Second, I would love to develop our teen programming as to provide service and support to youth throughout their high school experience. Last, I would like our program to find a focus point in our program offerings such as music, science or performance art. Overall, my greatest hope for this program is to keep motivating our young ones to become agents of change in their communities and for them to continue the cycle of inspiring and supporting our future young minds.
I am most proud to be an active part of the expansion of On the Road Collaborative and its incredible mission—empowering young people to fulfill their promise. In the numerous Career Enrichment classes offered in our programming, I have seen students who were unsure of themselves flourish to become charismatic, accomplished student leaders. Students who would be unwilling to give speak up in traditional classes are now continuously surprising me by volunteering to give presentations on what they have learned and sharing thoughts of their future beyond middle school. I am honored to provide opportunities for growth through programming that acknowledges and accommodates the unique diversity of Harrisonburg. My work with OTRC has provided an avenue in which youth can showcase their newly found courage in an environment that encourages them.
It has been incredible to see my efforts to collaborate and synergize with others being matched with actions of support from community members, school faculty, and students. In my work with OTRC, we have built a cooperative with Thomas Harrison Middle School in which administrators, teachers, and families strive to provide the most enriched setting for each student to be supported in their learning.
This is followed up with countless volunteer hours community members invest in our youth by offering unique stories and expertise about their professions through Career Enrichment classes. The outreach conducted by myself and my team is building OTRC up to be a connector and allows for people from the community to touch the lives of students. Finally, the students illustrate the impact with heightened enrollment and participation; seeing them pursue the program and show up is the biggest acknowledgment of my efforts.
Through my programming with OTRC, I strive to be a resource to my students by helping them to strategize how to achieve their aspirations while considering their impact on the community. My efforts are focused on building an environment where students feel safe to connect with caring adults, explore numerous learning opportunities and dive deeper into their passions. Overall, I hope to cultivate many cohorts of dynamic, compassionate beings who have the self-efficacy to excel in their own unique way.
In my tenure as program director, we have experienced growth of 300% in students served. Even with the substantial influx of students, the ACE Clubs staff has stayed true to the individualized approach that enabled such rapid expansion. The culture of the program is one in which every student feels s/he has an opportunity to achieve their maximum potential, create without inhibition, and explore new interests. The belonging and support students experience when participating in ACE Clubs is what I am most proud of.
Through serving as ACE Clubs director, I have witnessed firsthand the impact successful afterschool programming has on student outcomes. The students who participate have demonstrated higher test scores, increased attendance rates and achieve better grades on average than their peers who do not participate. Creating an environment in which students feel supported allows for the social-emotional and academic gains that participating students exhibit.
As ACE Clubs continues to develop and expand, my hope is to provide a comprehensive afterschool program through which all students in the Anderson area can receive needed support. While ACE Clubs provides opportunities for students to experience immediate growth, my hope is to establish a program that builds a foundation on which students can develop into productive community members beyond their school-aged years.
I am honored and humbled to be recognized with this award, and my contributions certainly wouldn’t be possible without the support and empowerment of my colleagues and many other afterschool education leaders. I am particularly proud of my work in designing professional learning opportunities for educators who are often isolated in their work, whether they work in rural areas or don’t have resources to access professional development or coaching. The innovative mindset I bring to my work has helped me to connect educators with the resources and skills needed to impact the youth they work with. Over my career thus far, I take the most pride in the relationships I’ve built with youth, educators and leaders. It is those relationships that propel me in my work on a daily basis.
In facilitating virtual learning communities for afterschool educators, I’ve witnessed educators grow in their practice and build relationships with people across the country. I’ve been most surprised to witness trust and community that I’ve never seen in virtual settings before. While I don’t have as many opportunities to work directly with youth in my current position, it is particularly moving to support educators as they practice STEM facilitation skills with youth in their programs. At the end of one coaching session I facilitated, one educator reflected:
“It was a 10-minute clip and I felt like it was the best teaching I've ever done. I'm used to asking questions to try to get the audience engaged and to participate. But the questions were never purposeful … So I'm just so inspired to use a purposeful question to get kids to answer the question for me. I'm always the one lecturing and what I really, really liked about this part was I caught myself multiple times, starting to give them the answer, and I went, ‘No, no, ask them a question that will get them to answer it.’”
I work with many educators who are eager to connect with other educators, but nervous to facilitate STEM learning or reflect on their practice using video. I am so proud of the educators who put themselves in vulnerable positions for the sake of the youth that they work with.
I am hopeful that this work makes a lasting impact on the field of afterschool and the youth served by such critical programs. As systems are built and cultures are shifted, I suspect we will see an increase of empowered STEM educators in afterschool. Perhaps we will also find that a virtual model of professional development has traction in a variety of fields, in and out of education. I am hopeful that these efforts contribute to an even greater effort to bring equity and inclusion to all regardless of circumstances.
Hikma Sherka | Policy & Communications Coordinator | Youth Development Executives of King County | Seattle, Washington
One thing that drew me to doing policy work in the youth development field was seeing how disconnected policymakers were from the communities they were creating policies for. I was often the first or only young person in spaces that were making decisions about youth and young adults. I knew these spaces were not created for me, so I made sure I was prepared to be a part of them. I soon realized regardless of how prepared I was to engage in the conversations, it would be useless if the adults in the room weren’t prepared to listen. I pushed for ongoing trainings for adults on how to authentically engage young people in decision-making processes. I am proud to no longer be the only young person in the room. I am one of many who continue to prove young people are great assets to our community.
There is a nationwide movement of young people saying no decisions about us should be made without us. In the greater Seattle area, a growing number of nonprofits serving youth, government and other youth development funders are starting to listen. Not only are more young people joining boards and other decision-making tables, they are leading movements that have positively impacted our communities. I have had the privilege of being in a large community of fellow young leaders and adult allies who are playing a role in shifting the conversation around what it means to do youth engagement work in the policy space.
I would like to live in a world where young people—especially young people of color—are civically engaged and forming and informing policies that support other young people to be happy, healthy, and thriving.
It is my honor to advocate for underserved youth across the state of Ohio to develop high-quality and educational afterschool programs where youth can eat a nutritious meal and develop their academic, social and emotional, creative, and other skills that can be refined in afterschool programs. Also, advocating for the legitimacy of the afterschool field and shedding light on the fact that this field is full of brilliant individuals who are passionate about creating safe and educational spaces for youth in their communities.
I like to think that due in part to my efforts, students in afterschool programs in my local community—Columbus, Ohio—and across the state of Ohio have access to a safe and educational space in out-of-school time and in that space have access to a nutritious meal. I know that either myself or a member of my past or present staff have been trusted adults in the lives of students, who need adults in their lives that have their best interest at heart.
What, ideally, are the long-term, bigger-picture results of these efforts? To see an educational climate where afterschool professionals are the experts in child development and relationship building that they are. To see afterschool programs accepted as a worthy investment that allow students to grow in a safe, educational space. And to see afterschool meals served to all students in need across the state of Ohio, in order to ensure healthful and optimal educational outcomes for all youth who call Ohio home.
Currently, I am a full-time student working toward my Master of Social Work degree. On top of being a full-time student, which involves course work and part-time internships in the field for 75% of the degree path, I have been working full-time in the field. With everything that I have been working on for the past two years, I at times forget about all the work I did prior to returning to college. I am proud of the persistence and hard work I have put in while pursuing my graduate education; however, I am also proud of the work I did in afterschool prior to returning to school. I never really sat down and reflected on the impact I had on my previous agency and the youth programming there. I am proud of myself that I was able to be a part of a larger effort at moving youth services further in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, and was able to make a name for myself in the realm of youth development. Now, as I am moving forward in my career and schooling, especially with my time in Indiana Afterschool Network, I continue to make a name for myself in the larger umbrella of social services.
In my time with Bauer Family Resources, based out of Lafayette, Indiana, I was put in charge of the afterschool programming as well as the juvenile justice diversion program we had there. However, these youth programs were not my only responsibility. As time passed and I started to prove myself, I was given more responsibilities within the Community Center we operated out of and I took leadership within the center. I started to train all new employees on our emergency preparedness model, the alarm system, ran all emergency drills, and became a recognized face in the community on a regular basis because of my work at this nonprofit. Planning community and family events for those we served was another responsibility I started to take over and planned two events each year. We had a back-to-school block party for the neighborhood at the end of each summer and a spring festival with an egg hunt every spring. I took lead on collaborating with partners such as the elementary school closest to us and a long-standing partnering church in the community.
As I went back to school, I returned to working in child welfare. Ultimately, what I am most proud of is not the individual projects or tasks I was trusted with, but everyone that helped me grow to who I am now professionally and that I am being recognized on a national level because of everything I have done in just a short couple of years. I have many people to thank for my growth and I wish I could thank them all.
I truly see my name and face are becoming more recognized and respected in the state of Indiana. Through all of my time in youth development, I have met so many different professionals in this field and have been fortunate enough to create relationships with them, even if we only met a handful of times. I have seen the power of networking and relationship building among professionals in youth work and the impact is that I know have more people to collaborate with and work alongside with to meet common goals.
It was my efforts that helped me make the decision to return to school in the first place. After graduating school, my long-term and big-picture move will be higher leadership within a youth-serving organization, specifically on prevention work. As part of my leadership development, I do not want to just focus on organizational sustainability, but also personnel sustainability and development. Youth work is the largest human services field in the world. If I can be a significant contributor to creating and sustaining more and more youth workers, my goal will be met. I believe in the power of youth work and want to have my hand in the mission to strengthen the profession.
I am humbled to be recognized for my professional contributions. I am most proud to be making a difference in these children’s lives. I am passionate about my profession in afterschool programming. I am eternally grateful to able to love what I do while making a difference in children’s lives. All that I do in my program is for the children with their best interests always being at heart. I am most proud of watching my efforts unfold while making a difference in their lives.
Immediate impacts in this line of profession are not always as common or as immediate as one would hope. I have learned that little things are what count the most. My students vary greatly from one another. I have been fortunate enough to witness a few of my students who are on the spectrum take all of the tools, skills, and resources myself and my team of staff have provided for them to become able to participate in the mainstreamed groups. Although to others this might be expected behavior, these specific students struggled greatly to get to this point. To watch them interact with their peers and to be a part of the main society in our school leaves me speechless. It makes all of the challenging days worth it.
My long-term hopes are that through my professional efforts and contributions in my field, I can provide the tools and resources to as many children as possible so that they will be successful adults one day. I would also like to assist them in learning social and emotional conflict resolution skills. My focus as a practitioner is not only to teach my students academically, but to also teach them to be great people while having the drive and morals to become the best versions of themselves. It is my hope that as I grow as a practitioner, I am able to watch my students grow with me. In all, I’d like to serve as a role model for all my students.
I am most proud of the impact I make on children’s lives daily.
I have impacted many of the children in our program, they run up to me with a smile on their face and open arms. The parents are so grateful for a positive place for their children to go after school. I have motivated the staff within our organization to strive to do their best to get students engaged and involved.
With my dedication to the children in the before and after school hours I hope to provide a fun, comfortable atmosphere for our children. I also hope to inspire others within our company and beyond to offer these qualities to children around the world.
Widening access to learning opportunities has always been the heart of my vision since I founded Studentship Philippines. I am grateful and honored to see that such vision has been materialized in the infrastructures and afterschool programs that we have built and launched in my home province. Pioneering a technology-integrated afterschool curriculum and a 21st-century learning space, we continuously challenge and break barriers toward meaningful learning. We have opened the doors to more exciting learning experiences for the students and even for their parents and teachers.
Many students, especially those who come from public schools, have now been exposed to new learning opportunities that they would otherwise not experience had it not been for our presence and efforts in the region. Through the technology-integrated lessons that we have crafted, they have also become capable of producing and publishing their own educational contents and other creative outputs. We have also built the first team of grade school students to challenge senior high school students in robotics competitions in our province. The students have never been this excited and enthusiastic toward spending their free time to learn. Parents and teachers have also become more interested in technology-enhanced designs and approaches in education, as they have requested for and participated in webinars and other innovative learning experiences.
I look forward to bridging more innovations in education in my home province, so our learners may further celebrate the life of a student, pursue meaningful learning journeys, and perform in their best and fullest potentials. While I started the initiative and efforts in my home province, the dream does not stop here. I have always hoped that in the future, Studentship Philippines can serve more Filipino learners by expanding our presence and continuously championing accessibility and innovation in the field of afterschool in the whole Philippines.
What am I most proud of, regarding the contributions for which I’m honored? Finding my purpose and passion in youth development and connecting with young people to help them do the same. Looking back to my adolescent years, I didn't have a strong interest in any specific area, so I didn't really know "what I want to be when I grow up." One thing I did know is that I wanted to make my family proud by being the best student and young person that I could be. After years of pouring energy into my studies and continuing to do what made me feel good and my family proud, opportunity met preparation. Now. I am in a position to share my experiences and pour energy into an organization that puts people into positions to serve and empower young people from similar communities that I come from.
The trajectory of many lives has been redirected for the better. Participants who have been a part of our program for many years have made 180-degree changes in their attitude and approach to their education, peers, and mentors. I have seen coaches and mentors develop a greater sense of confidence and purpose in what they are doing in this space.
What—ideally—are the long-term, bigger picture results of these efforts?
- To build a community of civic-minded individuals across various socio-economic backgrounds to uplift Philadelphia as a whole.
- Shift the narrative of how young people are viewed from the inner city. They should no longer be labeled as at-risk but instead at-promise.
- Getting back to the city of Brotherly Love.
One of the things I am most proud of is being able to pass on guidance to staff and volunteers to best help them succeed in running our programs. I enjoy being able to share what I have learned and help staff bring out their strengths to provide the best programming for our kids. I have especially enjoyed and am most proud of bringing the importance of inclusion in programming. Even if it is something small, I look forward to providing insightful information on behavior guidance, a disability or making a space safe for everyone. In addition, with our growing special needs program, Mighty Me, I am pleased to say that we have been able to provide a free program in which the community can come out to try new experiences.
With the tools and motivation, I have seen staff become more creative with their approaches to implement an activity. An important part of a successful program is staff enjoying what they are doing, and I am happy to help them grow their ideas and make it a smooth process so that the kids can enjoy the results. One specific impact that I have seen is that staff have begun teaching the kids words in Spanish and American Sign Language, so that they can understand the importance of inclusion in all aspects. The creative aspect in programming is what I believe makes the greatest impact and most memorable experience for kids. Therefore, I focus on working together with staff to be innovative and use their strengths to their benefit.
The long-term picture for the work I put forth is that I encourage anyone to take initiative to be innovative. In addition, to have inclusion be something that everyone can implement in the community. Working in this afterschool program has helped me gain valuable resources and tactics that I can implement into other programs I am passionate about, such as our special needs program. My hope is that with the tools and passion I can motivate others to find ways to thrive in a recreational environment and delve into something they really enjoy.
I am most proud of my advocacy efforts to elevate the importance of afterschool programs in California's San Joaquin Valley, the state of California, and across the country. I've had the honor of working alongside other passionate advocates to help secure more funding for students and families in the state of California and across the nation. In addition to advocating for after school programs, I've also been able to share how California Teaching Fellows Foundation is using these programs to recruit, train, and diversify California's San Joaquin Valley's next generation of teachers, helping to align K-12, community colleges, baccalaureate colleges, and key public and private institutions to support and replicate these efforts statewide and nationwide.
This past year I had the privilege of learning from and working with a team of advocates to help secure an additional $50 million for afterschool programs in the state of California. We've also seen alignment with education pathways throughout the San Joaquin Valley to help support and train our community's next generation of teachers and educators.
Being the passionate and higher achiever that I am, there are several long-term goals: ensuring all elected officials understand the critical role afterschool programs play in our communities and economy, every student has access to quality afterschool programs in the state of California and beyond, and all higher education institutions' and K-12 education pathways are streamlined with afterschool programs being the critical pre-service hands-on experience for future teachers and educators, creating a diverse and well prepared next-generation educator workforce in California and beyond.
I am proud to help create learning spaces where all students feel safe, wanted and included. I combine my experience on the ground with my formal study of pedagogy to design curriculum that is accessible and relevant not only for youth but for our diverse staff. Everything we do at DREAM is centered on the power of teams and strong relationships—and I fully believe that building strong relationships among youth and staff is the key to quality programming! I take pride in working behind the scenes to make way for and lift up relationship building within our program structure and elements.
I love hearing youth take pride in their learning. I'm motivated when I hear about increases in academic self-efficacy such as, "I used to quit on my homework, but Coach helps me and now I know I can finish the whole packet!" or reflections such as, "I love discussion circles because they help relieve my stress." In addition to youth feedback, I know we're developing our youth workers. I recently had a coach sheepishly share that they had never finished a novel that wasn't part of a school assignment, but since leading SEL book clubs in afterschool, they have started to pleasure read at night and feel less isolated and anxious since!
DREAM works relentlessly to help youth recognize their potential and realize their dreams. With a strong literacy foundation, skills to recognize and express their emotions, and the fortitude to advocate for themselves and others, youth will grow up to be young people with more choices, agency, and freedom.
I am most proud that I have been able to shift from the "front lines" as a camp counselor to "behind the scenes" as a professional development specialist. I took what I learned in the field and combined it with the knowledge I've gained in getting my degrees to create trainings on topics that are near and dear to my heart. Even in just the past several months, I have made and delivered trainings on topics of social-emotional learning, youth engagement, outdoor safety, and de-escalation, to name a few. I try to include in every training at least one piece of information I wish that I had known. More than proud, though, I am grateful to the Connecticut Afterschool Network team for the opportunity to do this work with such a great group.
Usually participants in my trainings come up to me afterward and thank me for the new information. That means a lot to me and I hope that it translates to higher-quality afterschool programming for all kids! In the office, I have taken on more of a leadership role because I am known as a dependable and reliable trainer.
I would love to see in my lifetime every child afforded the chance to experience a high-quality afterschool program where they can safely develop socially, emotionally, physically, creatively and academically.
I have many years of experience working professionally and voluntarily with youth and families in Oakland. Upon graduating from Skyline High School, I stayed local to give back to my community. I currently work as a counselor for foster care youth of Alameda county and as a program director for the Bay Area Urban Debate League. BAUDL is a nonprofit that teaches policy debate to Oakland youth. From 2015 – 2017, I served as a youth commissioner for the Oakland’s Citizen Police Review Board. I understand what it’s like being a Black youth in Oakland who has overcome challenges of her own, still with room grow. I pride myself on being “touchable” and “relatable” when it comes to the people of Oakland. By yielding myself as a public servant, I maintain that I am able to directly influence the youth of my community as well as be a conduit that bridges the gap between the young and old.
I graduated from San Francisco State in 2016. In 2017, I completed training with EMERGE CA, an organization that gets women ready to run for office. That year, I was selected by Mayor Schaaf to assist on the panel to select the current chief of police, Anne Kirtpatrick. Since 2011, I have facilitated community round tables to formally bridge and unmask the veil of politics and policing in my community—as recent as in March 2017, hosting a round table with the Chief, Councilmember Brooks, and the community.
In March 2018, I filed papers to run for Oakland City Council District 6. The Whitaker for Oakland campaign registered over 100 people from the community to vote. With the various barriers that impact the East Oakland community, the biggest hinderance is lack of good information. In November, I finished in third place, with 21% of the vote.
I am most proud being an Oakland native and being able to change the lives of the young people in my community. My immediate impact: I have seen young people become more civically engaged and begin to challenge the status quo. In an ideal world, I would love to see the young people of the Bay Area become their own saviors to the issues that plague our community.
I am most proud of being able to support the important work happening in programs on a daily basis. Whether this is from a coaching perspective, where I am able to provide feedback and connect directors with resources to strengthen programming, or from the policy perspective, where I am able to advocate for student and staff needs, I’m most proud of being able to ensure that the quality of out-of-school time learning increases throughout New York City.
The immediate impact I’ve seen from my efforts is the collaborative effort of afterschool leaders coming together to successfully advocate for program needs. In advocacy we know that there is strength in numbers, so bringing together practitioners and organizational leaders to have our collective voice heard by our city’s leaders has been an immediate impact that I would like to see continue and further materialize.
Ideally, the bigger picture goal involves a field in which practice and policy work cohesively, as policymakers allow the realities of practice to inform decision making, as it is centered around youth and their best possible outcomes. This ranges from early elementary literacy to work-based learning opportunities for teens, but is rooted in the ideal that policy should always be centered around the voices of those being impacted by them and support practices that are yielding the results that we collectively work toward on a daily basis on behalf of expanding youth outcomes.
I believe building community heals people. What I am most proud of in my work at ourBRIDGE are my efforts to build community outside and inside of ourBRIDGE. Nothing that I have done would be possible without the collective effort of the relationships we've established. I have worked hard to create an environment where people can come together for the well-being of our students, including counselors, organizations, teachers, community leaders and—most importantly—the families. Together we all make an effort to provide a loving and safe community for every child. While my role no longer includes leading a classroom, I am incredibly honored to have led a classroom last year filled with love, stability, and joy, where I was the subject of a case study by University of North Carolina at Charlotte on how to best work with immigrant and refugee students. My approach to afterschool classrooms is now the model for the ourBRIDGE classroom way. I support our tutors in building community in their classrooms.
Through my efforts, ourBRIDGE has made strides to move toward becoming a fully trauma-informed care center, we have seen tremendous growth in students by approaching each child with a whole-child perspective, partnerships have been brought in to expand our programming, and we have seen increased parent engagement in schools and in our center due to strategies implemented to meet parents where they are. Our events are filled with people truly coming together from all over the world and it is one of the most beautiful things to see.
Ideally, the long-term, bigger-picture results of these efforts is to continuously adapt to the needs of our children and community. The approach we have is needed for immigrant and refugee children and I hope that ourBRIDGE and our community can be a catalyst for much-needed change in Charlotte.
I am most proud of being able to successfully host three citywide Lights On! Afterschool-Newark in the North, Central and West wards of Newark, New Jersey. The significance of these fairs is being able to successfully reach youth and families who don’t regularly have access to OST programs. Each year we’ve had 50 program providers registered for the event and 300 to 500 attending youth, families, and volunteers. Our existence has also created a great community for collective impact initiatives for program providers in our city. Through hosting Lights On! we’ve helped further the conversation on why OST programs matter during the academic year and the summer.
In addition, in my two years here we’ve been able to increase access, usage, and awareness of the program locator from 2,273 Users to 8,042 Users; from 3,467 Sessions to 11,869 Sessions; and from 8,253 Page Views to 27,013 Page Views.
Ninety-five percent of Newark’s afterschool programs are now registered on the user-friendly locator map application. Since 2016, the number of afterschool and summer options listed has increased from 50 to more than 200.
Of Newark’s approximately 70,000 youth, the data collected indicates only 23,000 are being served through afterschool and summer learning programs. Looking toward 2020, Newark Thrives! and its partners in the Newark Data Assembly are looking to not only increase that number but also create data-driven solutions like universal student IDs, access tools, student location tracking, and shared space for K-12 services
Newark Thrives! Is committed to building strategically on lessons learned.
As the director of afterschool programming, I am most proud of the community my team and I have built with the students we serve through our afterschool programming. The consistent engagement has not only influenced the students but all stakeholders as well. Being a STEM-based program, participating students are exposed to limitless possibilities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Students look forward to perusing a STEM career, confidently moving forward with acquired tools and skill set instilled in them from the afterschool program.
As a native form the area in which our afterschool program serves, I see hope because I am a walking testimony of the benefits of the continuation of education in a STEM field. By providing student with hands-on STEM projects, it instills driving motivation to become an innovator, entrepreneur, engineer, doctor, etc.
Ideally, the long-term, bigger-picture results of these efforts are to expose, engage and inspire students in the various STEM field options that are available to them.
“I wanted to be an uber driver, but now I want to be an engineer!”
—Taj Fedison, fourth-grade student at Martin Luther King Jr Charter School
I am glad my job role allows me to have the opportunity to foster meaningful relationships amongst the youth and families within the community. Within my first year as a Community School Director's Assistant, I had a short period of time to learn, but that did not stop me from adapting to site changes, tackling new grants, and creating relationships within the school and with my new team. Alongside the Community School Director, I was able to help with aligning the OST Program scope with the Community Schools initiative. I had a goal, and that was to be the change that I wanted to see. I'm proud to be a part of the early developmental stages of our youth, because it's an age where we can help mold and nourish them to be the best version of themselves they can be. I wish that I had out-of-school time as a child so I could have had the opportunity to discover, develop, and learn. Out-of-school time can change our youth and challenge them to do better and be better, and I will always want to be a part of that mission.
I find it easier for youth and their parents to open up and share feedback on what they would like to see change within their community and in the school itself. Through these relationships, I am able to utilize my position to provide a platform for parents and youth to speak up about concerns and issues they may have.
Overall, we're able to provide a safe space for our youth to be who they are. We want to be their home away from home. Youth are able to develop skills and confidence in STEM. They're working on improving their own community through volunteerism and making an impact. In addition to changing the community, we want them to be mindful of themselves (selfcare). We want our youth to live healthy lifestyles whether it's the mind or body. To ensure that we offer physical activities and the opportunity to experience physical fitness through a new lens, whether it's playing a sport or even playing games in small groups, we are dedicated to their overall wellbeing. They're not only making a change but embodying that change. With that change, we want youth to be able to see and realize they matter. They're able to see that every decision made can harness the key to a successful future. A future they have the ability to shape and form.
As a young girl, I always enjoyed science, technology and math classes, but didn’t know all my options within those career fields. In my last year of college, I interned with Girlstart and learned of their mission to provide innovative education programs to promote girls’ engagement and academic success in STEM. In addition to engaging hands-on STEM lessons, Girlstart connects each activity to a career so girls are informed on what careers are available to them. In 2017, I was honored to become part of Girlstart’s full-time staff and join the team who plans, supports, and develops Girlstart’s programs. I have been most proud to continue to develop and strengthen our hands-on curriculum and technology experiences for our After School, Summer Camp, and DeSTEMber programs. Through these programs, I hope girls continue to be excited and engaged in STEM as well as inspired by careers we connect to them.
Between expanding the curriculum for our programs and managing the team of 40-plus college interns, who lead our afterschool programs, I feel I have been able to impact the culture of our programs. Ninety-one percent of girls in our programs say, “I understand it is OK if my Girlstart activity does not work the first try,” and 90% of girls say, “If I do well in STEM in school, then I am more likely to get into college.” We allow the girls to explore STEM and the opportunities its offers in an environment where they are comfortable trying different ways to approach their activity and learning from potential failures.
Long term, I hope to see equal representation in the STEM workforce. Through our programs, we hope to increase girls’ interest in STEM and inspire them to continue pursuing STEM classes and ultimately careers. I believe we need diverse thoughts and equal representation within STEM fields to help take on the challenges facing us today and in the future.
I am most proud of my commitment to meet students', families' and the greater community's needs through Portland Tennis & Education's programming. Through the past several years, I have learned more from my students and their families through conversation than I could have dreamed, which is part of how we have been able to positively impact the Portland community. My team works alongside these groups, as well as the local schools, to assess the social-emotional, physical, and cognitive needs of the scholar athletes in our program. Through student surveys, family council meetings, parent interviews, neighborhood associations, meetings with teachers, classroom time and more, I have learned that the key to supporting the students is by connecting deeply into their community.
Our goal at PT&E is that every student in our program graduates from high school on time, ready to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Through years of conversations, analytics and metrics, we have seen 100% of our students achieve this goal. Furthermore, we are constantly assessing the literacy and math scores of our K-12th-grade students, ensuring fundamental skills are made fun and practiced daily. Our enrichment programming has grown to include guitar, science, outdoor exploration, fitness testing, art, creative family contests, "college" classes and restorative circles. This programming creates tuition-free access to wholistic learning and growth. Students share that they feel more confident in school and social situations, and they are re-enrolling year after year.
Portland Tennis & Education's vision is to create access to a fair learning and playing field for Portland's underserved youth. My team's efforts to achieve this vision take time, especially with our elementary-aged students, which is why we bring in scholar athletes as young as age 5. The long-term commitment to youth and their families empowers the family to take what they learn at school—and in our year-round program—and use it to positively change their neighborhood. I believe that with ongoing support, our families (and their families!) will rise out of the cycle of poverty and accomplish anything they dream of, and they will have the skills and confidence to be independent learners. As we continue to grow and graduate more students, we hope to see our community become more empowered and strong.
What I am most proud of in regard to the contributions for which I am being honored is being able to develop a program rooted in restorative justice and the development of lifelong skills that will support youth in program to grow up to be successful adults. For me, being successful means more than career and college readiness. It means building a community that our students know they belong in and is representative of them, and it means having adults who are happy, who have the tools to cope with trauma so that they can build the resilience required to overcome the barriers that so many youth, especially low-income youth of color, face today.
The immediate impact that I have seen from my efforts is the breaking down of the walls that so many of our youth have built up. When working with youth, it is often a push-pull relationship where youth push adults away as a defense mechanism. The longer that we have had the program, the more that we have seen youth connect with adults for support in academics but also in their social-emotional development. Truthfully, I find my proudest moments to be in the small moments with our students who can be the most difficult where they test the sincerity and consistency of the adults in their lives. I am most proud of this award because of the language used in my nominations surrounding being considered an asset, especially when it comes to my relationship with our more difficult youth.
The long-term, bigger picture results of these efforts I believe is impacting the worldview of the youth in the program. In our training last week, we discussed that our school and program is our youths’ safe space to be treated with kindness and learn the skills needed to succeed in a world who won't always treat them this way. For me, the bigger picture is helping to raise youth who will challenge concepts and mindsets that hold us back so that all of our youth can grow up being viewed as children who are not only capable but worthy of success, peace, and happiness.
It was clear to me within my first few weeks working in the OST field what a huge difference a high-quality lesson plan, implemented in the right way, could make in our youth’s lives. Whether it was meant to help boost their academic achievement or a well thought-through lesson on grit and perseverance, the effort and consistency put into a leader’s plans clearly mattered. When posed with the idea of leading a committee whose purpose would be to outline the standards of what ‘high-quality’ was in our organization, I was truly excited. The first step to this was building a team of people from mixed program roles and experience, to create a step-by-step process meant to ensure every single lesson plan implemented is intentional and easily accessible across all 14 of Promise SSL’s diverse programs.
It was important that no matter what their role was in our organization, any and everyone had an opportunity to be a voice in this process. I am proud to say what was once ideas scratched on notepads after hours of discussion is now a reality. Thanks to our team’s dedication and trust, we now have hundreds (and growing) of high-quality, fully digitalized plans available to use, ranging from STEAM projects to creating a comic book club at your site. I am beyond proud of the collaboration and hard work put in by every person involved and honored to have been a part of it.
Since launching our digital lesson plan bank, youth at every site have had the opportunity to participate in exciting new activities. Sites that may have previously been less inclined to teach certain subjects due to unfamiliarity can now, with a few clicks of their mouse, access detailed plans that have already been checked for quality by those who are more familiar with the subject matter. The approval process ensures all plans follow Utah Common Core Standards, provoke meaningful discussions with youth, and contain at least a basic understanding of the subject background for those leading the activity, amongst other expectations. This also allows leadership a longer timeframe to train new hires without the added stress of creating plans before they are properly prepared to do so.
Ideally, the lesson plan bank, alongside meaningful mentorships and professional development, will allow afterschool sites (both within schools and community based) a roadmap to becoming better aligned with our youth’s school day. The lesson bank will also potentially take some of the burden of constantly creating new plans away by sharing the responsibility across sites, allowing youth leaders more time to focus on other equally important matters such as safety, engagement, continuous improvement plans, and the general well-being and needs of the young people we love and serve daily.
I feel most proud of my continued connection to the out-of-school time field and helping other professionals in their development. Over the past 15 years, I have been fortunate to have had many amazing co-workers, teachers and mentors in my career that have helped to guide me along the way. Since I have been so fortunate, I have made it a part of my mission to give back to the community that has given me so much support. One way I am able to do that is by training other afterschool professionals. Since becoming a Senior Certified Trainer with the California School-Age Consortium in 2018, I have been able to provide over 50 hours of training directly to staff in the field. Thanks to CalSAC, I have been able to expand on my facilitation skills as well as on my leadership skills. They have given me a place to personally and professionally learn and grow within my work. Being physically present with staff allows me to build strong connections and trusting relationships. While conducting trainings, I see staff connecting dots, coming to their own realizations of theories and ideas, and learning from each other. They tend to also have a renewed sense of purpose and are excited about their work, and in return they will be able to build high-quality programming for their students.
I am also passionate about my work as an advocate for the field. Advocacy came into my career path at a point where I felt like I needed to do more. I have participated in the last three California Afterschool and Summer Challenges, which is an annual event where advocates for the out-of-school time field come together and march on the steps of the state capitol, on behalf of California’s youth. Whether I was meeting with legislators, training staff on how to advocate and tell their story, or collecting postcards and letters of support, I continue to be inspired by others. The most rewarding part of this is being able to give youth the same platform as the adults. This experience gives the youth the chance to share their stories and why these programs work. It makes me so proud to see them take initiative and finding the courage to speak up for what they believe in.
In the long run, I hope that my contributions to this field are ones of empowerment, growth and professionalism. I look forward to a point where our field is seen 100% in a professional lens and that we are treated (and paid) as such. These programs have had a great impact on me, and I want to make sure that they are just as strong for the next generation of youth, staff and leaders to benefit from.
I am the Lights On Program Assistant and the Lights On Coordinator, which handles overseeing the program, staff and the activities we're doing for out-of-school time and our summer program along with my dream team Mia Fiordalisi, Heather Sorenson, and our Director Ceatriss Wall. We're a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant funded through the U.S Department of Education and the State of Wyoming. We serve students Pre-K through fifth grade.
I am most proud that we're providing a much-needed service within my community, a safe place for kids to go during out of school time, as well as seeing how much our program grows every year. As a program, we are dedicated to continuous growth.
I love seeing our kids build relationships and enjoying what we've intentionally planned. The bigger picture is that we've helped these kids, when they're behind on academics and helping them build relationships so they can ultimately be the best version of themselves and are successful members of their community. As a dream team we keep it our goal to make sure every child is leaving Lights On with a smile on their face.
I am most proud of the work that reflects not only myself but my staff's commitment to the community in which we serve. This recognition is more than just an honor for myself but for my staff, my children and the community in which I serve. The contributions that I have applied to my programming include Self Defense, Coding, Film, Cardboard Engineering, A-team aka student council, Sports, Cheer/Dance, Nutrition, Fashion, Acting, Music Studio/ Audio Engineering, Yearbook and Esports. Each of these has a culminating event and have the kids striving to obtain a more project-based mindset. These things are only possible through my organization, my school sites, and my county office's belief in me and my programming.
The Impact that I have seen from my efforts within the community are almost immediately seen because I serve a community that I grew up in. The amount of change that our programs have brought to the schools’ sites culture are amazing. I have watched as parents feel a weight being lifted from their shoulders as our winter wish-granters event has given them a sigh of relief in a community where the holiday season is a reminder of what we lack in order to give our children. I have seen a community come together and have family events in schools that were once considered "rivals" such as the Imagine Science Showcase, Guardian Child Dance, Fashion Show, Cardboard Carnival and Fall Family Feast. I know the impact that the program has, but to say that these things have happened because of my efforts alone I would be severely misinforming. I would like to thank and honor my teams at Price co-led by Esther Alonso and Westmont as well as the Anaheim Family YMCA. And thank you to my soon-to-be wife and daughter for loaning me out to provide for my community; I could not do it without them. Their impact is felt through the community because they allow me to blossom.
With all that has been said, my long-term goal is to create something within my community that is bigger than Xavier. I want my community to become self-sustaining and continue the efforts that I have sparked long after I have gone and began the next phase of being detached from the community in order to spread what we have begun at a site level. My city, my community, my life are completely invested in raising the stock of not only the children but the entire community in which I serve, and I hope that my message will become infectious to the new up-and-coming afterschool leaders to show them love and passion is what should drive them. Because when you give love and passion to the community, they find a way to give it back.