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2022 Reflections with CEO Gina Warner

Tuesday, 03 January 2023 11:22

The new year brings with it fresh opportunities to dream up and pursue both personal and professional goals. Before we charge full speed ahead, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the trials and triumphs we experienced in 2022. It has been a year with continued resilience and cautious optimism as in-person meetings, office hours, and events slowly made their way back into our lives.  365 days of reimagining and rebuilding in a post-pandemic nation together is cause for some celebration.

“Things definitely feel better than they did this time last year – there isn’t quite as much uncertainty,” National AfterSchool Association CEO Gina Warner shared. “Without a doubt, the best highlight of the year was being able to be with so many of our members at the 2022 Convention!”

We returned to in-person opportunities in true fashion with Convention in Las Vegas. The theme was In Unity with Community for Opportunity and we came away from this brief retreat reenergized by the passion of our NAA community. Things we gleaned from sessions and participants helped sharpen our focus on supports for out-of-school time professionals. “I am very proud of the foundational work we have done to bring attention to the importance of investing in our workforce and creating quality jobs for our field,” Warner continued.

Our new Director of Advocacy and Workforce Initiatives, Angelica Portillo, has spent the past year creating frameworks and talking points for our Thriving Workforce Initiative – she has spoken to national and state groups, taking in lots of feedback to help us to continue to refine our messaging and direction. We really do feel the momentum shifting on this issue – and we are excited about continuing to move this work forward.

While ramping up our strategic policy plans has been at the forefront of our work in 2022, getting NAA geared up for deeper impact within our communities has been a behind-the-scenes challenge our team has taken in stride. “The work we’ve done to build up our infrastructure as an association has been less visible, but just as exciting,” Warner said. 

Our expanded staffing and consulting model required new attention to our internal systems and so much of the credit for that goes to Heidi Ham, our Chief Operating Officer. From our new Convention registration platform, our cohesive communications planning system, to our soon-to-be-debuted new website and mission-driven membership model, Heidi has helped us build systems that help us leverage our strengths and be more efficient with our time and resources.

As we carry several lessons learned and obstacles overcome into 2023 with us, NAA and its leader hold on to one reminder each new year: the importance of being flexible. “Operationally, things were better this year than in the two before it, but there were still upheavals and uncertainties – both personally and professionally,” Warner explains. 

That required what felt like a constant reshuffling of priorities. I think we all have some scars (emotional and otherwise!) from the last few years – but all in all, I do feel like we have survived and have positioned ourselves to do so much important work, and of course, surrounding ourselves with an amazing team helps with flexibility, too!

Overall, 2022 was a great year, and we are looking forward to all the 2023 opportunities we have to better serve the OST professionals in the United States with nimbleness, passion, and clear direction. “There are so many things to be excited for in the upcoming year,” Warner finished.

We are launching a new leadership peer coaching network, a new curriculum development cohort with one of our Corporate Advisory Board partners, and continuing the work we are doing with the Wallace Foundation and others to examine costs of quality in afterschool. We’ll continue to create practical tools to help programs deliver on their commitments to equity – last year it was the Guide to Equitable Hiring and Staff Development Practices; this year it will be a guide to help bring more equity to organizations’ communications practices.

At NAA, we are excited and thankful for all the wonderful afterschool experiences young people are going to have that come from the hard work and dedication of you, our members!