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Reimagining: NAA at Dallas Afterschool’s First Regional Conference

Wednesday, 17 May 2023 10:29

Dallas Afterschool, the city-wide intermediary in Dallas, Texas, held its first-ever regional conference. NAA CEO Gina Warner was invited to keynote the inaugural event. Gina started by addressing the innovative work being done in Dallas to support the youth and afterschool professionals across the city and appreciation for the diversity of programs found in the city.

Gina Warner used the remaining time of her address to interview Angelica Portillo, Director of Advocacy and Workforce Initiatives, to give conference participants an in-depth view of the work taking place at NAA with the Thriving Workforce Initiative and Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders.

Here are the questions Gina asked and my answers.

Angelica to talk about how her work in Dallas informs her work at the national level (benefit of both of us having worked at the city level before)

Working at Dallas Afterschool, I had the opportunity to work on two initiatives. First was the program quality, so it added to my direct service experience, but also, as in the advocacy space, we did a lot of research around how to expand access. In Spring 2017, Dallas Afterschool released a Cost and Challenge: Expanding Access to Afterschool Programs in Dallas report. Most organizations listed "finding quality staff" as a primary issue in scaling operations. Scheduling challenges and limited hours outrank the ability to pay as key challenges behind staffing programs.

And I know that even more research was done and grew into the outstanding work Dallas Afterschool is doing now with workforce development.

At NAA, we talk about job quality and acknowledge that it goes beyond pay, schedule, and benefits. This leads us to develop the quality connection: that shows prioritizing job quality leads to workforce stability and enables OST professionals to deliver high-quality programs that lead to positive youth outcomes.

Ask Angelica – how did you approach the Thriving Workforce (looked at other industries, sectors; designed framework; gathered feedback)

First - landscape analysis of who was doing what with the workforce

And it may come as no surprise, but many state networks and city-wide intermediaries are supporting job quality or moving toward a thriving workforce.

We then developed the proclamation on the profession with our board, state affiliates, next gens, and members at the NAA22 Convention.

From there, NAA has created a framework for job quality that details all the necessary pieces to create a Thriving OST Workforce - such as helping workers perform well and achieve stability, encouraging employee advancement, and creating a work environment where employees are empowered, engaged, and have agency.

Putting all these pieces together (starting with the core elements as a strong foundation) ensures a workplace with a culture of strong relationships and respect. Designing OST jobs with equity and inclusion creates a work environment where employees thrive.

Ask Angelica – just hosted Summit, key takeaways? What's next?

At NAA23, we held the Stakeholder Summit: Building and Supporting a Thriving OST Workforce. Our stakeholder summit was so great! A lot of fantastic feedback from that, We are looking at developing the framework in 3 ways,


  • What policies and procedures might organizations put into place? As mentioned, many city-wide intermediaries and state networks are doing the work, so how can we share those widely with our membership.


  • Legislative advocacy - working with national partners, dept of ed, dept of Labor, workforce boards,

Public Narrative

  • We are a profession. NAA has the resources to back that up
    • Code of Conduct
    • CKSC
    • Proclamation on the profession

Ask Angelica – to explain to Next Generation why supporting Next Gens matters. What are some things you've learned? Advice for Next Gens out there?

Supporting and developing young professionals helps to build a skilled workforce for the future. By providing them with opportunities to learn, grow, and develop, we can create a pipeline of talented and skilled workers who can contribute to the success of the afterschool field.

Supporting and developing young professionals shows that the afterschool program values its staff and is committed to their growth and development. This can help increase staff retention rates, essential for maintaining program consistency and stability.


Tell people what you want to do and where you want to go, which is easier said than done because it's scary telling other people your dream. There's a vulnerability there, but once you do, I promise you will see opportunities come your way. And you have to have the courage to take them, whether it's a new position, PD opportunity, or leadership development program. Keep applying yourself.