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Monday, 18 October 2021 00:00

NAA22 Convention planned for March 20-23, 2002 will bring the field together in UNITY as an OST commUNITY and with that, bring so much opportUNITY!  Two afterschool professionals share their experiences about how presenting and participating at NAA Convention changed their perspectives and professional trajectories.

In 2014 I upped the ante and moved from the classroom to the world of afterschool. Soon after, I discovered the National AfterSchool Association (NAA).

I submitted a proposal to present at the NAA15 Convention in Washington, D.C., mainly hoping to motivate my employer to send me if accepted. I was, and it did. All in!

Attending is one thing; being accepted to present took this to a whole new level of anticipation and nervous excitement. But not to worry: NAA staff knew how to alleviate fears and increase feelings of belonging with their top-notch professional planning, organization, and communication.

My presentation was in the last time slot on the final day. Great. Talk about coming down to the wire! How could I concentrate on anything else? Again, my fears were unfounded. From the opening general session, I was engaged and immerged through the special events, social activities, and countless workshops. Not only was the information relevant, meaningful, and delivered by experts in the field, but the social events and time between sessions allowed for networking with other professionals. Oh, and did I mention the Learning Expo exhibitors? Every kind of resource an afterschool educator could need.

So, my session closed out the convention. It was well-received by a full house, with luggage propped against the walls by participants who had already checked out of the hotel and were getting a final dose of inspiration before taking flight. Later that day, before leaving, I walked to a nearby restaurant and reflected as I gazed out over the Potomac River. I knew then that I would be returning to this convention every year. My perspective as an afterschool educator has been forever changed. I was headed home with a wealth of information, resources, notes, handouts, books, samples, and souvenirs. I looked over the many business cards from my new professional contacts. Cards I would also be filing under "Friends."

—Clint Darr, afterschool regional educator, Missouri AfterSchool Network.

I will never forget the day my Aunt Jacquelin and my brother convinced me to take the afterschool director position with Charlottesville City Schools in Virginia. It was a decision that would change my career path forever.

My supervisors, Beverly and Tracy, introduced me to many new things about the afterschool world, one of which was the NAA. This was the first time I heard of the organization or the convention they facilitate every year. I decided to go, but I didn't know what to expect. This was my first time attending a national convention.

By the end of the convention, I had learned new trends within the afterschool field, felt rejuvenated, connected with thousands of other afterschool professionals across the country, and was hopeful about my career path in the afterschool field. Because I was attending solo, I quickly made some new friends. I met Ben Trentleman from the Utah Afterschool Network, who later introduced me to the entire state of Utah afterschool professionals at the convention. The connections I made with the afterschool professionals from Utah would later land me a position with the Utah Afterschool Network as an out-of-school-time specialist. Today, I live in California and work as an Affiliate Support Manager at First Place for Youth. I would have never had the opportunity if I hadn't attended the NAA Annual Convention.

—Kwamane Harris, Affiliate Support Manager at First Place for Youth

It’s your turn. Come help create NAA22—unity, community, and opportunity. Register to participate or submit a presenter proposal here.