Professional Development

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A Celebration of Leadership: Ellen Gannett

Ellen Gannett of the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) was recently honored during the Celebration of Leadership Reception at the National AfterSchool Association Annual Convention.

The special evening included recognizing Gannett for her decades of leadership in the field of afterschool and a passing of the torch to the 2019 class of NAA's Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders.

For decades, Gannett has worked tirelessly in support of the field of afterschool.

"I started in this work back in 1974 as a teacher and director of a parent-run program in a suburb of Boston," Gannett said in her remarks.

"Back then, the afterschool field was barely known or understood by the public; federal funding for afterschool programs was practically nonexistent and there was scant research on best practices or the positive impact quality afterschool programs can have on our nation's youth. In fact, the term 'afterschool' was not even used."

In 1981, Gannett was recruited to join the first national advocacy organization—started by Michelle Seligson and Jim Levine—that spoke out on behalf of parents who needed quality care for their children during their out-of-school time: The School Age Child Care Project (now NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

Gannett and her colleagues embarked on the ambitious task of helping parents and community leaders across the country start new programs and build the field of school-age care and afterschool.

"Originally it was going to be a six-month job. Here I am, almost 40 years later," said Gannett, who thanked her family for the endless support and her daughters for being her "guinea pigs."

"Today, I stand on the shoulders of countless leaders in the field who came before me—those that we partnered with, those that we learned from and those who blazed the trail for where we are today. It has been such a ride and truly a wonderful thing to see all that we've accomplished."

Gannett's peers shared a mutual admiration for her contributions and leadership over the years.

"Working to set up statewide and national credentials for OST and youth development providers, professionalizing their work, creating a sustainable system for educating and training providers at the college level—all of these tasks have been a part of the lifelong career résumé in the OST field that Ellen has forged," said Georgia Hall, Ph.D., Director and Senior Research Scientist, National Institute on Out-of-School Time.

"Ellen has been a courageous thinker of big ideas and has pressed them forward in ways that have greatly benefited the children, youth, and adults spending time and careers in the OST field."

Diane Genco, Executive Director, NJSACC, first met Gannett in 1974, while taking a graduate school class on child care administration at Lesley University.

"Ellen was an early leader in this space and continues to be a leader today. There was no guidance or literature in the realm of afterschool in the '80s," said Genco, who later followed Gannett's leadership as part of the NIOST National Training Team.

"She blended her knowledge and personal childhood experiences to design what a quality afterschool program should be."

Lena Townsend, Executive Director, Robert Browne Foundation, shared a story from when the foundation wanted to pilot its Afterschool Matters Initiative back in 2005. Townsend thought of Gannett and NIOST immediately.

"It's now 11 years later and the project is flourishing," said Townsend.

"This is exactly what the Board and staff of the Robert Bowne Foundation dreamed of when we initiated Afterschool Matters and thanks to Ellen Gannett's leadership, our dream is a reality."

Before passing the torch to the 2019 class of NAA's Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders, Gannett shared that she truly believes in the talent and commitment they all possess.

"I believe that even in these trying times when the future of education seems to be in such a vulnerable place, our community of leaders will stand up to the needs of young people and the future of the afterschool movement."

We once again thank Ellen Gannett for her tremendous leadership and contributions in the afterschool realm over the last 40 plus years.

Courtesy of NAA.

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