For Dr. Roclande White, her "why" behind the work she does in out-of-school time is tied to ensuring youth get the opportunities and exposure they need to thrive.
"OST programs often afford scholars opportunities that day school cannot, such as college visits, experiential learning trips, career exploration and so forth," said Dr. White, who is the Community School Director at The Y in Central Maryland in Baltimore. ". I want my scholars to have the same experience any other student can have, no matter their social economic status nor demographics."
After leaving the classroom to attend grad school full time, Dr. White realized she still wanted to work in youth development, but thought perhaps being a teacher wasn't a good fit.
"And like any 'broke college student, I wanted to find a part time job to support my lavish grad school lifestyle," Dr. White joked. "So I found part-time job as an afterschool teacher."
Dr. White found the experience interesting, to say the least.
"I had come from being a 12th grade ELA teacher to the program which gave me kindergarten," she said, noting it was a welcomed change. "Instantly I knew: I probably was never going back to teaching high school again. The more I worked with the organization, the more I realized being an educator is still my passion, but afterschool programs allow me to still work with students and effect change, but not have to teach all day (though I did miss having summers off)."
Over the next few years, Dr. White moved up through the ranks as a teacher, then as a program assistant. For the past 14 years, she has been in program leadership for OST Programs as well as Youth Development Centers. Dr. White also has some additional background experience.
"I have had the unique opportunity to run programs for K - first grade while in college, and have managed programs in Ohio, Maryland and DC," she said, adding that though these areas of very different, many of the barriers and resources look the same. "Each program has had a slightly different spin, but each had similar high-quality program components and staffing. Each had a goal of bettering the life of the scholars they served. And each wanted to eliminate barriers for students in high-needs schools and impoverished communities."
Dr. White says NAA has always been a beacon of resources.
"NAA was one of the first organizations I 'followed' once I realized I was committed to working in OST," she said. "Even as my connection to the work has evolved, I've always relied on NAA to stay abreast of the best practices, research and innovations in afterschool and OST. It's amazing to see what programs all over the country are doing—and doing well."
Dr. White explains that over the years, she has used information provided in the NAA enewsletter and website to help evolve programs she's worked with.
"Many of the programs I have worked with have been with small nonprofits, however a smaller budget does not mean less quality," Dr. White said. "NAA helps practitioners make the most of their programs so that students and families are engaged without knowing their program might be operating on a shoe string budget. Also, NAA also offers cost effective professional development opportunities that help grow staff by using evidence-based best practices."
Dr. White also loves being able to find potential partners thanks to NAA.
"Having partners in the afterschool space can be essential, but the search for the right one can be daunting so having a vetted list if very helpful," she said. "Also, because of all the great information NAA offers, I was able to see what other career opportunities are available in afterschool programs outside of being a teacher or tutor. I was able to see how program leadership works and what skills were needed to effectively run programs and eventually advance into the leadership roles."
To connect to more afterschool professionals around the country, upgrade to an Executive membership today. Look for more "Stories That Shape Us" experiences and perspectives in upcoming enewsletters.
Courtesy of NAA.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Roclande White