Once Joy Deal became a parent, she truly knew the importance of afterschool.
"Working parents need somewhere safe, convenient, inexpensive and fun for their children to go every afternoon," said Deal, Program Supervisor for AfterSchool Programs, Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks & Recreation in Statesboro, Georgia. "As a parent, I wanted my children to have the best quality program I could provide. I have continued to run our programs as though every child were my own!"
Fieldtrips, homework, recreation time, swimming, crafts, science, music and art are interwoven into what Deal's program does every day for youth.
"Clubs and enriching activities help to make afterschool a fun experience for every child!"
Growing up, Deal spent countless hours at the park playing softball and participating in events and programs. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that Deal decided to major in recreation in college.
"When it came time to intern, I stayed in Statesboro where I grew up," said Deal, explaining how her internship introduced her to the world of afterschool. "I fell in love! Afterschool programming has become my passion over the last 27 years."
For Deal, what started out as a love for working with children has evolved into a love working with her part time staff, as well.
"I really enjoy working with the mostly college staff that we have working with our children and families," said Deal, who has also worked with the program's summer day camp programming for 20 years. "These types of engaging, fun, interactive programs are what our children need—the socialization helps children through their formative years."
Deal emphasizes how vital a strong, quality program is for communities and families.
"There are so many single families and two working parent households that require quality child care," she said. "Providing that care through the services of parks & recreation helps to give our children a well-rounded program. Our focus of course is recreation, but we can incorporate everything else into our programming to give children so many experiences!"
Over the years, Deal has sought to make regular program improvements to keep making afterschool a great place to be.
"Every year, we add to our staff training to help insure that our part time staff know and understand the importance of quality programming!"
One of the ways Deal does that for her team is by engaging with NAA.
"The National Afterschool Association has provided wonderful training for me through the years, and the NAA annual convention provides invaluable content and resources," Deal said. "I remember meeting Stephanie Brumbelow at one of my state conferences and she introduced me to the national organization. She encouraged me to get involved and attend convention, and it was the best experience! I have only missed a couple of years."
Through NAA, Deal has met and gained new friends she enjoys seeing and even traveling with to the annual convention.
"I have partnered with a local university professor and we attend the convention together most years, in addition to also partnering for trainings, etc.," Deal said. "I have another 'afterschool friend' who joins us and we share a hotel room to keep our travel costs down. These two have been a valuable asset to my programming and training."
Deal says NAA connections have encouraged her to seek accreditation in the early years of her career.
"There were also program improvement grants through our state affiliate that helped to boost our programs so we could develop sustaining programming for our community," Deal explained, adding that the leadership lessons have also been a big part of what she uses with staff. "Those have been some wonderful, brief training lessons that can be incorporated into weekly staff meetings with ease. They are usable, year after year!"
Deal regularly seeks out new programs, activities and ideas from the NAA website and weekly enewsletters.
"I am always encouraged by the diverse range of topics," Deal said. "If I am looking for something, I can always find a resource with NAA!"
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.