Professional Development

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Tuesday, 14 December 2021 07:43

It's never too early to think about attending NAA22! Michelle Owens, National Advisor for Alliance for a Healthier Generation, sat down with NAA to offer her perspective on why NAA22 is the place to be in March 2022.

Q: How many times have you attended the NAA Convention?

A: I've been attending NAA since 2004. I can't believe 2022 will be my 17th year participating in the convention!

Q: What makes the NAA Convention special and worth attending?

A: My favorite part of the NAA Convention is the people and the sense of community. From the keynote speakers to the session presenters, participants, exhibitors and conference team—I always feel like we are one big family! We are working in our own unique ways to support opportunities for youth, and the Convention provides us with the time to come together and learn from each other's successes. It doesn't matter if you're engaging as a funder, program director or someone who works directly with youth. The Convention provides the opportunity to connect with folks who can provide you with OST data, implementation strategies, new ideas and tools, and take-away resources.

Q: What did you learn or see at the NAA Convention that inspired your work?

A: Seeing so many people gather together for the opening session always takes my breath away. The convention has grown so much in the past 17 years and I've seen this field move from "afterschool care" to a space where youth are learning outside traditional instruction. Afterschool is a place where fine arts and enrichment are provided to kids who may not otherwise have these opportunities; where snacks and meals are served, filling the gap for many kids' nutritional intake; where kids finally "connect" with a caring adult who listens to them; where families feel comfortable and community members get involved—I could go on and on!

The convention inspires my work and reminds me that even though I no longer work directly with kids, what I do does make a difference.

Q: What main takeaways did you have after participating at the NAA Convention?

A: I always take away great stories and successes from other participants. As a presenter, I always try to take program and policy data and evaluation and make it "real world." Say we have research that suggests kids learn about fruit and vegetables in an afterschool nutrition education lesson and they take it home to their families—but then what? I don't have the opportunity to see that training piece live on. At Convention, I get to take-away stories such as, "One of my second-graders took the portion distortion activity home and shared it with her mom. Now the whole family is using these ideas when they prepare meals together."

My takeaway is getting to see the impact of my work through the words of attendees' experiences.

Q: What are you most excited about for NAA22?

A: It’s been so long since we’ve been together, I'm excited to see old friends, make new friends and attend the keynote sessions! 

Q: What would you say to leaders going to the NAA Convention for the first time?

A: Take advantage of attending sessions that focus on topics that are out of your day-to-day work. Stretch yourself to learn something new that will impact the youth and families you serve, as well as meet new people and take the time to network. Share your successes. Your expertise is valuable to others in the sessions you attend!

Come join together in community with us at NAA22!


Interview by the National AfterSchool Association.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Owens.