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Professional Development

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Afterschool: It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

This year we lost several great musicians—first Prince and David Bowie, and then last week we said goodbye to two musical legends, Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen.

Newsweek said, "We didn't want it darker, but we got it. Leonard Cohen is dead, right when we need him, right when we could use his wisdom and grace and spiritual sensibility the most." I must admit that before I met my husband, my knowledge of these latter two individuals was limited. My husband is a huge music fan, and I've learned so much from him about and through music. I'm also convinced that if it wasn't for the Black Crowes reuniting in 2006, I might not have had the courage to move across the country to give our long-distance relationship an in-person try. (But that's a story, for another day.) Needless to say, in our family we believe in the power of music, and we listen to celebrate, to mourn and to learn.

Music has connected us to each other, in our community and across the nation. With music, we're inspired, connected and equipped to face the world with open hearts and minds. I feel the same way about the power of afterschool, for the kids in the programs and for the adults who work with them. Afterschool's common commitment to positive experiences for kids, the importance of supportive adults, our professional learning communities and our networks all have these same qualities. Meeting with other national afterschool leaders last week, to discuss transition planning based on the recent election results, comforted me like a favorite album on the record player. Conversations with others in our field have reinforced that the Afterschool Community, though our individual organizations have various unique and specific missions, is a place where we are bound by a professional code of ethics that fights bias and respects the dignity, worth and uniqueness of all.

Music and afterschool share great properties that help people with comfort, connection and communication. Rich Robinson from the Black Crowes sings in his new song:

As I look ahead and wonder what's left to feel,
sick and tired of all the waiting, the next turn of the wheel.
'Cause It's the music that will lift me from the pain I feel.
Is it any wonder with all the beauty, I heal?
It heals the wounds hardened from my life.
'Cause music will lift me and take away this fight.

As afterschool professionals, we can work together to ensure children and youth have equitable access to high-quality programs and afterschool professionals are treated with respect and given access to the professional development, so that all have positive experiences that contribute to success.

Like the late Prince Rogers Nelson sang:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. ...
Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down?
Oh no, let's go!

We don't need to go crazy, but there's no time like the present for us to share the value of afterschool and the collective strength of our community. Regardless of our political climate, there's one thing that will not change aboutafterschool: It's still rock and roll to me.

Written by Heidi Ham, NAA Vice President of Programs and Strategy. Connect with Heid on twitter @ham_heidi.