Terri Ferinde Dunham

Partner, Collaborative Communications Group
Lead, National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks

Terri Ferinde Dunham is working to create new learning systems where schools and communities work together to expand learning opportunities for young people. She’s most often found behind the afterschool field scenes, bringing people together, writing about what works, and managing the resources and supports needed to build systems.

For more than a decade, Terri has managed the National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation, with forty-seven statewide networks and partnerships focused on policy and funding for quality afterschool programs across the country.

Terri is publisher of and an author in the groundbreaking compendium Expanding Minds and Opportunities, Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs for Student Success (2013). She serves as director of the Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project, a fifty-state initiative harnessing the power of networks and leaders to help schools and communities leverage the time beyond school to accelerate student achievement by sharing research on high-quality expanded learning; identifying and spreading best practices in afterschool and summer learning; and sharing affordable, sustainable, and effective expanded learning approaches.

With broad and deep knowledge of issues affecting afterschool, Terri has led and supported projects for influential afterschool organizations including the National AfterSchool Association, Afterschool Alliance, Wallace Foundation, Coalition for Science After School, United Way WorldWide, National 4-H Council, Georgia Afterschool Alliance, Arizona Center for After School Excellence, and other local initiatives. She led the development of many afterschool-related products from the National Association of Elementary School Principals, including Leading After-School Learning Communities: What Principals Should Know and Be Able To Do.

Terri works with organizations focused on in- and out-of-school learning to develop networks, strategize new initiatives, and build capacity. As a partner at Collaborative Communications Group, she has managed, facilitated, and supported groups that expand learning opportunities and redefine professional development for clients such as the National Academy Foundation, Council of Chief State School Officers, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Collaborative has produced dozens of award-winning publications and online tools for educators.

Prior to her Collaborative role, Terri served for ten years at the U.S. Department of Education, where she produced a live, interactive television program featuring school and community leaders. For this work, she was recognized as a Fellow with the Council for Excellence in Government. She holds a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in communications and government from the American University.

In her community, Terri serves as chair of the board of the Greenbrier Learning Center, an afterschool and summer learning program serving students in Arlington, Virginia. She is a former PTA president and school-board appointed chair of an out-of-school time advisory committee.

What are the accomplishments you are most proud of?
From an initial meeting on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, with nine states to the force field it is today, I am incredibly proud of the development of the national network statewide afterschool networks. The true accomplishments are not mine, but the forty-two dedicated, tireless, creative state leads who guide their networks to shape policy and secure funding for afterschool programs. My work is convening these people, connecting the dots, and coordinating technical assistance.  

In Expanding Minds and Opportunities, my co-authors and I find this sometimes invisible but veritable force field of organizations, policies, funding, networks, and research creates opportunities and removes barriers to expanded learning opportunities for millions of young people in rural and suburban communities, as well as small towns and large urban areas nationwide. I am proud of my work in supporting these organizations and providing them the tools and systems they need to accomplish their work to serve children and families.

I have convened literally thousands of people in national, state, and local gatherings to develop collective vision, knowledge, and tools for afterschool and summer learning programs. From a communitywide strategic plan for afterschool in Greenville, South Carolina, to the 2014 National AfterSchool Association Convention with 2,100 afterschool professionals, I bring resources and expertise together to build the field. A notable example was the 2003 After School Summit with U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and then-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which we convened in three weeks and was credited with turning the tide for federal afterschool funding at the time.

Where do you see the field in ten years?
More than seven years since the publication of A New Day for Learning, released by a task force I coordinated on behalf of the C.S. Mott Foundation, I believe we are still striving for that “comprehensive, seamless approach to learning that values the distinct experiences that families, schools, afterschool programs, and communities provide for children.”

In the next ten years, I see the field as strong as ever, drawing on its youth development foundation to expand a range of learning opportunities for young people. I can imagine the field even more central in competency-based learning systems, where afterschool professionals can help young people find their passions, build portfolios, and earn credit based on the learning experiences that happen beyond the school day and walls. I know that afterschool programs and systems will be issuing digital badges to recognize the learning and skills gained in programs. And I dream that afterschool and summer learning will be the norm in every school and community with established partners and funding streams.

What are the biggest opportunities for the afterschool industry?
Afterschool programs offer the time, space, and place for innovation. Our opportunity as a field is to embrace this notion and find the tools, resources, and approaches that engage young people and build skills in a range of social, emotional, physical, and academic domains. From the Maker Movement to blended learning to service learning and arts education, afterschool and summer learning programs provide choice and opportunity for young people to find their passions. As a field, we can seek and embrace these new trends in learning and test them in a safe space with afterschool professionals who are guides on the path for lifelong learning. The field has an amazing opportunity with the rollout of technology in many districts, like iPads, Chrome Books and more. The opportunity is to 1) gain access to the technology and Internet connections and 2) support young people in using these powerful tools. Imagine young people working with afterschool staff to use the Khan Academy for homework help or visit other planets through NASA. And beyond the academic learning, afterschool programs have an opportunity to shape the culture in the community, helping teach parents and families about the technology and how learning is changing.

What are the biggest challenges facing afterschool?
It always comes down to funding. I work nationally in the fight to protect the federal 21st Century Community Learning Center funding stream and I work locally in an afterschool program to raise funds to expand our program for the neediest young people in Arlington. Every penny is precious, and I am always in awe of how far a program can stretch a dollar. That’s why our work to show the evidence, demonstrate innovation, and develop partnerships is so essential. Securing established funding streams through school districts or state legislature is hard, challenging work, but ultimately will provide the security for afterschool and summer programs to thrive.

What makes an after school program successful?
Afterschool programs succeed because of the staff and the culture. Successful programs are places where young people feel safe, valued, and happy. Afterschool professionals are the lynchpin in knowing how to best engage young people and supporting them in their learning and their lives. They are the true influential people in afterschool, shaping millions of young lives every day, after school.

Edited by Amy L Charles, editorial director of AfterSchool Today magazine, the Official Publication of the National AfterSchool Association.