By Sam Piha
Afterschool programs are now a part of the community landscape. Afterschool has been around for over a hundred years, making important contributions to families and the larger society.
This next year, under President Trump, federal support of afterschool is again threatened. According to our partners at the Afterschool Alliance:
“President Trump’s budget calls for eliminating federal funding for local afterschool and summer programs. If the funding is not maintained, nearly two million children and families would be left without reliable afterschool choices.
More than 19 million families want and need more afterschool and summer learning opportunities. For every child in a program, two are waiting to get in. Closing 10,000+ afterschool programs will hurt families and children in every part of the country.
You can make a difference: call on Congress to protect funding for afterschool and summer learning programs.”
According to the Trump Administration budget summary, the justification for eliminating the 21st CCLC is, “This program (21st CCLC) lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.” Research has shown that this is patently untrue.
The Afterschool Alliance has made it easy to tell your representatives in Congress to stand up for the programs America's children and families rely on. CLICK HERE
By Sam Piha
Afterschool programs are now a part of the community landscape, with over 10.2 million young participants. Few are even aware that afterschool has been around for over a hundred years, making important contributions to families and the larger society.
Afterschool professionals, numbering over 850,000, are often not acknowledged. But we can change that! Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week is April 22-26.
According to the National AfterSchool Association (NAA), “this is a joint effort of community partners, afterschool programs, youth and child development workers and individuals who have committed to declaring the last full week of April each year as a time to recognize and appreciate those who work with youth during out-of-school hours.”
There are a number of ways organizations, schools, parents and program leaders can recognize and appreciate afterschool workers:
Join in the celebrations and display your appreciation of afterschool professionals who make a difference in the lives of young people. NAA has developed a toolkit and a number of ideas for AfterSchool Professionals Appreciation Week.
By Sam Piha
Ivan Garcia is a youth activist in Oakland. We first heard about Ivan’s work through a program by a local NPR station. This program was later turned into a brief video. At the How Kids Learn VIII conference, Ivan was a presenter and panelist on the subject of youth activism. We interviewed Ivan and some of his responses are below.
Q: How did you become active in social causes?
A: I first became involved in 2016, following the Presidential Election. All my classmates and I felt that we needed to speak up and use our voices to share our opinions. I took it upon myself, to create a class video, titled “Dear Mr. Trump” which is a video of our opinions, fears, and hopes for President-Elect Donald Trump at the time. The video has now garnered over 4,000 views and it served as a way for me to connect with many young people who felt as though their voices weren’t being heard.
Q: What are you doing currently?
A: Currently, I serve on the Oakland Youth Commission, serve on the Youth Advisory Board for Youth + Tech + Health, and am an intern for Mayor Libby Schaaf. The Oakland Youth Commission is a group of young people who advise the City Council and Mayor on issues affecting youth in Oakland. With that also comes the task of writing policy and doing lots of outreach to community groups. Youth + Tech + Health, is an organization that provides mental health and sexual health resources to young people all around the world, especially developing nations. Most recently, I helped with a text campaign they have going on in Honduras currently, which tackles the issue of teen dating violence. Lastly, working with the Mayors office, I have a chance to hear from many constituents and learn the inner workings of City Hall.
“I love Ivan. He's a leader. I can't wait for him to sit in my office. And I mean be the mayor. He's going to be an amazing mayor.
Q: In your view, why is youth voice and youth activism important?
A: Youth activism, in my view is crucial as it gives young people the opportunity to have their voice heard while expressing themselves in a way that is unique. Being an “activist” can be anything from being an artist to working with lawmakers to create policies that will benefit all people. It also equips youth with many skills that are essential, such as networking, organizing, public speaking, and much more. It’s important for young people to feel as though they have a say in the policies that will affect them in the long run.
Q: What advice do you have for afterschool programs who want to provide opportunities for youth to become actively involved?
A: I would tell afterschool programs to give students the freedom to try different methods of expression. Don’t limit a young person’s perspective and provide safe spaces where they can feel free to be themselves. Creating an environment that encourages truth and honesty can go a long way for young people who want to be active in their communities. Furthermore, I think it’s important to note that adult allies, should support the work of young people, but not take over and determine the way that work should be done. That should be done by the students, themselves. Lastly, bring people in who are doing this work as an example to motivate other students. It’s not a competition, but it’s one way that students can often see what’s possible when they think about more than just themselves.
Q: What activities and issues do you think youth are most interested in?
A: Most recently, I think youth have been invested in gun violence, given the many incidents that have rocked our nation. Following Parkland, many young people created groups and organizations that are still doing meaningful work in their communities. Some other areas of interest for youth, I think are: criminal justice reform, sexual assault and harassment, and education (especially in places where schools are underfunded and under resourced).
Q: Looking ahead, what are your plans for continuing your activism?
A: To be honest, I’m not quite sure what plans I have next. Lately, I’ve taken a step back from some of the work I was previously doing and have engaged in deep discussions with many of my peers. It’s been humbling to be in spaces with people my age, discussing things that matter to us. I hope to continue to touch the hearts of people along the way and work on a project that helps all young people find what it is that they love to do and are inspired by.
Ivan Garcia is a freshman at Head-Royce School in Oakland. Ivan is a member of the Oakland Youth Advisory Committee. He played a key role in the March for Our Lives Oakland rally and is a Youth Ambassador for Litterati, an app that makes it easy for anyone to create an environmental impact around the world. Ivan is proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. He hopes to inspire others to love themselves for who they are and fight for a better tomorrow.
By Sam Piha
According to the Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring, "Reed Larson’s seminal research on the lives of teenagers helped to launch the field of positive youth development, and his insights and findings continue to enrich the work of mentoring researchers. His work explores the contexts of daily life and how developmental processes unfold in extra-curricular activities."
Researcher, Deborah Vandell (UC Irvine), stated, "Reed Larson did some really important work looking at the development of initiative and engagement. What he found is that when children are in school what they often are doing is putting forth a lot of effort, but they're not really motivated. What happens in afterschool activities, when they're really working, when they're active, they're choosing those activities and they are also focused on them. It's the best combination for learning."
Reed Larson will share his work at a Speaker's Forum entitled, "How Demanding Program Roles Can Facilitate Youth’s Positive Development" on April 19, 2019 in Oakland, CA. You can register here. We recently interviewed Reed and some of his responses are below.
Q: You have been a pioneer in the field of youth development. What drew you to this work?
A: I have done research and teaching on the age period of adolescence all my life. We know it is a time of enormous potentials for growth. Yet our society does not get that. Teens are disrespected, misunderstood, and terribly underestimated. As a result, they are not given the opportunities to develop their potentials. I discovered that after school and out of school programs were the main exception. They are a part of teens’ lives where they have opportunities to develop their full potentials.
Q: The work of promoting youth development is not easy. In your research, what did you find to be the greatest challenges facing youth workers?
A: There are a lot of challenges: being present and attuned to youth, being both a friend and a mentor, teacher, or sometimes parent; seeing societal injustice and hurt in teens; having too few resources; taking care of yourself at the same time you are engaged in caring relationships with others.
Q: What settings and practices are most successful in engaging youth?
A: I don’t claim to have all the answers. But in our research, youth have described becoming highly motivated in youth program settings where they feel safe, feel they belong, experience positive relationships, and experience a culture that supports these positive ways of being. Further, in settings where they are engaged in activities: that have meaningful goals, are challenging while allowing them to experience competence, and involve high-functioning collaborative relationships. I’ve also observed that high quality programs provide an environment that helps youth disengage from distractions and anxieties in their lives at the beginning of the program session, and reflect on what they have learned at the end.
Q: What is the most important lesson that you learned in your research?
A: I have seen again and again that young people have enormous resources. They can be extremely resilient. They are eager, active learners who learn from experiences. They are ready to have deep insights about complex social and emotional truths. We just need to provide the right conditions for them to feel save, loved, and to see a way forward.
Q: What most surprised you?
A: It is maybe not a surprise, but I have been impressed by meeting many, many wonderful, smart, and caring people who have devoted themselves to working with young people. It has been increasingly clear to me that to improve programs the field needs to seek out, understand, and draw on the expertise of experienced youth development practitioners. Communication between researchers and practitioners need to involve two-way conversations.
Q: What are you working on currently?
A: We just finished a research paper on how “substantive demanding roles” can provide powerful opportunities for youth’s development of new competencies, including responsibility to others. (This will be the main topic of my Speaker's Forum presentation). Although my research has been mainly focused on processes of positive development, I am currently interested in times when youth in programs experience “psychological meltdowns” from a setback or being overwhelmed, and how staff are effective in helping youth respond with resiliency.
Reed Larson’s seminal research on the lives of teenagers helped to launch the field of positive youth development, and his insights and findings continue to enrich this field. His work has involved over a thousand interviews with youth and front line staff in diverse youth development programs. It has focused on understanding how developmental experiences unfold in programs (including extracurricular activities) and how program staff are effective in supporting these learning processes. His team’s research was the basis for the Weikart Foundation’s research-practitioner collaboration that identified effective staff practices for supporting social emotional learning in programs. Reed is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was recently the President of the Society for Research on Adolescence. He also served as Editor-in-Chief of New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development (with Lene Jensen).
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.