Monday, November 29, 2010

Importance of Community Service

The movie, Pay It Forward, was released in October of 2000. In this movie a young boy attempts to make the world a better place as part of a social studies assignment. The assignment is to think of something that can change the world and then put that into action. Trevor, the boy with the assignment, decides to pay a favor forward, in other words, if someone does something nice for you, instead of pay back, you should pay the good deed forward by giving of yourself to at least three other people. Trevor’s idea takes hold and soon he is influencing an ever-widening circle of characters that are not even known to him.

Community Service is an opportunity for your youth to Pay It Forward by first identifying an unmet need in the community and then making a plan to address that need. Youth can work alone, in a club, or with a community organization to resolve the need. Sample projects can include neighborhood clean-up, supporting community health fairs, collecting recyclables, refurbishing and repainting a homeless center, collecting blankets for the animal shelter so animals can have a warmer winter, and any number of other projects.

Although the community will definitely benefit from community service, perhaps the greatest benefit will be for your students. In the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets, two key areas stand out as those who will benefit from community service:

Positive Identity

Self Esteem: The development of high self-esteem and self-efficacy
Sense of Purpose: The development of a strong sense of purpose, and

Positive Values

Caring: Placing a high value on helping other people
Equality and Social Justice: Placing a high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.

Helping young people to develop and hone these traits will prepare them for productive and successful life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Gratitude is being thankful and grateful for what we have. November is a perfect month for considering how much we have to be thankful for since Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday. The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and was held to celebrate the harvest that had just been gathered after the first colonists had survived a very harsh winter. George Washington was the first to declare a Thanksgiving holiday in 1789 and by the mid-1800’s, Sarah Hale, a poet and editor, began lobbying for a national holiday. In 1863 Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day and in 1941 Congress declared through joint resolution that the fourth Thursday would be henceforth known as Thanksgiving Day. Taking time out of our busy lives to be grateful for the opportunities we have allows us to appreciate being a citizen of the United States of America.

Following are some quotes to remind us of the importance of being grateful.

“It is easy for us to complain about things we do not have. Instead, let’s be grateful for our many gifts and be willing to share them with others.”

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
William Arthur Ward

“There are so many reasons to give thanks. Make a list of all the things and people who make a difference in your life and find a way to show your thanks this week.”

“True happiness can only be found when we learn to be content with what we have.”

“Gratitude preserves old friendships, and procures new.”

“Good cheer is something more than faith in the future; it is gratitude for the past and joy in the present.”

“Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.” Jacques Maritain

“A person, however learned and qualified in his life’s work in whom gratitude is absent, is devoid of that beauty of character which makes personality fragrant.” Hazrat Inavat Khan

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” Brian Tracy

Monday, November 22, 2010

With Liberty and Justice for All…

On November 22, 1963, the assassination of President Kennedy helped to define a generation of baby boomers. I can still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news was announced. I remember having to take the announcement of the assassination from classroom to classroom on my small high school campus, because I happened to be the person in the office at the time. I remember the looks on the faces of the teachers as they read the announcement first to themselves and then to a classroom of students. I remember one teacher in particular, who read the announcement to himself, handed me back the paper, and walked out of the door, leaving me to share the sad news with a classroom full of peers. Students were dismissed from school and a nation watched the unfolding of events on television for the next several days. It was all that we could talk about. The mystique of Camelot has developed since, but at the time it seemed that hope and promise were somehow made victims of a sniper’s bullet.
In 1963, the Civil Rights Movement was just coming into its own, and we will never know what affect the Kennedy Assassination had on those events. Would events have occurred in the same way or was the timeline accelerated or slowed because of it? Where would we be as a nation had this single event not occurred? Certainly we kept Kennedy’s promise to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade, but what other promises would have been made and consequently kept had he lived? While there is no answer to those questions, as we cannot have a retake on history, we are faced with similar challenges in 2010 as a result of the achievement gap. We are faced with deciding whether or not we will become a nation that embodies the words of the Pledge of Allegiance which state, “with liberty and justice for all”.
For me, the decision is “yes”, and the work of public education and after-school programs is to ensure that social justice is a reality for all students. We must take seriously this new civil rights issue and refuse to rest until the achievement gap is closed and every youth is able to reach his or her amazing potential. We can accomplish these results. If you look back over the course of history, many of the accomplishments of men have had an equal or larger number of skeptics boasting that it will never work. If we are dedicated to “liberty and justice for all”, we must also find strength in the words of Margaret Mead,
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Importance of Character

When it comes down to it, the only thing that any of us have is our word. We are either seen as a person who (most of the time at least) keeps our word, or a person who does not. People constantly assess to determine if each of us is a person who says what is meant, and means what is said. Youth are particularly interested in this question as they learn how to navigate in the very complex world in which they live. Nearly from birth, youth are determining if you are a person they can trust. Youth are interested in knowing about your character. Do you have integrity? Do you respond in the same manner when times are tough as well as when times are good? Do you speak the truth, even when it would be more convenient not to? Do you have a good intent? Do you motivate others to do THEIR best work, or do you manipulate them to do YOUR best work.
Youth are also looking to see how you measure up on these character traits as well:
• Optimism
• Positive Attitude
• Generosity
• Friendliness
• Gratitude
• Perseverance
• Passion
• Dedication
• Excellence
Character Counts shortens this list, identifying six pillars of character: trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, fairness, caring, and citizenship.
Stephen Covey tells us that until about 150 years ago, leadership was defined in terms of character, but that today, it has been redefined by the personality ethic. In other words, leadership was defined by an integration of such traits as integrity, humility, patience, and following the Golden Rule, while now, leadership is based on personality, technique, appearance, and having a positive mental attitude. He goes on to say that character creates long-term lasting relationships that are there for the long haul, while the personality ethic has much less staying power. Emerson perhaps says it best, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”
As we move forward in our work with young people, let’s remember that one of our most important roles is that of role model, and that character truly is what coun

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Theory of Change

More and more we are hearing the words, “What is your Theory of Change (TOC)?” This is not to be confused with the pattern of change below:
• sustainability
• integration
• engagement
• knowledge
• awareness

While change begins when we are first made aware of some new information and we make a decision that this different way of thinking or doing things could benefit us, and ends with a sustained habit, this does not constitute a Theory of Change.

A TOC has been defined as “a strategy or blueprint for achieving large-scale, long-term goals. It identifies the preconditions, pathways and interventions necessary for an initiative's success.” A TOC is a way of looking at very complex issues that are interwoven, braided and blended together so it is difficult to break them apart into stand alone units. A TOC helps you to determine the necessary conditions and pathways to follow to have the effect and results that you desire. The Harvard Business Review, October, 2010 published an article by Robert Kaplan and Allen Grossman, that those of you in the world of after-school, and particularly non-profits engaged in the work of after-school might find interesting. “The Emerging Capital Market for Nonprofits”, discusses how “market mechanisms from the private sector could energize the nonprofit world”. On page 116 of the magazine, an interesting graphic outlines a possible TOC which could at least help you begin to think about your purpose and your theory of change.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Most every driver understands the importance of having wheels that are aligned. According to an article by Sarah McBride, “In installing the wheels, proper wheel alignment is important so as not to sacrifice the tires life and hence, the cars ride and handling. Often times, wheel alignment is confused with wheel balancing; the two, however are two different terms. Wheel alignment consists of adjusting the angles of the car wheels so that they are perpendicular to the road or the ground and are parallel to each other. Improper alignment of the wheels results in excessive tire wear, steering and tracking problems….”

I am struck by how much in common wheel alignment has with the educational and social alignment of school day and after-school. This article could have as easily read, ‘In instituting an after-school program, proper educational and social alignment with the school day is important so as not to sacrifice learning opportunities for youth, and hence, their success both in school and in life. Often times, alignment between the school day and after-school is confused with replicating the school day program, however, these are two different terms. Alignment consists of adjusting the strategies of after-school to support the good work of the school day and to be parallel with it, although supporting learning through the multiple intelligences, a variety of learning modalities, and engaging skill building activities that are not duplicated in the school day. Improper alignment of the school day and after-school results in excessive wear and stress on both students and staff members, and can end in results that could have demonstrated stronger student outcomes if the programs had been aligned.’

Alignment is not the work for the faint of heart. Beginning with the end in mind, young people who are better educated and better prepared for the advanced citizenship of being an American, a great deal of communication and information sharing must occur to create an aligned system. It is possible, and if you work in an after-school program, please make a commitment to contribute to the work.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Value-Add of After-School

There are so many factors that influence the education of youth in the country. To isolate any one of those variables is virtually impossible, but to control for identified variables so you can get a “read” on the significance of a single factor, is possible but will require true collaboration and data sharing across enterprises. To date, the value-add of after-school has been demonstrated through only a few studies. One of them, The Long-Term Effects of After-School Programming on Educational Adjustment and Juvenile Crime: A Study of the LA’s BEST After-School Program, certainly doesn’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that after-school programs make significant positive effects, however it is one of the first longitudinal studies, and results do indicate that LA’S BEST students are more likely to graduate from high school than non participants. Kudos to LA’s BEST for participating in this study and clearing the way for additional research around the value-add of after-school.

Dr. Deborah Lowe Vandell, Chair of the Department of Education at the University of California, Irvine, has also done research around the effectiveness of after-school programs. On her faculty profile, Dr. Vandell states, “I have longstanding interests in three areas: …after school programs and activities - their impact on children and youth and strategies for improving the quality of after-school programs…” is one of them. In a recent conversation, A Discussion on After School Programs, Vandell answered the following three questions:

1. Why are after-school programs valuable?
2. What do schools of education need to know about after-school programs?
3. What's the value of summer programs

You can find the full answers at .

At a California After School Network function, Vandell spoke about the Positive effects of after-school programs on academic and social benefits from a study completed over a two year period. You can tune into Dr. Vandell’s discussion at .

These and other research efforts are taking a look at after-school programs and the impact they are having on youth. As an after-school provider, it is imperative that you become familiar with the current research and learn from it to strengthen your program.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Your Day For Appreciation

: Happy Veteran's Day! We salute our troops, past and present. Thank you for fighting for our freedom and the liberties that we have. It is a true honor to be a part of this great nation. We support our troops overseas and hope that they will return soon.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day. This is a day when we intentionally honor those who during their lives protected this county from its enemies. Veterans’ Day is celebrated on the 11th of November because this is the day that the armistice was signed in 1918, ending the first World War. It is said that this signing took place in the eleventh month of the year, on the eleventh day of the month, at the eleventh hour.
Earlier in our history, Abraham Lincoln and other dignitaries, gathered on the battle field at Gettysburg to commemorate the loss of life on this battlefield. In one of the most poignant yet simple speeches, Lincoln declared:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
So, here we are, over 90 years since the end of World War I, nearly 150 years since Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, and well over two hundred years since the birth of this country and the question is, have we kept faith with these honored dead who gave “the last full measure of devotion”? Until all American children have an equal opportunity to recognize their full potential, I believe we still have work to do. According to Rod Paige, former Secretary of Education, in a press release on February 1, 2010, “closing the achievement gap is the civil rights issue of this generation”. After-school has a role to play in closing this gap, in making a difference for young people throughout this country. The cause of after-school, of out-of-school time learning, must be championed. After-school is a breath of fresh air in the K-12 Public Education System that is struggling to reform and reinvent itself. It is an opportunity to pave the way to new ways of learning that will capture the whole child—body, heart, mind, and spirit, and revitalize learning in this nation.
The promise of America is that ALL people will have equal opportunities to become, to recognize the potential they were born with.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Advocating for Extending Learning Time

Jeff Cobb from Mission to Learn, defines learning in this way: “Learning is the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes.” He goes on to say that learning does not require a degree or certificate to prove that it is valuable and it doesn’t always need to occur in a classroom. He does believe that learning requires hands-on experiences that can be shared with others as well as deepened through personal reflection.
Personally, I agree with him. Every day, every experience we have contributes to the knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes that we have. I believe that many of the experiences we have, especially as we get older, act as confirmation for learning that we have had in the past. It affirms your point of view and gives you the confidence to move forward, knowing that at least some of your understanding of the world remains intact (especially important in the age of what seems like constant change). Sometimes an experience requires that we adjust our current thinking, either by adding a new increment of meaning and understanding, or helping us to see another application for that learning that previously escaped us. Finally, there is the kind of experience that opens up our minds in a totally unexpected way, it provides that “AHA!” moment in which you are both amazed and left wondering why you didn’t know it earlier. This process of “Confirm, Tweak or Adjust, and AHA!”, provides a forum to reflect on key learning and is often used in after-school programs to transform activities into intentional learning opportunities.
If you believe that learning requires information and experiences, then doesn’t it just make sense to intentionally extend learning time each day? Out-of-school time provides young people with an opportunity to extend the time of formal learning by several hours each day. After-school provides a forum for formal learning in an informal setting, with instructors who are from the neighborhood whenever possible. This extended time provides opportunities to learn through different learning modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, digital) or better yet, all of these modalities while maintaining the 3 R’s of after-school, relationships, relevance, and rigor. Additionally, after-school can employ less traditional methods and teach reading through song lyrics, drama, and/or science to name a few. Promoting the development of multiple intelligences and building on youth interests can only serve to engage the learner more completely.
Extending learning time and opportunities into the after-school arena is challenging for educators who believe that only a credentialed teacher can teach. It is important that we get past this notion. While I would absolutely agree that there are specific areas that you need trained professionals to address, I also believe that supporting the good work done by teachers during the school day can and should be supported by well-trained, energetic, and enthusiastic after-school staff.

Friday, November 5, 2010

November Election

On Tuesday, Americans went to the polls and exercised the right to express an opinion about who would represent them in both state and national government. For those of us in California two pieces of good news came out of the election for after-school programs.
First, long time advocate for after-school programs, Senator Barbara Boxer was elected for another 6 year term. Boxer captured approximately 50.2% of the vote while her Republican opponent captured 44.1% of the electorate. Boxer has been a strong supporter for after-school, helping to author the legislation in 1997 that authorized 21st Century Community Learning Center funding, and taking many opportunities to visit actual programs when checking in with her constituents in California. Her record speaks for itself.
Secondly, on the State level, Tom Torlakson currently a State Assemblyman formerly a State Senator from the bay area, was elected the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. This will be the first time since the beginning of after-school programming in California that the top job has been held by an advocate for the value-add of after-school programming. In fact, in 1998 Tom Torlakson authored legislation that has led to the development of the largest system of after school programs in the nation. In 2006, he authored the bill that led to a 300 percent expansion in these programs—so they now reach 4,000 schools around the state.
While this is good news for the field of after-school, these two strong proponents of after-school cannot do the job alone. In the field we need to give them the “ammunition” they need to convince others of the value-add of after-school programs that enrich the lives of young people each and every school day. How do we do that? I think there are several key things that we can all do to help our voice be heard.
First, I believe that each day we must work tirelessly to offer the highest quality programs for youth. These programs must support students academically, emotionally, and socially, while expanding their opportunities to develop leadership skills, participate in community service projects, apply skill learned during the school day, prepare for college and/or career, participate in healthy living activities, while all the time building strong, caring relationships with peers and staff.
Next, we must help to educate all of the stakeholders, parent, school day staff, the community at large, politicians, and others about the value-add of after-school. Invite an influential stakeholder to your program. Wow them with student leaders who take them on a guided tour while sharing with them the difference the program has made for them. This group of supporters may someday need to rally with after-school folks. So get the contact information of each of them and routinely reach out to them and update them about the successes of your program. Our stakeholders must believe that the after-school program is an essential service for students and families.
Finally, we must share our successes more broadly. Often times in after-school we enjoy the celebrations with students—the performances, the science fair demonstrations, the art gallery, the monthly recognitions—but we forget that we need to share these successes with others. Consider getting the newspaper and local television and radio to come out and regularly support your program. Keep your good work front and center. If you have positive evaluation data, share it. Look for the positive impact of your program and then celebrate it loudly and publically.
In California, after-school programming is heading into a year of uncertainty and vulnerability. Let’s support our existing champions!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

“Waiting For Superman” Revisited

I’ve now had the opportunity to view “Waiting for Superman” more than once. At the beginning of the film, Geoffrey Canada, the charismatic leader of the Harlem Children’s Zone, shared how as an avid comic book reader he believed that Superman was coming to “rescue” him and others in his neighborhood from the circumstance of their lives. He speaks candidly of being incredibly disappointed when his mother explained that Superman was not real—the implication being that if Geoffrey wanted rescuing, he needed to figure out how to do that for himself. He did, and today, for many children and families in Harlem, Geoffrey Canada has become Superman. His commitment to providing comprehensive services to youth and their families, cradle to career, is making a difference. Whether parents begin the journey with their child in Baby College or join at the pre-school or Kindergarten levels, these families become part of the HCZ family of services, and the target of focused prevention and intervention programs to help young people make it through the K-12 education system and beyond successfully. The HCZ is an example of the concept, “it takes a village” in action, and is focused on positive results for youth.
Of the youngsters in the film, only one was selected on the first round of the lottery for the few available spots in high-performing charter schools, and a second was brought in from the waiting list toward the beginning of the school year. The three others returned to their neighborhood schools. The odds, at least for those youngsters in the film, were 2:5 or 40% chance of being selected to attend one of the charter schools, and I cannot think that this is anywhere close to real odds which are much, much lower, as there are so many children applying for each and every slot that is open. But even if we took the film odds, you have a 40% chance of making it in which means you have a 60% chance of NOT making it. So what about the 60%? The answer lies in strengthening and supporting the reform of K-12 education.
It is easy to target K-12 public education as the villain in this piece, but I think that this would be short-sighted. It appears that there is plenty of “blame” to spread over a variety of canvases. And anyway, what good does playing the “Blame Game” really do. Each year, children in this country are not receiving an education that will help them to be competitive in the global work environment of the 21st century. They have more stress and fewer skills to deal with that stress and to exercise good judgment, critical thinking, and sound decision making. To move the reform agenda along maybe all of us reviewing the work of Peter Senge in his book, the Fifth Discipline, when he writes about the importance of asking the 5 Whys to get to the root of a challenge, would be helpful. Senge cautions that it is easiest, in going through this exercise to focus on people and place blame rather than get to the systemic changes that need to be made. So I would propose that we begin with the question, “Why is it that K-12 public education is only providing a high-quality education for 32% of its students?” and then, instead of simply blaming the schools, probe more deeply to find solutions to support the transformation of public education into a viable, results-driven opportunity for youth. Ten years ago education results were dismal:
• Only 70% of all students in public high schools graduate, and only 32% of all students leave high school qualified to attend four-year colleges.
• Only 51% of all black students and 52% of all Hispanic students graduate, and only 20% of all black students and 16% of all Hispanic students leave high school college-ready.
We can do better than this if we will accept the challenge to be Superman, in one community, in one neighborhood, in one school. There is a line toward the end of the movie, An American President, when the lead character (Michael Douglas playing the role of the U.S. President) states, “I’ve been so busy trying to keep my job, that I forgot to do my job.” It’s time to do our job and put aside all of the differences that prevent us from doing our job…providing young people with an education that will prepare them to grow-up to be adults who are productive citizens of this country.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

DARK:30 [November 1]

On Sunday, November 7, 2010, at 2:00 a.m., DARK:30 becomes a reality for after-school. DARK:30 will last until March, when once again the sun will shine on program all the way to the end. But for the next few months, with DARK:30 moving slowly into the afternoon, we will see program shorten for some students (at least those who walk home and often those who have bus transportation as well), and we will rearrange schedules to accommodate this phenomena. When DARK:30 arrives I always wish that we somehow lived closer to the equator where days would remain reasonably the same daylight length all year.
For those of you who are new to after-school, you may legitimately be wondering, “What’s the big deal? So time is changing and it will be dark a little earlier!” The big deal is the attitude or mindset change that happens when the sun goes down which sends out the alert that youth need to be home before dark, and certainly before the evening chill takes hold. Since birth we have learned that darkness can be fraught with danger and that light brings comfort (consider how lights are always turned on when we come to the assistance of an infant). And we have all seen pictures of families “cuddled up” around the fireplace in the winter drinking hot chocolate and eating popcorn. Warm matters! So, families want youth home before dark.
In California, even the After School Education and Safety Program legislation in Ed Code 8483 (a) (1) recognized the power of DARK:30, and specifies the need for an Early Release Policy that will accommodate all manner of locally identified needs for leaving early, including other conditions, especially safety, as prescribed by the school day administration. Some programs have identified the need for students who walk home, alone or with another, to leave the program 20-30 minutes before sundown, which means even earlier in mid-December as the days continue to shorten, to ensure safe passage. Others have determined that bus transportation will need to leave earlier to ensure that all students arrive home in the daylight, and/or that a parent be there to meet them at the bus stop to guarantee a safe transition from program to home.
So, DARK:30 is just around the corner. Be sure to advise parents and students of your plans if you haven’t already. Alter your schedule to include outdoor activity earlier in the program day. Remember, safety and supervision are key to a high quality after-school program, so safely addressing DARK:30 moves to the front burner when time changes next Sunday.