The National AfterSchool Association is the leading voice of the afterschool profession dedicated to development, education, and care of children and youth during their out of school hours.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Get Your Shine On

Dr. Paul G. Young
President and CEO
Spring is the time of year when things begin to shine again after a long dull winter. It is also the time of year when NAA shines brightest while presenting our National Convention. I want to extend a personal invitation to each reader to join us in sunny Orlando for the start of a “bright new day” for your professional work and your relationship with our professional association.

Our trade show and exhibition promises to be the best we have ever had. Our valued vendors will shine a light on the best resources, materials, curriculum, technology, practices, and much more. Our initiatives to shine a light on STEM-related afterschool learning activities, curriculum, resources, and experts will be displayed brighter than anywhere in the field.

Get your shine on during our GO FAR 5k race/walk or, if you prefer, or newly scheduled Zumba classes. We all have to work to take care of our health. When we feel good, we look better. When we look good, we perform better. Take a bold step!  Pack your running or walking shoes and begin working on your iridescence!

Support the students who will be in attendance and participating on our NAA Science Fair. They are very excited to be involved in this learning activity, and the highlight of the event for them will be their numerous opportunities to shine while describing their projects during positive interactions with our convention attendees. We hope you will be inspired to develop science fairs, health classes, race events, and many other special activities with your afterschool program so that you, your staff, students, and families will shine all year in your community.

Of course, we have 200 special workshops being prepared by members of NAA that will be sure to inspire and motivate you to try new things immediately. The workshops are grouped in five important content themes and anchored by three outstanding featured speakers – Bill Nye “The Science Guy”, Richard Louv, and Adolph “Doc” Brown.

Best of all, bring your smile. The connections we make as professionals and the support we provide each other are sources of pride and strength for all of us. Let's radiate, have a great celebration, and recharge to begin a “bright new day” in afterschool when you return home.

Our convention is always exciting and a bargain professional development opportunity. Don't miss it!

I look forward to seeing you shine in Orlando!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Climate Change

Dr. Paul G. Young
President and CEO
Most of us are dealing with a fiscal climate like none we have ever known. Most local and state governmental agencies, particularly schools, are dealing with tax and revenue reductions and severe budget cuts. The outcomes of the 2010 November midterm elections have radically shifted the political landscape. Politicians are prioritizing job development as their primary focus in attempts to reduce persistent double-digit unemployment. The conservative upswing is likely to bring even more tax reductions and restricted government spending. Have we experienced the bottom of the great recession, or could the nation’s economic climate get even worse?

While you watch, wonder, and perhaps worry, you are probably asking yourself and others what will happen to afterschool funding? Will our traditional funding sources be affected? If school budgets are cut across the board, will afterschool programs be reduced or, even worse, eliminated? What does the future hold for our afterschool programs, our jobs, but more importantly, the children and youth we serve who cannot yet care for themselves?

NAA’s mission is to be the voice of the afterschool professional. With such economic and political uncertainty in Washington, DC, and our state capitols – even in our local communities, it is challenging to know what to say or who to speak to. But with inevitable change in the air, it is wise to avoid sounding like a whining victim, even should our budgets be cut. Everyone is being asked to re-evaluate priorities and adapt to the new economic realities. It is best to align our voices and collectively focus on what we know and do best – being part of the solutions to problems – and clearly demonstrate how afterschool programs can provide safe, nurturing places for children and youth to achieve their potential while parents get back to work in the new jobs that must be developed if this recession is ever to end!

We must have jobs – now and in the future. The families of the children and youth in our afterschool programs must have meaningful jobs. They must also have accessible, affordable, and high-quality before, afterschool, and summer program opportunities while they work. Most importantly, our program participants must be mastering skills that enable them to compete globally, and our challenge is to prepare them now for jobs that don’t even exist.  Many of those jobs will be in the STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and math) areas. We must capitalize on the collaboration, partnerships, and alignment work with schools and further show the benefits that extended learning opportunities, especially in STEM-related areas, have upon the development of skills needed for the global marketplace.

We must voice how the puzzle pieces must fit together in a new downsized economy. Families need jobs. Children and youth need safe and nurturing learning environments while parents work. Schools need afterschool to provide time for extended learning for all children who need it. Support for afterschool is an investment in jobs (present) and in the workforce (future). We can’t expect a sufficient return on investment in educational dollars without afterschool.

We all know these are tough times. When times get tough, the tough stand up rather than be pushed down. NAA plans to lead the dialogue about how afterschool supports the solutions to economic recovery. We need your help by telling your story. Why do you do what you do? Stand strong, speak up, and never lose sight of the important work we do for children, youth, and families.