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.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Surviving in Tough Times

Like everyone else, I wish this depressed economy had already recovered by now. Everywhere I go, I hear afterschool program leaders bemoan how times are tough and how balancing their budgets has forced them to do more with less, adding to their stress. Some have bundled jobs to get the work done in order to serve their program participants. And most often, those who are doing more and more of those bundled tasks are the program leaders. As their staffs get smaller or work fewer hours, there still remains more work to do, with less help.

What are we to do?

We must hang together. If we get better at sharing our resources and ideas, utilize technology in ways that reduce work, and protect our time to learn together - at all costs - we can ride through anything. We must continuously analyze our work and eliminate the clutter, streamline repetitious tasks, avoid reinventing the wheel, and better support each other. This is not a time for afterschool professionals to work as lone rangers.

And if it helps, let’s remember that we aren't the only Americans who have experienced tough times.

For example, we can learn lessons from the Great Plains pioneers. They used the strategy of circling wagons when they faced attacks. Afterschool professionals must utilize that today. That means we must always be on the lookout for threats, provide support, and come together to protect each other. Those veteran trailblazers taught each other critical survival skills. We must, too! Considering the scope of the life and death challenges they faced, with vigilant support and strategic thinking, I think we can weather these tough economic times. But we can't shoot at each other, compete at each other’s expense, nor allow renegades to go off and stir up trouble.

Part of the value of your NAA membership is that we have the forum at state and national levels to engage in these important survival discussions, talk about them, teach coping strategies, and show that we care for one another.

Join your professional association, help shape the survival strategy of afterschool, and reduce your level of stress knowing that you have thousands of colleagues who've got your back.

Paul G. Young, Ph. D.
President & CEO
National AfterSchool Association

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