By Dan Gilbert
We here at the Afterschool Alliance are incredibly excited by the opportunity to administer the New York Life Foundation’s new Aim High grant program. This May, 18 awards will be made to out-of-school time programs serving disadvantaged youth. The Aim High program is part of the New York Life Foundation’s ongoing investment in middle school OST programs to help economically disadvantaged eighth-graders reach ninth grade on time.
Over the years, the Afterschool Alliance team has learned a lot about what makes for the strongest applications for funding opportunities like this, and what pitfalls it is important for applicants to avoid. Last week, we hosted a webinar to help you learn more about this incredible new grant opportunity and give insights into the application strategies that are most likely to make your application stand out from the crowd. We also created this handy FAQ document for you to help answer any questions you may have about the grants.
The grant application period doesn’t close until Friday, February 17th, so there’s still time to put together a great application! Below you can find some tips on how to put together the best application possible, and some reminders and resources that you may find helpful when preparing your application:
1. All questions have a purpose.
Keep in mind that every open-ended question is really an opportunity for you to explain and illustrate the value of your program. It’s important to pay close attention to the prompts, and make sure to read the full RFP before beginning the questions to gain a better understanding of what reviewers will be looking for. This will also help you make sure you don’t end up repeating information in different sections.
2. Provide lots of details.
Details matter! We rely on your application to give reviewers a complete and concrete picture of your program and how it impacts the lives of the youth you serve. Providing quantitative and qualitative data is especially important. Furthermore, it is important not to assume that reviewers know anything in particular about your program, your curriculum, or your community; make sure to provide all the details that we may need to understand why your program is such a good fit for this grant opportunity.
3. Read, re-read, have someone else read, then read again.
Download the Request for Proposals in order to review the questions and draft your answers first before filling out the application form online. This is particularly important because you can’t save your answers and go back to them at a later time through the online submission form that we use. The second is that it’s always helpful to see if your answers fit together in a cohesive narrative about the nominated program and fully answer questions about the program. The third reason, which may seem minor but is an important one, is to catch spelling and grammatical errors.
By Dan Gilbert
The New York Life Foundation has created a new $1.95M fund to support middle school afterschool, summer or expanded learning programs serving disadvantaged youth over the next three years. This year, the new Aim High grant program will provide $750,000 to support 18 awards nationwide—take a look to see which opportunity is a good fit for you, and apply!
- $100,000 over two years – 4 awards to be made to organizations with annual budgets of $500,000 or greater
- $50,000 over two years - 4 awards to be made to organizations with annual budgets of between $250,000 and $500,000
- $15,000 one-year grant – 10 awards will be made to programs that demonstrate promising family engagement strategies run by organizations with annual budgets of more than $150,000
Grant funds may be used for technical assistance, enhancing direct service activities, and/or program expansion. Applicants for the two-year grants will need to describe how programs support youth in the transition to the ninth grade, specifically around indicators of success such as on-time promotion; school attendance rates; improved behavior, grades and test scores; and/or the development of social and emotional skills.
The New York Life Foundation invests in middle school OST programs to help economically disadvantaged eighth-graders get to ninth grade on time. Research has shown that for disadvantaged students, more learning time in the form of high-quality afterschool, expanded-day, and summer programs leads to greater achievement, better school attendance, and more engaged students.
The Foundation has invested more than $240 million in charitable contributions to national and local nonprofit organizations since its founding in 1979, including supporting organizations that provide nearly 500,000 middle school youth with afterschool and summer programming. Foundation grants have supported an additional 6 million hours of OST programming. The new grant opportunities provide a way for the Foundation to support smaller programs in communities across the nation.
The Afterschool Alliance is administering the grant program on behalf of the Foundation. A panel of external reviewers will assess applicants. Awardees will be notified in May 2017.
Questions? Email Dan Gilbert at email@example.com.
By Dan Gilbert
We all know that high quality afterschool and summer learning programs provide kids with the skills that they need to succeed in school and life. While the concept sounds simple, finding the best way to describe these skills and their development is anything but. Some people use phrases such as "social and emotional learning (SEL)" or "character development." Others refer to "21st century," "noncognitive" or "non-academic skills." With such a wide array of terms available, it can be hard to know how to best describe the set of skills youth develop in programs.
New research commissioned by the Wallace Foundation provides some helpful insights. For the study, EDGE Research performed desktop research, interviewed more than 45 leaders in the field, held focus groups with parents, and surveyed more than 1,600 professionals in the field. Their findings provide a valuable lens on how educators, afterschool and summer program leaders, policy makers, and parents think about these skills and what terms and messaging frames are most useful in communicating their value.
Unfortunately, there is no “silver bullet” term for describing these skills.
Two terms—"social and emotional learning" and "social-emotional and academic learning"—are suggested as the likely best options because they were relatively familiar and clear to the audiences with which they were tested, and were generally viewed in a positive light.
The most compelling messaging strategy is to frame the skills in terms of how they benefit children by naming specific outcomes. For example, you could describe how developing social and emotional skills helps children succeed in school and in life by providing them with the ability to manage their emotions, build positive relationships, and navigate social environments, which allows them to fulfill their potential.
By Dan Gilbert
The fifth annual Digital Learning Day is coming up next Wednesday, Feb. 17th! With an ever-expanding array of new digital devices, mobile apps and educational software, it has never been more difficult to keep up with recent advancements in educational technology. Our friends at the Alliance for Excellent Education founded Digital Learning Day in 2012 as a means of highlighting the innovative and effective practices that leverage technology, while simultaneously working to ensure that all youth have access to high-quality digital learning experiences.
While much of the recent hype around digital learning has been focused on large-scale efforts in districts and states around the country, afterschool and summer learning programs have been experimenting, innovating and perfecting the use of digital learning strategies for years. Digital Learning Day provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate the effective practices that need to be shared and scaled to reach more students around the country, especially those with the greatest need.
This year’s Digital Learning Day celebration will be focused on bridging the gap of equitable access to digital learning experiences for underprivileged children around the country. On Feb. 17th, hundreds of grassroots celebrations will be taking place all over the country to raise awareness around the incredible ways that technology can be leveraged to improve learning experience of every child, regardless of where they live. This celebration will culminate in the Digital Learning Day Live!, which will feature a mix of live webcasts, Twitter Chats, and Google Hangouts organized to inspire and provoke thoughtful discussions around what is needed to promote digital equity for all students.
Since launching in 2012, Digital Learning Day has not only become a platform for encouraging educators to innovate, but also to help the education community reflect on strategies and practices that maximize the positive impact that technology can have on youth. While there is much debate around what a 21st Century education should look like, there is a growing consensus that technology can play a vital role in ensuring that all students graduate from high school ready for college and a career. Afterschool programs around the country are providing youth with unique opportunities to interact with technology in creative, collaborative ways every single day. This Feb. 17th, we hope that you take some time to learn about and celebrate the incredible opportunities that technology has made available to today’s youth.
By Dan Gilbert
Join us on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. EST for a great discussion on best practices for encouraging social and emotional development in afterschool and summer learning programs.
By now, many of us have heard of the critical importance of developing social and emotional skills, but it is often difficult to connect frameworks and research to the everyday practices that help foster skill building in afterschool. In this webinar, we will focus on bridging the gap between research and practical applications of social and emotional learning practices that support skill building.
Deb Moroney and Jaime Singer from American Institutes for Research (AIR) will be joining us to talk about their resources that support the application of best practices in social and emotional learning in afterschool. AIR is a leader in the field of supporting social and emotional development through quality summer, afterschool, and expanded learning programs.
AIR has recently released a series of briefs and related tools that focus on connecting research to action. To accompany the first brief, AIR created an incredible new self-reflection tool to help programs identify both strengths and areas for potential growth, entitled Social and Emotional Learning Practices: A Self-Reflection Tool for Afterschool Staff.
Stacey Dario, from Temescal Associates, will also be joining the discussion to talk about how the Expanded Learning 360/365 group, in collaboration with the California School-Age Consortium, is using AIR’s Self-Reflection Tool for building quality in afterschool systems throughout California.
Come prepared to learn how research and action is moving the afterschool field toward ensuring all participants have opportunities for skill building and positive development.
By Dan Gilbert
The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) has released a new white paper discussing the unique opportunities that are becoming available to the afterschool and summer learning field through the recent rise of the competency-based learning (CBL) movement. The report explores emerging trends in the field and a variety of policy considerations, taking a particular interest in how the combination of CBL and afterschool programs can help youth become college and career ready.
Afterschool programs across the country have been giving youth ownership of their learning for decades, allowing them to explore areas of interest while helping them develop skills that are vital to the innovation economy. This new report, structured around three main trends, discusses how CBL can help programs gain recognition for the great work that many are already doing, while also improving their intentionality and ability to articulate their goals and impact.
The report's first trend, “Understanding and Defining Competencies,” illuminates how programs can identify specific skills that employers and colleges look for in applicants. By using examples from programs like Urban Alliance’s High School Internship Program, it shows how programs can work directly with employers to identify and define the skills that students need.
By Dan Gilbert
Join us on Tuesday, November 17 at 12:30 PM EST as we discuss the vital role that afterschool and summer learning programs play in cultivating social and emotional development in middle- and high-school aged youth.
By now we have all heard an read about the importance of "non-cognitive skills" in the adolescent years. When considering how to promote and cultivate these skills, which are also referred to by a wide variety of other terms including social and emotional skills, 21st Century learning skills, and growth mindset, it is often difficult to navigate the various terms, definitions and frameworks designed to specify the key personal and social competencies needed by youth to be healthy, caring, and contributing individuals. Even more challenging is to know how to promote these competencies.
That is why we here at the Afterschool Alliance are extremely excited to invite you to our upcoming webinar, "Effective Practices to Cultivate Social-Emotional Learning in the Middle and High School Years." The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has been at the leading edge of research and practice in the field of social and emotional learning (SEL). On this webinar, researchers from CASEL will be providing afterschool leaders and practitioners alike with guidance on how to integrate the various frameworks for youth competence and implement effective strategies that create supportive environments for SEL.
Through a process of systematic review, CASEL has identified a number of programs with proven SEL outcomes and identified common structures and practices across the programs that contribute to their success. Many of these practices can be found in The CASEL Guide. In the webinar, we will also be joined by several program providers with models that have proven effective at promoting SEL to discuss these practices and describe their approach to building social and emotional competence in young people. Based on extensive research, this webinar will focus on how to apply what is known from effective SEL programs to your own work with youth in afterschool and summer learning programs. Register for the webinar today!
By Dan Gilbert
For the past few years, researchers in education and youth development have begun to recognize what many afterschool professionals have known for a long time: that social and emotional development is crucial to youth achievement. The education community has recently increased its focus on promising practices for promoting social and emotional learning (SEL) in youth, and we’re excited that our friends at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) have just released some incredible new tools and resources to help support and promote social and emotional learning in afterschool programs!
One of these resources is a new self-reflection tool for afterschool program staff focused on fostering opportunities for social and emotional learning in afterschool settings. Focused primarily on practitioners, the tool helping to digest the mounting evidence that social and emotional learning that young people learn in afterschool programs contribute significantly to their academic success and futures, the tool helps afterschool program staff to understand the most effective strategies to promote the development of these competencies.