By Danielle Bowen, communications director at Education Data Research and Afterschool Ambassador Emeritus.
For Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week, we asked a number of alumni of our Afterschool Ambassador program to reflect on how their experience as Ambassadors shaped their work and careers. This is the final of four posts in the series. Danielle Bowen joined the Afterschool Alliance’s Afterschool Ambassador program in 2007 when she was working in Nevada and has served as an Ambassador Emeritus in the years since.
Through guidance and support from the Afterschool Alliance’s Afterschool Ambassador program, I have connected communities to afterschool programs, built strong relationships with key stakeholders, and joined forces with advocates supporting youth throughout the nation. The opportunities to network and share resources with colleagues doing the same kind of work around the country have enhanced our programs and the students they serve.
The Afterschool Ambassador program has made a huge impact on my career! I have always been an advocate for our youth, and with the support and guidance from the Afterschool Alliance, I have put that drive to work.
I began working in out-of-school time as a recreation leader in a program benefiting some of our most vulnerable youth. The experience I had working with youth and families made me realize this was and should be my career. Until then, I’d thought I might go into a medical career, working with youth. I learned that the out-of-school time field was the path for me.
Later, I became a Site Coordinator for a 21st Century Community Learning Center in Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada, at Bernice Mathews Elementary School, connecting my passion for recreation programming with schools. There, I had the privilege to work for principal Dr. Barbara McLaury, who believed in my abilities and saw my drive to support the youth in our community. When the opportunity came to apply to be our state Afterschool Ambassador through the Afterschool Alliance, Dr. McLaury was also excited to see our shared vision connect to bigger possibilities.
At the time, I saw my role as connecting families to resources. I was not aware of the power we (program staff, families, schools, and partners) had to collectively make a change for youth. Through guidance and support from the Afterschool Ambassadors program, I have connected communities to afterschool programs and built strong relationships with key players, and I’ve joined forces with advocates supporting our youth throughout the nation.
We invited local government representatives, city and state officials, media, community foundations and donors to our annual Lights On Afterschool event, where we brought together a wide variety of schools to celebrate that the lights were on for our youth after school.
Soon, another opportunity arose to become the School District’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers Site Director, working with 23 programs in our community.
As an Ambassador Emeritus, the opportunities to join colleagues around the country have enhanced our programs through networking and shared resources. In 2008, our state began the process of building a statewide network supporting Nevada’s youth, connecting best practices, networking and common language. The support from the Afterschool Alliance was instrumental in linking our state to the Statewide Networks supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. It made sense for me to move my advocacy work toward local, state, and federal policy by becoming the network lead. Through collaborative statewide efforts we were successful in passing state law to support programs with the development of quality programming.
I love inspiring those who work with our youth to connect and share resources and knowledge while taking the time to “brag” about what we do. Today, I am fortunate to be able to use the skills I gained from past jobs, my education, and my experience with the Afterschool Ambassadors program to educate leaders around the nation with our business, Communicate, Collaborate and Celebrate. We have the privilege to work with youth professionals by providing professional development, technical assistance, and leadership.
Thank you, Afterschool Alliance, for allowing me to continue advocating for our youth by keeping us up to date on trends, policy, and best practices. The colleagues I met through the Ambassador program have become dear friends, confidants, and strong leaders in our nation. I admire the work of the Ambassadors throughout the nation and am grateful to share strategies and to continue making positive impacts for our nation’s youth.
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