CFY Newsletter, April 2017


STEM Awareness Day in Lincoln, Nebraska

Beyond School Bells (BSB), Nebraska’s statewide Expanded Learning Network and longtime Collective for Youth partner, held an Expanded Learning Opportunity + STEM awareness day at the State Capitol on Thursday, March 23. Youth from Omaha’s Howard Kennedy Elementary, an afterschool site management by Collective partner D.R.E.A.M., participated in a hands on STEM experiment organized by mentors from another of our partners, UNO’s STEM 4 U program.

Approximately 25 Senators and their staff stopped by this hand-on demonstration during their lunch hour to observe and interact with the youth and their mentors and to get a better understanding of the type of high quality, school-community partnerships that power learning in Nebraska’s ELO programs. BSB used this event to release the findings of recent national research by Harvard University showing that Nebraska youth who participate in ELO STEM programs are more likely to take additional STEM classes, to see themselves as STEM learners and to show interests in STEM careers. Because Nebraska did so well in this study, BSB was asked to contribute to a national compendium telling the Nebraska story about our unique, community-based approach to STEM learning. Jeff Cole, BSB Network Lead, co-authored this piece along with State Senator Anna Wishart and Julie Sigmon, the director of the Omaha STEM ecosystem.

Train to Gain Staff Highlights- Raymone Sazone

Skilled, confident and equipped employees are crucial to the success of any business or organization. Agencies providing care for children and youth are no exception. Often, though, funding for professional development for out-of-school time (OST) program staff is scarce, with the majority of available dollars going directly to program costs. Recognizing the importance of developing OST staff and the resulting benefits to kids, United Way of the Midlands’ Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) embarked on a three-year initiative providing significant support for staff development within OST programs. This worthy commitment led to even more than envisioned by initiating development of an educational and career path for OST staff.

The premise of the Train to Gain initiative, launched in 2015, is to provide high quality, research-based trainings educating OST staff on tactics that help children to be successful in the program and the classroom. The WLC partnered with Collective for Youth (CFY), a non-profit specializing in resources and training for OST staff, to fulfill this goal. In the first year of the initiative, 438 OST staff have participated in Youth Work Methods, a series of trainings designed to empower staff by building skills that will increase the quality of their work with youth and their families. Topics include: Reframing Conflict, Youth Voice, Ask-Listen-Encourage, Homework Help, Active Learning and Cooperative Learning, Structure and Clear Limits, and Building Community.

In addition to trainings, support is provided through the Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI), a quality improvement process developed by the David P. Weikart Center. This includes quality coaching to site directors of all 30 sites within Collectives for Youth’s network of Omaha Public Schools community learning centers. Program sites are given instruction on conducting a self-assessment and creating an improvement plan based on the assessment.

One of those sites is the OST program at Howard Kennedy Elementary School, run by Steve Warren, Founder and CEO of DREAM. Raymone Sazone was recruited by Warren to fulfill the role of program site director at Howard Kennedy. Formerly with Job Corps in Kansas City, Sazone credits the Youth Work Methods training with helping him to work better with school staff, program staff and students. He said the training and evaluation helps him to understand what’s happening within his program and what he can do to improve; and he appreciates knowing there are people to help him to be more focused on working with students so they can do better. He has learned various ways of motivating people and how to approach obstacles in different ways. Sazone believes the best way to motivate people is to focus on the things they do well and enjoy most. He places his staff in situations that build upon their strengths and encourages them to share their skills with their colleagues in order for everyone to grow. This approach provides people with an opportunity to demonstrate their strengths and develop new skills. When faced with obstacles, Sazone meets them head on with a positive attitude and he understands that not all obstacles should be considered as negative and often can be used to improve situations. When people allow obstacles to alter their plan or inhibit progress it ultimately damages programs, which is something that Sazone will not allow to happen at Howard Kennedy.

The Train to Gain initiative provides valuable assistance to OST program staff across the community, affecting nearly 6,000 students. It has also led to an unintended positive outcome initiated from casual conversation at the Howard Kennedy site. Dr. Stacey Ocander is a DREAM board member and Dean, Health and Public Services at Metropolitan Community College (MCC). At the time Howard Kennedy site director Sazone was participating in Youth Work Methods trainings and program evaluations, he was also working on an associate degree in criminal justice at MCC, an area of study under Ocander’s purview.

The connections with Ocander both through DREAM and through Sazone’s schooling at MCC led the two to have multiple conversations about what he was learning through the trainings facilitated by Collective for Youth. Ocander was impressed with the content he was exposed to and the more they talked, the more they both felt the trainings should count as educational credit. By putting a value to something, it engages people longer, it is something tangible – a hook – they felt. So Ocander started exploring the possibility of stackable credentials that become a pathway to an associate degree. This would provide participants additional motivation to continue moving forward in their education.

The process of developing a curriculum was a collaborative one, involving Collective for Youth, youth-serving agencies and the college including Deans from multiple areas of study. The group took a look at the training content to discern what might be missing, keeping in mind ways to diminish turnover at youth-serving agencies and encourage regular attendance at all of the Youth Work Methods trainings. Then they packaged all of the series into a non-credit industry recognized credential. Ultimately, they landed on a certificate of achievement in college of public health that will count as credit for those seeking an associate degree in Professional Health Studies. This new associate degree track will be offered by MCC beginning in fall 2017.

For those receiving this associate degree, Ocander sees a variety of opportunities. Some may move into more advanced positions within the OST program or other non-profit programs, some may decide to work in other health and human service roles. The degree’s inter-disciplinary course requirements would be beneficial in a variety of human service roles, early childhood education or public health.

Starting in January, informational sessions with CFY agencies will be held to promote the certificate and pathway to additional credentials. The goal is to give people the right tools to be successful, inspire those who are ready to enroll in a college program and help them realize there is a career path for them.

The Train to Gain initiative brought visibility to the value of providing training to those who are working with children and youth during out-of-school time hours. This focused awareness sparked ideas about opportunities for further personal development and the creation of a career pathway for those working in the health and human services field. Meanwhile, OST staff are gaining additional tools to help them in their current jobs resulting in better outcomes for children and families.

There is tremendous opportunity in the out-of-school time realm to help children gain the academic and social-emotional skills needed to be successful in school and life. United Way of the Midlands’ Women’s Leadership Council realized success is dependent on the capabilities of the OST staff. Their decision to invest in staff is both visionary and cost effective because it helps so many – those working in the programs and the children and families served by the programs – making a difference for us all.


A Candid Review of Youth Work Methods by Girls Inc. Michael Wilhelm-

As for writing this article, I’m not really sure of the format or procedure for something like this. I’m not exactly what you would call a “blogger”. I am someone who works with our youth, and I have been doing that for over 35 years. And if there is one thing I know about working with young people it is that I still have a lot to learn. But I can honestly say that I have learned more in the last few years, since being introduced to the Weikart Center’s Youth Work Method’s and YPQA tools, than I have in the previous three decades. These are methods that work, the language is accessible and usable by myself and my staff, and the results are visible in the kids and measurable in our results.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of what the program suggests or teaches to that one might consider common sense. Obviously, the kids will be more engaged if the programming is more engaging. Sure, you are likely to have less behavioral issues if you can establish a stronger relationship with your students. Who didn’t know that kids want a say in what they are doing? It is the way that these trainings teach these things and more. The way that they draw our attention to the intentionality of what we are doing. Being mindful of the things you are doing, every day, from the way you greet your students to the questions you ask them to the way you decorate your room, and how each and every one of these things is intertwined when it comes to providing quality programming for young people.

When I attended my first training session, “Reframing Conflict” I literally walked away thinking to myself, “Sure, these are great ideas, but who has time for all of this? How can I possibly dedicate this much time and effort to each and every conflict when I have dozens of conflicts happening every day? And that doesn’t take into account that I have a million other things to attend to each day as well.”

Then I started a new job, working for Girls Inc. and I began hearing a recurring theme from some of my upper management team; “When the programming is engaging we have way less discipline issues.” It was true, we were having discipline issues. And intuitively I knew that if programming was engaging we’d have less discipline issues. But it was the first time I had really heard it vocalized in the workplace and it got me thinking about the first area of focus in the Method for Reframing Conflict: Overall Program and Activities. We needed to raise the bar in this area. And because completely overhauling curriculum offerings could potentially be time consuming and expensive, we decided to focus on the areas we could affect immediately; creating physically and emotionally safe environments and developing supportive relationships with our youth.

Don’t get me wrong, creating emotionally and physically safe environments and developing supportive relationships with our youth is something that we would tell you we were striving for all along. The Weikart Center’s Methods, however, helped give us a better understanding of what that actually was and could look like. We became more intentional in our choices and the language we used, in our organization and with our girls.

The next part of our Reframing Conflict re-awakening came about by accident, when I happened to walk by our front desk and saw a small group of girls who had been sent down for disciplinary reasons, waiting together for the reckoning that was to come. These girls I recognized as regular visitors to the front desk, and most of them were no strangers to being suspended from programming for behavior issues. They had not yet been “talked to” (and I put that phrase in quotations, because I recognize in hindsight that that wording was a more accurate description of what we had been doing as opposed to “talking with” students now) by a member of the center staff to determine the extent of the problem and who said/did what to whom. I offered to the front desk to visit with the girls and find out what I could.

The girls and I sat in one of our conference rooms and immediately I began hearing the story from five different voices at once. I asked them if we could go one at a time and I pulled out a notepad to take notes. This simple act immediately caught their attention. They asked me what the notepad was for, if I was going to use it to get them in trouble. I told them I wanted to write down notes about what they said so that I didn’t miss anything and got the information correct. Forty-five minutes later, I had over eight pages of notes and each girl got a chance to share her side of the story. We went back over the notes and they allowed me to ask questions; about the facts to make sure I got them down correctly, about their actions so they could describe why they felt the need to do the things they did, and about how they felt or how they thought their actions might make others feel. I asked them for alternative suggestions of things they might have done to avoid ending up where they were, and I asked them to put themselves into the shoes of the teacher to see if they could understand how or why she responded the way she did. All in all, that visit took over an hour. And it’s not the last time that I have had to sit with a girl or group of girls and go through the process. But it is the last time I have had to do it with those five girls.

Our suspensions for behavioral issues have dropped from 4-10 a week a year ago, to an average of less than 8 a month over the last 5 months. Our overall behavior issues have dropped significantly as well, by nearly 35%. Now, I can’t attribute all of that to just Reframing Conflict. I believe you could also attribute some of our success to the work we have been doing Building Community, establishing Structures and Clear Limits, and working to give Youth Voice among other things.

The one thing I do recognize with the Reframing Conflict work is that now when we do have discipline problems, it has become much easier for the kids to recognize their ownership of the situation and their ability to help change things for the better. They don’t just feel like they are “getting in trouble”, but that we are trying to hold them accountable for behavior choices and the resulting consequence, and they recognize the reasons we are doing that. It’s has become less of a fight and much more of a partnership.

Omaha Gives 2017 

Collective for Youth is participating in Omaha Gives this year. Omaha Gives is a 24 hour fundraising event that will take place on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. This year there are over 800 non-profits participating! Not only is Omaha Gives a wonderful and fun way to support all of the non-profit organizations that you care about the most, it is a perfect time to show your support for the work Collective for Youth does as well! Last year, Collective for Youth raised almost $5,000. Help Collective for Youth raise more this year! All donations made during the Omaha Gives campaign will directly support our work with out of school time programs.

Upcoming Training Dates!

Youth Work Methods WORKSHOP 10: Program Planning and Reflection
Location: CASA, 2412 St Mary’s Ave., Omaha, NE
Date: April 21, 2017; 10am – noon

Are you engaging youth in the critical life skills of planning and reflection? Are you ready to be more intentional about including planning and reflection strategies into your daily routine and activities but not sure where to start? This interactive workshop will introduce participants to powerful and easy to use methods that promote youth engagement in planning, implementing, and evaluating activities and projects. Click here to register for workshop 10.


Youth Work Methods: Workshops 7 and 8: Active & Cooperative Learning
Location: CASA, 2412 St Mary’s Ave., Omaha, NE
Date: May 12, 2017  *originally scheduled for February but cancelled due to inclement weather

Workshop 7: Active Learning (9 am – 11 am)
Do you know the difference between active learning and hands-on learning? Giving youth materials is just the beginning. This interactive workshop introduces the “ingredients” of active learning, explains the role that active learning plays in the experiential learning cycle, and helps participants create more powerful learning opportunities for youth.

Workshop 8: Cooperative Learning (11 am – 1 pm)
Do the youth in your program have opportunities to work together in groups, teaching and learning from each other? Cooperative learning is an excellent way to nurture youth leadership, build community, and keep things fun. This interactive workshop will equip participants with grouping strategies and ways to think about building cooperative learning into any program offering.

Click HERE to register for workshops 7&8