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Author: Jenna Bacolor

Use Micro – Moments To Set Inclusive Tone

“Welcome.” “I’m so glad you’re here!” “Hey, I like the dog on your shirt.” “It’s great to see you today.” What are your favorite ways to establish an inclusive and welcoming tone from the moment a child or teen walks into your program? It only takes a few seconds, yet making a point to greet each young person as they enter helps them start feeling comfortable from the start. The Collaborative for ...

New Adventures In Youth Gardening

If you’ve ever watched a child taste and enjoy a vegetable that she grew herself — the same vegetable that she won’t eat at home that’s from the grocery store — you know some of the power of youth gardening. Children and teens benefit from gardening in many ways, from eating more fruits and vegetables and increased nutrition knowledge to improved leadership and collaboration skills. &n...

Are You Leading With WHY?

What gets you out of bed in the morning — what you do or why you do it? If you are in the youth development field, I have a feeling that your “why” motivates you the most. You’re driven to make a positive difference in the lives of young people. In his book “Start with Why,” Simon Sinek argues that we are pretty good at saying what we are doing and how we are doing it, but not always good at...

Coding Club: What High School Students Can Teach Us About Leading Afterschool Programs

None of the high school or elementary students noticed me when I slipped into their after-school classroom last fall. The room buzzed with happy energy as the older students crouched at computers, coaching their younger peers on using Scratch to create animated games. This after-school Coding Club was the first of its kind for my organization, Ann Arbor Public Schools Community Education and Recre...

Calming Back-to-School Jitters for LGBTQ Youth

Will I make friends? What if I get lost? Will I like my teachers? What if I do something embarrassing? These are the back to school jitters we’re used to helping youth navigate. We have all kinds of strategies to help young people feel comfortable in their new classroom or after school program — putting their name on a desk or name tag, icebreakers, activities that encourage youth to get to ...

Why it’s Important to Ask “What Could Go Wrong?” During Program Planning

Planning a new program or improvements to an existing program usually involves setting objectives, planning activities, and other critical tasks. In the excitement of planning something new, it can seem like a buzzkill to ask, “What could go wrong?” Several months ago, I started asking this question consistently with staff teams in my division of the Ann Arbor Public Schools. We discus...

5 Ways to Engage Teen Volunteers in Creating a Positive Camp Culture

Here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we’re less than two weeks from the last day of school and the launch of 11 weeks of summer day camps. My division of the Ann Arbor Public School district – Community Education and Recreation – is busy preparing for over 100 camps, dozens of staff, and thousands of campers. Through our popular High school Volunteer Program, 160 teens will build skills and provide ...

Focusing on Wildly Important Goals

If you’re a mid-career professional like me, you’ve participated in a lot of strategic planning processes. I’ve found that the good ones are inspiring, create a shared sense of purpose and momentum, and result in measurable outcomes. The bad ones, well, don’t. After leading a department-wide reorganization process in 2014, I knew two things: we needed to do some strategic p...