We’re continuing our week-long celebration of the time we would have been together in Palm Springs for the 2020 BOOST Conference. Today, we hope you’ll enjoy these highlights and reflections from BOOST Conferences past. This post originally appeared on the Breakfast Club Blog on December 18, 2015.
It’s about this time of year when the cold starts setting in, holiday lights start going up and everyone is busy making their plans for the big holiday that I find myself drifting off to a warmer, sunnier destination – Palm Springs, CA.
Even amongst the frenzy of gift shopping and air full of holiday cheer, I just can’t help from picturing those tall green palms waving in the sunshine. The bright blue sky draping over the desert peaks. And of course, those long green fairways lining the Palm Valley. It’s funny how something so far away can feel so close. Perhaps it’s because the Palm Desert never really leaves my heart. Even when it’s more than 300 miles, 5 months and a full season away, Palm Springs, and the Best of Out-of-School Time Conference, never does really leave my heart.
It was 2008 and I was just over a year in my new job.
This was the new chapter I had needed but was beginning to second-guess other opportunities I passed up. Two years ago I was living what I thought was my dream job, working for a progressive, grass-roots youth development organization and on my way to saving the world. And then the contracts went south, and unfortunately, so did I. At least with the company anyway. It was then, in that scary hour, that one of those unexpected, unforeseen blessings rang my cell phone. And a year and half later as the Program Manager of After School Programs for Visalia Unified School District, I was heading to my first BOOST Conference in Palm Springs. I was just two years in to my job and knew very few people.
It was a familiar drive though. In my previous work with Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Programs, we attended an annual conference in Palm Springs as well. That said, I can’t say that I was overly excited or even particularly interested in attending. After all, we had just launched our programs a year earlier and there was so much yet to do. In fact, this is where I was beginning to second-guess accepting this job as referenced above. It just seemed never-ending, overly-complex and incredibly labor-intensive.
Thinking back, this trip was exactly what I needed at the time!
Driving into the Palm Valley with the windmills spinning and the desert glistening, I looked forward to a few days away and an opportunity to do some thinking about the future. Day one was inspirational but it was on day two that I began to put names (and voices) with faces and after an invitation to dinner with some new colleagues I now call life-long friends, BOOST was beginning to show its magic. By year one’s end, I was driving back looking over my shoulder and already beginning to count the days to next year. And yes, the serene valley of sand and palms had shined brightly that week but it was the people that began to capture my heart in Palm Springs. From one heart-pouring conversation to another about what and how after school can change education forever I couldn’t stop thinking about the things I wanted to do when I got back to my programs. I was moved.
After year one at BOOST, late April just couldn’t come soon enough.
Even though my travels and connections within the field expanded rapidly, there was something different about the conversations and experiences that took place at BOOST. I mean, it was the same people having the conversations and usually around the same topics, but in Palm Springs and under the magic of the BOOST spirit, it just felt different. It felt more alive! Here are few of my favorite moments I thought I’d share with you from my eight years of attending the BOOST Conference:
Somehow, someway (thank you, Diego Arancibia and Tia Quinn), I got to present on one of my favorite topics, youth cultural competence. And in one of the big rooms, even. Diego said I was laying down a sermon. Guess that’s why my Twitter handle became @ASPevangelist!
But the highlight of my first BOOST Conference had to be keynote Jonathan Mooney and a little after-hour conversation I had with an after school legend, in my opinion anyway. After listening to Jonathan break down the research on why teens and apathy go together like PB&J, a pretty awesome woman broke me down by reminding me that if I stuck with after school long enough I would realize that it will be “the hardest job I’ll ever love.” And still is. I’ll never forget that, CynDee Zandes!
Co-training with my BWF, Richard “Rico” Peralta, outside because we were overrun with conference participants and the room could not hold us all. Fortunately, we were next to the pool area that was fenced off and we took our Engage. Recruit. Retain. (ERR) workshop poolside. To this day, some of the best evaluations we’ve ever gotten! And oh, thank you Seth Merhten, for dressing up like a Stanford tree to help participants find our room.
End of day one and no calls from staff. End of day two and no calls from staff. What the heck was going on!? Later that evening in a conversation with Bob Cabeza, the youth development guru himself, he shared with me the reason. “Frank, you’ve worked so hard to build the capacities of your Coordinators to do their job that they no longer need you like they once did. So rather than panic, enjoy it because you deserve it!” Thanks Bob, I still am.
Sick as a dog! Spent most of the conference locked away in my room three blocks away from the action but managed to pick myself up to see Taylor Mali and man I’m glad I did. Powerful story and an inspirational to all!
Sir Ken Robinson, Site Lead Initiative conversation poolside – need I say more? For me these two moments really kicked up some dirt for the field. Sir Ken inspired the many in the general session and a few inspired me out by the pool. We gathered several leaders in the field to talk about a conscious effort to increasing the support and development for the few, the proud, the Site Coordinators. Wow, how things have kicked up since then for our Site Coordinators. Thank you all!!
Might have just been the best line-up of speakers for BOOST all-time. First, Paul Tough, next Christopher Emdin and finally Jonathan Mooney (back again). Can you say right hook, left hook, knockout? Tough was thought-provoking, Emdin was entertaining and Jonathan Mooney was both!
However, it was little trip to the airport with my friends Rico and Diego to pick up Chris Emdin that had me thinking long after BOOST was over. Not a deep conversation but one that included some reflection on the fact that we three were no longer considered emerging-leaders in our field and now needed to begin cultivating the next generation to follow. Which by the way, is currently in progress.
Night one of the conference, ASAP Connect pulled together a few incredible hearts and minds to talk about a pretty important initiative: My Brother’s Keeper. The Obama-led initiative was resonating with some of our after school men and they took it upon themselves to gather a group to talk about how after school can support the cause. Much has happened since that night that is still making a difference with both boys and girls of color.
Year 7 at BOOST also marked a milestone in the after school field. Led by our fearless leader, Michael Funk, the After School Division in collaboration with the field, capped off a year-long strategic planning process with a report via town hall meeting. I was fortunate to have a front row seat to the action and was honored to serve. Thank you, Michael.
Recent memory is best for me, particularly after getting less sleep than I did in college due to my two boys – Ashton, 4, and Carter, 2. Love my guys…any parents in the house! Simon Sinek, Simon Sinek, Simon Sinek. Oh, did I say Simon Sinek!? Tia, BOOST Leadership, you must be proud of yourselves for that one. Not just a big name but a big game to go with. How his words of wisdom have really helped shape our field and how so many of us are leading through the power of our “Why.” Can’t say enough!
Also…can’t forget a little golf game with BOOST keynoter, Roberto Rivera and friends. Inspired by his powerful work with high-risk youth as well as his chipping and putting if I recall correctly.
Finally, last year capped off with a little presentation to a few power-punchers in the field about an idea that’s still in the incubator. Many of you know what I’m talking about. The California Afterschool Radio Network (CARN) – Podcast style. Keep you all posted on this one. Let’s make it happen, Bruno Marchesi!
So, what to expect this year at BOOST? Stimulating conversations? Innovative thinking? Inspiring speakers? Amazing workshops? New connections and partnerships? Next-level programming? Beautiful weather? Palm trees and bright green fairways? Absolutely. All of that and more! For BOOST is the place where people like you and I go to reconnect, re energize, reboot and reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what’s left to do.
And whether you’re an after school veteran or rookie, manager or frontline staffer, BOOST brings us all together in one place at one time to celebrate what we mean to this world. So, I hope to see you there and make sure to share your BOOST memories with all of us so we can keep BOOST Conference Dreamin’.
See you next year!
For breakfast, I had old fashion oatmeal with apples and brown sugar, wheat toast and water.
Author Profile: @frankescobar