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On-Site Staff / Opinion / Partnerships and Building Relationships / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

Shine On!

In the Expanded Learning field, we prioritize building personal connections and creating a sense of belonging. We all have a why or purpose for what we do, and, while it is often altruistic, we’re all human and seek some level of recognition and appreciation. When we are at our best, we shine full of hope and with an energy that keeps us motivated to push ahead.

The goal of this blog is to share my perspective on why it is important to work collectively and shine together, especially when in a position of leadership.

Recently, I heard a story about a Site Coordinator (SC) who was promoted to that position rather quickly, with less than two years of experience working with children. They shared their feelings of being both flattered and anxious when offered the opportunity. Most of their colleagues had grown up in the same neighborhood where they worked and showed them the ropes of afterschool programming, working with young people, and building community. Their colleagues were supportive of them taking on this new role, and this encouraged them. But they were also nervous about the responsibility of keeping over 100 kids safe and engaged each day.

After several years as a Site Coordinator (SC), they hosted a number of external folks (e.g. technical assistance providers, compliance monitors, funders), who would come to observe and assess their program. This led to many accolades for the quality program they ran.

The SC knew that this was due to the dedication of the whole team, and emphasized this collective work whenever accepting compliments or recognition for the quality program at the site.

These same values that this SC experienced – collaboration, humility, and vision – are alive and well within many of the organizational leaders I’ve come to know from the various Expanded Learning entities here in California and beyond. The folks in these positions have the responsibility of serving, albeit indirectly, millions of children every day across our nation. The lesson learned by this SC is intentionally embraced by the folks that have been leading our critical movement for many years. They understand that, with this great responsibility, we must listen to and work with the thousands of staff who know the ropes in their community, who are on the ground providing direct services across their schools and sites, and who rely on support for their daily commitment to shine bright.

We can easily fall into a trap of feeling like we need to perform and show what we’ve got. Trust me, in our field, there’s no room for faking it – only authentic and impactful actions will move our work forward. We’ll all need to continue to embrace this same revelation as the Site Coordinator mentioned earlier – that we can shine together, and highlight and empower those who are just as dedicated as we are.

Our shine comes from the shine of others around us. And the shine is something of deep beauty across the many meaningful experiences we create in this field of Expanded Learning.

Shout out to those of you who have been part of my shine over the past 20+ years of doing this work – you know who you are! You’ve kept me ‘in-check’ or ‘buttoned-up’ when I’ve been off the mark. You’ve picked me up when I was down. We’ve shared smiles, tears, goosebumps and love when we were shining, and those effects have left lasting impressions on others we’ve been fortunate enough to serve alongside. I love and appreciate you all, more than ever.

For breakfast, a hard-boiled egg, celery sticks with peanut butter, coffee and a big glass of water. 

Author: @zachwilson

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