By Tyler Kearns, National Afterschool Association Next Generation Award 2017 Winner
S&S Worldwide recently sponsored the National Afterschool Association Next Generation Award for Afterschool for 2017, and we are very proud of all of the nominees and winners! This is a great opportunity to highlight these afterschool professionals and the dedication they have to their programs.
Tyler Kearns shares his experience as an afterschool leader and some tips for a successful program:
I, as many do, came into this role as an afterschool professional unintentionally and fell in love with this work from the beginning. I began my work in afterschool with the Clayton School District’s Kid Zone program in Missouri the school year following my student teaching experience at one of the elementary schools. Each year I advanced in leadership within the program until becoming Program Coordinator my third year. I am now in my eighth year with the program and my passion for this profession continues to grow. The out of school time hours are essential times to develop and build relationships, support community families, keep kids safe, and inspire learning.
To be successful in afterschool, goals must be set and accomplished so higher goals can be set to continue growth and development. Our goal is to provide a program that parents trust and students don’t want to leave and can’t wait to come to. We do this by providing an environment that students can create, explore, and have opportunities to build lasting relationships. We connect with our school community by running the program as an extension of the school through policy and procedure, curriculum, and relationships with staff. We partner with parents by providing quality programming for their children and staying flexible to support their needs.
Afterschool Events & Activities
Our program hosts many student and family events. One of my favorites that was our most successful event this year is Lights On Afterschool event. We host this in celebration of the Lights on After School day in October, set by the Afterschool Alliance. Our families come together for a Fall Family Festival including, pumpkin decorating, themed games and activities, face painting, and much more. This year our students did a service project to raise money to support The Big Buddy Program in Louisiana that lost many of its sites due to flooding. Our kids came up with a plan to do a pledge run and craft sale to raise funds to send to support the programs and families in need. Through both events and lots of laps around the playground, the kids were able raise over $900. The best moment of this project for me was after revealing the amount total, hearing the reactions and reflections of our students knowing the difference they made in the lives of other kids they have never met.
Have a Positive Impact
Through our daily program, special events, or program activities, my hope is that we have a positive impact on our students. If we could encourage a student to reach out and make a new friend, pursue a passion, or try something he or she has not done, then our program as succeeded for that student. I look at out of school time as a second family for the kids we are serving. We do what we can, when we can, the best we can for our students, and if that’s what you do, then you are going to have an impact on the students who are in your program.
A program is also only as strong as your team. My team consists of different elements: my staff, the students, the parents, and my administration team. It is important that each of these elements has a voice, and you take from each one to build and grow your program. Each voice must feel valued so they are bringing their best, which in turn allows your program to perform at its best. To quote one of my favorite childhood movies called 3 Ninjas, “Just as a rope of one strand can be broken…a rope of 4 strands no enemy can break.” Let the elements of your team be the rope of many strands coming together to create your high quality afterschool program.
S&S Worldwide is also committed to the career development and support of our afterschool professionals. We have partnered with the NAA to bring quality online courses to the industry. You can find them at our S&S Worldwide Online School.
To learn more about the National Afterschool Association (NAA) visit naaweb.org. We proudly support their mission and dedication to the afterschool community.
About the Author:
Tyler Kearns has been an afterschool coordinator for six year and has eight years in the field. He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville with a degree in K-12 Art Education. Tyler currently serves as a Vice Chair of the Public Policy and Advocacy Committee with the Missouri Afterschool Network (MASN) and on their state leadership team. In the past two years, the MASN has twice awarded Program of the Month to Clayton Kid Zone Program under Tyler, and this year Tyler is receiving the National Afterschool Association’s Next Generation of Afterschool award. Outside of his work, Tyler is a Martial Arts instructor for youth and adults and helps develop his schools afterschool martial arts programs and classes.
To learn more about the National Afterschool Association (NAA) visit naaweb.org. S&S proudly supports their mission and dedication to the afterschool community.