Engagement Resources


Indoor & Outdoor Environments


The Systemic Disregard for Frontline Staff

As employees and human beings, staff members want to feel valuable and valued. This holds true in the afterschool profession, where the work is not always the reward. There is a remarkable amount of talent and power in the afterschool field: Let’s begin to use it more intentionally—for others and for ourselves! 

The Afterschool Environment and Academic Performance

Highlights the work of Good Shepherd Services and the Institute of Human Development and Social Change.

“Do You See Me?”: Youth Voice to Address Barriers

Blog post highlights three programs that emphasize the importance of promoting and protecting the role of youth voice and advocacy in youth policy making and programmatic processes.

Investing in Afterschool to Address Inequality Increasing access to afterschool and summer programs, nutrition, and career and technical education are issues that are embraced by conservatives and progressives as promoting economic growth.


Safety, Health, & Nutrition













Keeping Kids Healthy This School Year

The Vaccine Equity Cooperative hosted a webinar in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that talked about ways to keep youth safe this school year. The event discussed resources to equitably increase access to vaccines and boosters, COVID- 19 data trends, and more. 

Tolerance and Inclusion Resources

Supports for afterschool providers in ensuring that their programs are a place where participants, families, staff, and communities feel safe.

  • Illinois State Board of Education: List of anti-bias resources that may be of benefit to school districts and the communities they serve. Includes social justice curriculums for educators and interactive activities for students.
  • National AfterSchool Association: Resources to support afterschool providers in their work with young people, communities, and each other that are proactive and in response to the aftermath of tragedy.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center: Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide
  • ExpandedEDSchools: Crucial, Courageous Conversations: How to Talk to Kids About Racial Violence
  • NPREd: Resources for Educators to Use in the Wake of Charlottesville
  • National Education Association: Diversity Toolkit: Cultural Competence for Educators
  • Los Angeles Times: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Violence in Charlottesville
Trauma-Sensitive School Action Pack

The Salud America! Action Pack contains resources that aid school personnel with talking to decisions makers, building a support team, and identifying/supporting students dealing with trauma.

Trauma-Informed Practice

Addresses the need/benefit for a trauma-informed practice that is culturally relevant and sensitive to the vulnerabilities/triggers of trauma survivors.

Chicago Connects

A searchable online tool that links Chicago residents to behavioral health and social services resources in the city. 

How to Talk with Kids about Terrible Things

Primer helps parents and teachers talk with children struggling with fear, confusion, and uncertainty

LGBTQ+ Youth

Eileen Wise, a youth development specialist at Penn State Better Kid Care, shares four things to keep in mind when thinking about how you can support LGBTQ+ youth in your programs. 

LGBTQ Mentoring

The LGBTQ Supplement to the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ offers step-by-step operations guidance to develop safer, more affirming, and responsive mentoring relationships for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

Supporting Latinx Youth Participation in OST

Given the diversity of Latinx communities, there is no single formula for engaging Latinx youth. However, the analyses and strategies presented in this literature review suggest a set of guiding principles for youth-serving organizations.

Connect to End Homeless


This application was developed to help people experiencing homelessness find appropriate resources. If you or someone you know needs help, text “CONNECT” to 773-786-9916. A bot will ask questions and, when possible, recommend a phone number to call or address to go to.
























Nurturing Girls to Become Leaders


eSchool News published a blog that discusses strategies teachers and program providers can take to encourage girls to become powerful leaders. Educators are in a position where they can instill confidence and other traits into young girls that will make a lasting impact on their lives. 

Impact on Pandemic on Learning 

Project Tomorrow conducted research on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on student’s’ learning. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers have felt more confident utilizing technology in the classrooms. The research also notes that principals are struggling to maintain staff morale as the nation emerges from the pandemic.

New Digital Well-Being Resources

This week, Susan Crown Exchange is launching Thriving Youth in a Digital World, a website with youth-designed grab-and-go activities and strategies for elevating youth voice around this important issue. The suite of resources can be used by educators or out-of-school providers who are ready to get started in supporting young people’s digital well-being.

Light Bulb Activity 

Every year, the Afterschool Alliance challenges afterschool programs across the country to take a photo of themselves mimicking the Lights On Afterschool logo and posting it on social media with the hashtags #LightbulbChallenge and #LightsOnAfterschool. Then, participants challenge their followers to do the same! Don’t forget to tag your elected officials, partners, and community members in your content!  

Erikson Institute’s Efforts to be More Inclusive

The Erikson Institute’s Policy and Leadership team outlined their efforts to be more inclusive in the blog post titled “Decolonizing is Not One Size Fits All.” The blog post discussed how only offering trainings and webinars in English, excludes entire populations from being able to participate. This resource will help program providers cater programming and workshops to be more inclusive in the future. 

Lights On Afterschool 2022 Resources for Providers

Lights On Afterschool is the annual celebration of the field and it is quickly approaching! Join ACT Now and the broader out-of-school time (OST) field on October 20, 2022, by planning an event to share all the important work your program is doing for youth and families! The Afterschool Alliance has created partner planning tools and more!

My CHI. My Future. Application Launches Soon!

The My CHI. My Future. application is launching in May with the goal of reaching as many youth in the City of Chicago and increasing participation in youth development opportunities. Program providers are being asked to create a My CHI. account and add their spring and summer programs ahead of this launch. Teens will be able to view programs and events closest to them with the app and share these opportunities with peers!

New Report Highlighting the Importance of Child Care in Illinois

Our partner, Mission: Readiness, Illinois, has released a report highlighting its membership’s support for high-quality child care, its impact on children’s lives, and ultimately the United States’ national security. It notes how the Military Child Care System is a strong example of providing high-quality care in an equitable way, and a demonstration of the value that our armed forces put on child care.

Afterschool as a Teacher Pathway

The Afterschool Alliance has written an article highlighting how afterschool programs can support the teacher pathway. The article shares insights from the educator pipeline in California, which leverages afterschool professionals and integrates out-of-school time providers into school districts.

Out-of-School Time Programs: Paving the Way for Children to Find Passion, Purpose & Voice

Learning Heroes and The Wallace Foundation have released a brief for educators, providers, and afterschool advocates to highlight the benefits of expanded learning programs! This data was compiled after surveying the field, K-8 educators, and families. There are also strategies for communicating why we need more access to afterschool programming.

Policy Recommendations for Promoting Youth Employment in Programming

The Afterschool Alliance has released a short blog post highlighting ways program providers may engage youth and provide employment opportunities within programming. The post emphasizes the policies needed to ensure that young people are supported and compensated for their efforts.

Learning Policy Institute Fact Sheet: Investing in Community Schools: How States and Districts Can Use Federal Recovery Funds Strategically

The Learning Policy Institute recently published a new fact sheet making the case for Community Schools. This resource may be used to advocate for the expansion of current partnerships with school districts or the establishment of a community school utilizing federal COVID-19 aid!

Afterschool Alliance Brief: Evidence Base for Summer Enrichment and Comprehensive Afterschool Opportunities

The Afterschool Alliance recently published a new brief showcasing data on how summer learning programs and afterschool providers are integral to supporting young people. This brief surrounds information relating to COVID-19 pandemic and how summer and afterschool providers may access COVID-19 relief.

Advance Illinois: New Brief on Investing in Illinois Youth for COVID-19 Recovery

Advance Illinois has written a report on the impact of Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) on K-12 education resource equity in Illinois. The brief aims to share how there are remaining gaps between current funding levels and full, adequate funding. The report makes the case for Illinois to provide sustained state funding for schools instead of relying on federal aid and also highlights how EBF is necessary in order to support students and help school districts address long-term issues brought on by the pandemic. To read the report, click here.

National AfterSchool Association Resource: Preparing for Funding from the American Rescue Plan

The National AfterSchool Association has compiled resources for afterschool providers to utilize in order to prepare for the influx of federal aid from the American Rescue Plan. Resources include talking points that can be used to encourage potential partners, such as school districts, to collaborate with programs. To review the resources, click here.

Education Week Article: Data Indicates that During Pandemic Nearly Half of All Students Learned Remotely

Education Week has published an article with survey data from the federal government that indicates that more than half of all students in the United States participated in remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. To review this data, click here.

Education Week Article: Strategies for Teaching Students Online & Face to Face at the Same Time

Education Week has published an article highlighting strategies for afterschool providers and educators that are instructing virtually and in-person simultaneously. There are best practices for managing both types of teaching environments. To read the article, click here

Afterschool Alliance: America After 3PM Report Data on Middle School Students

Last week, the Afterschool Alliance released new America After 3PM Report data specifically on middle school students. This information shows that parents and families recognize the critical supports and experiences afterschool programs provide, both for middle school students’ academic learning and social and emotional growth. To read the new brief, click here. To access the full America After 3PM Report, click here.

Afterschool Alliance Brief: Back to School in the Time of COVID-19

The Afterschool Alliance has released its third brief with survey data from afterschool providers, in order to emphasize the challenges brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight the field’s innovations as programs continue to respond to it. The Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19 Wave 3 survey finds that afterschool programs have needed to adapt to the various school reopening scenarios that are being implemented across the country. When asked about the types of supports being provided in response to COVID-19, a majority of programs (53%) report taking on a new role necessitated by COVID – providing a safe, supervised learning environment during virtual school days. To read how afterschool is rising to the moment and access the full brief, click here.

American Youth Policy Forum Blog Post: The Importance of Healing-Centered Afterschool Programs in the COVID-19 Era

The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) has published a blog post highlighting how Out-of-School Time (OST) programs are implementing practices to help students process and heal as the nation continues to recover from the pandemic. The blog post also makes the case for school district and afterschool program collaboration in order to reach and support more young people. To read the blog post, click here.

Illinois Report Card Engagement Process Manual

ISBE is seeking feedback from students, families, and community partners to ensure that the data provided in the 2017-2018 Illinois Report Card is accessible, useful, and valid.

ISBE “Back to School” Resources ISBE has updated its “Back to School” webpage to  serve as a resource hub to help you navigate important topics and make sure that you have the information you need to feel prepared for the start of the new school year.

Professional Development & Qualifications 



Making the Most of Your Full Day Program

Tips and resources on how to keep youth engaged throughout the day.

Guide to Building Relationships & Routines

This guide will support your work of building and establishing strong relationships with parents, youth, and other professionals. In addition, you will find 30 carefully selected games and activities to help afterschool programs succeed by creating a safe and supportive environment.















Family & Community Partnerships





Ready4K Text Messaging Program

Illinois Cares for Kids has launched Ready4K, which is a free research-based text messaging program for families with child(ren) ages 0 to 11 years old in Illinois. Ready4K aims to support children’s literacy and messages are delivered in English, Spanish, Polish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, or Russian.  Ready4K is hosting weekly information sessions to share about the program offer and discuss implementation. For more information, please contact LeeAnn Kiper at lkiper@inccrra.org.


We Will Chicago – Chicago Citywide Plan

Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently announced the Draft of the We Will Chicago Plan. This is Chicago’s
first citywide plan since 1966 and reflects the vision and data of communities across the city.
Now, the Mayor is asking youth, program providers, families, and residents to read the plan and
provide feedback!

My CHI. My Future Scholarship for Allschool Opportunity

My CHI. My Future has partnered with Allschool to provide 1,000 scholarships to families to try
free online classes for students. Allschool is an innovative virtual platform that delivers highly
interactive small group & 1:1 live classes to students around the US. Classes available include Art, Coding, English, Health, Life Skills, Math, Music, Science, Social Studies, and World
Languages. For questions and concerns, families may contact Jacob Kantor
at jacob.kantor@sparkedu.com or 8183554179.

Ready4K Text Messaging Program

Illinois Cares for Kids has developed Ready4K, a free research-based text messaging program for Illinois families and parents in Illinois. This program is a free family engagement tool that aims to increase children’s learning and provides a method for the state to consistently share customized early childhood messaging. Resources are available in a variety of languages.

Illinois State Board of Education Translation Tool for Agency’s Content

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently released its translation tool so individuals can read content on its website in one of 10 languages, including, Arabic, Chinese, English, Gujarati, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Urdu, and Vietnamese. To use this feature, click Translate in the top right corner and select one of the available languages. Please note: Images and PDF files cannot be translated. For more information or for additional help with language access, please call (312) 814-5818 or email aarredon@isbe.net.

We <3 Afterschool!

This Valentine’s Day (February 14, 2022), we are joining our friends across the country to celebrate our afterschool providers and show them some extra love. There are millions of reasons to love afterschool. Afterschool programs keep kids safe, inspire learning, and help working families. The Afterschool Alliance has curated templates and small activities to help tell the world why you, your students, and your community love your afterschool program!

Family Needs Study for Participants in the Early Childhood Education and Care System

The Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development (GOECD) is partnering with the American Institutes for Research® (AIR) to update the Statewide Birth through Five Needs Assessment that was completed in January 2020. One part of this work is a Family Needs Study that aims to learn more about how children, parents, and families are engaged with Illinois’ Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) system, what their needs are, and how the ECEC system might better address those needs. GOECD surveys in Arabic, Chinese, and Polish, will close on Friday, December 10, 2021. If you are a parent, caregiver, or guardian of a child between birth to age five (less than six years old), please complete the survey.

Free College Courses and Professional Certifications for Families

Chicago Connected is partnering with Coursera to offer FREE access to 5,000+ college courses and 30+ professional certifications for Chicago Connected families. Invitations to request a free Coursera license will be disseminated to Chicago Connected participants through CPS Parent Universities and Chicago Connected community partners. Learners will have access for four months, with the opportunity to renew.

Early Learning Newsletter

The Early Learning Project is funded by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and is a resource filled with evidence-based, reliable information on early care and education for parents, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois. ISBE will be sending out monthly newsletters with resources! The newsletter is now also available in Spanish by clicking on the “Spanish-español” link in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Resource Center: Resources for Bilingual Parents and Families

The Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Resource Center have compiled videos for bilingual parents and family members that showcases subjects and information relevant to parents, caretakers and community members, such as the role of Bilingual Parent Advisory Committees, Financial Aid for College, Tenant Rights, Multilingual Student Rights and much more! To access more information on the supports, click here.

Global Family Research Project: Family Engagement Game

The Global Family Research Project has created a powerful and fun game that allows people to share and reflect on the dilemmas and issues they face and discuss how they could address them. The tool allows teams to co-create new approaches, partnerships, and collaborations. The game has been developed for educators, community-based organizations, families, and more. Afterschool providers may utilize this game in programming and events in order to engage families and other relevant stakeholders and further develop a sense of community. To learn more about the game and to access it, click here.

STEM Next Guide: The Essential Funders’ Guide to STEM-Focused Family Engagement


STEM Next has created a robust guide with strategies to engage families and subsequently create support mechanisms for young people pursuing STEM experiences and careers. The guide highlights seven key tactics and aims to raise awareness and build knowledge to increase grantmaker support for practice, research, and policy solutions to better support families. Access the guide here.

Family Engagement Toolkits

Many organizations have documented their family engagement programs through toolkits, designed to help others create high-impact family engagement initiatives.

Family Engagement Around the World

The Global Stories interactive map feature captures how a wide range of children’s champions engage families to overcome long-standing barriers—such as poverty, racism, and gender inequality—that continue to limit opportunities for children and youth in many countries. Use these stories to spark ideas and inspire your work with families to support children’s success. Click here to learn more.

Engaging Families

Here are three ways the new Every Student Succeeds Act looks to assign resources to getting families more engaged in their child’s school.

Bringing Older Adult Volunteers into Youth-Serving Organizations

Tips for how afterschool programs can take part in the Generation to Generation campaign, a national effort to inspire adults over 50 to make a positive difference in the lives of children and youth.

The Power of Partnerships with the Business Community

Tips on how afterschool providers can engage the business community to increase their capacity.

Afterschool and Workforce: Opportunities for System-Level Alignment

White Paper discusses the ways in which afterschool programs and workforce sectors can work together on a systems level to help prepare students for success in their future careers.

Engaging OST Programs in Quality Improvement Systems Recent brief published by the National Center on Afterschool and Summer Enrichment highlights the work of cross-sector planning teams in building unified systems
The ABC’s of Family Engagement

Byron Garrett, chairman of the National Family Engagement Alliance, provides parents strategies they can employ to empower their children to be their best selves.



Learning to effectively engage caregivers and other family members can lead to stronger and more positive mentoring experiences and outcomes for the youth we serve. Register here to access this previously recorded webinar for more information on the crucial role families play in mentoring relationships.












Youth Development, Programming, & Activities 

Youth Voice Week Starts Soon!

The Afterschool Alliance and the U.S. Department of Education will be celebrating Youth Voice Week, which starts March 23, 2023, and spans until March 31, 2023, with a webinar on Youth Voice and Choice on March 23, 2023. Last summer, ACT Now developed a Civic Engagement Toolkit to help program providers integrate more consistent civic engagement opportunities for young people. There is even a section on youth voice and ideas for student leadership!

How to Incorporate the 2022 World Cup into the Classroom

The 2022 World Cup is one of the most watched sporting events in the world! Participate Learning has come up with ideas on how educators can incorporate this event into the classroom, as a way to engage students and integrate their interests into the classroom. 

Creating Student Engagement through the Power of Play

eSchool News published an article outlining how “play” can positively impact learning and how program providers can incorporate it into programming. The article highlights the social-emotional learning competencies that come with high-quality “play.”

Summer Learning Activities

ShareMyLesson has released over 100 activities for formal and informal educators to leverage in summer programming! The resources are split into grade levels and span from Preschool to high school. There are also materials for healthy living and social-emotional competencies.

5 Ways to Create a Strong Math Culture in the Classroom

Data shows that most students feel negatively about math and carry these feelings throughout their educational career. eSchool News published a list highlighting five ways to combat this negativity around math and enforce habits and skills that will support students’ math learning for years.

Lights On Afterschool Light Bulb Challenge!

The Afterschool Alliance is encouraging program providers and youth across the United States to participate in the Light Bulb challenge this year! On October 28, 2021, join in on the fun and share photos of your celebration on social media utilizing three different photo templates. Don’t forget to tag your elected officials, partners, and community members in your content!

My CHI. My Future Youth Impact Report Released

My CHI. My Future has released a report highlighting youth initiatives across the City of Chicago and the progress made on them between September 2020 and August 2021. Themes include connecting youth to their diverse communities, connecting youth to educational experiences across the city, and ensuring program providers collaborate on youth development experiences.

Stories that Shape Us: YOLANDA DUCKWORTH

Our great friend, Yolanda Duckworth, was featured in a National AfterSchool Association spotlight! Yolanda shares why afterschool means so much to her. Read all about how this Site Coordinator for Project Success of Vermilion County (Project Success Teen REACH at Danville High School) is changing the lives of youth in Danville, Illinois!


Tips to Better Communicate with Children While Wearing a Face Mask

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a new article discussing concerns about whether continuous use of face masks by child care providers, preschool teachers, and other adults may negatively affect a child’s speech and language development. The resource offers tips for adults to better communicate with children while wearing a face mask, and more.

Lights On Afterschool 2021 Poster!

This year, the Afterschool Alliance will celebrate 22 years of Lights On Afterschool with a poster that embodies the spirit of afterschool programs. The Lights On Afterschool 2021 poster focuses on all that afterschool programs do to help youth recover from the pandemic and forge successful futures. Further information and ACT Now’s Toolkit showcasing resources on how programs may celebrate is forthcoming. To register your Lights On Afterschool event, visit the Lights On Afterschool dashboard. Every event registered will receive 10 free Lights On Afterschool posters to help promote your celebration!

8 Fun Digital Learning Tools for the Start of the School Year

eSchool News has compiled a variety of digital learning platforms for educators and afterschool professionals to utilize in programming. Each resource aims to engage youth in a meaningful way and support them as many youth return to in-person instruction.

American Institutes for Research: Best Practice for Keeping Students Engaged in a Virtual Setting

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) has published an article with evidence on how positive reinforcement helps to keep students engaged in a virtual environment. This resource aims to help afterschool providers and educators alike in understanding the components of online positive reinforcement and also has resources for facilitating programming in a virtual space. To read the full report, click here.

National Girls Collaborative Project: African American History Month (February)

In recognition of African American History Month, the National Girls Collaborative Project has compiled resources that serve to promote African American students in STEM:

Youth Engagement Strategies

The Interagency Working Group on is seeking input from young people and organizations about the best ways to engage youth.

Civic Education Resources

The Center for Civic Education provides information about the U.S. Constitution, government, and the foundations of democracy. E-books, podcasts, and a variety of printed materials are available for elementary, middle school, and high school students. The center also offers professional development opportunities for teachers.

Promoting Civic Engagement in Afterschool Programs

It is important to recognize that afterschool and summer learning programs are critical partners in the work toward creating an informed public that has knowledge of democratic institutions and processes and opportunities to apply lessons learned. Afterschool programs strengthen student civic engagement by providing students with valuable hands-on experiences that help them become informed, involved, and conscientious individuals.

Music Impact Network Provides afterschool music programs access to free downloadable resources and a forum to share ideas.
Giving Youth Control

Resources that assist frontline staff in facilitating experiences that allow school-age children and youth to build self-determination, set goals, and make decisions.


Partnerships with Schools 


Addressing Home-to-School Communication Find out about how 4 school districts are keeping families informed and engaged, and learn more about how you can create strong partnerships between families and your programs.
Data-Driven OST Partnerships  These resources show what is possible when schools and out-of-school time (OST) partners collaborate and securely share information to support student learning.
Research-Practice Partnerships

Practical insight on how to best support the afterschool field and assess its contribution.