NJSACC: The Statewide Network for NJ’s Afterschool Communities provides regular support and technical assistance to out of school time programs that request it. Last year, NJSACC served 129 programs serving NJ’s youth, a total of 130 hours.
I really enjoy Technical Assistance AKA TA and every person that works at NJSACC provides it on a daily basis to programs that call us and email us. The topics requested range from how to better design space to information on creating policy manuals for staff and families. We have built great relationships with providers with TA and I enjoy getting to see how the resources and support we provided impact on program quality.
This year, NJSACC was contracted by PSE&G Foundation to provide one year of TA to PSE&G Quality Afterschool Funding grantees. The year has come to an end but what a year it has been! Three programs participated in an intensive TA experience where NJSACC staff led the afterschool program staff on a path of self-assessment, problem solving and creating action plans for program improvement.
In April, the programs created teams of staff, family members and community members that conducted observations and surveys using Quality Standards for Afterschool. In May, that information was compiled into an Action Plan for Program Improvement using team problem solving methods, a collective approach to improvement. Then, from June to now, the programs implemented the changes and reaped the benefits of being so intentional about making the programs better.
We end the year knowing the programs have tools to use going forward to address concerns and that the program administration feels great about the work that they done.
On Friday, February 22, 2013, I was able to escort the PSE&G Foundation President Ellen Lambert and, Lisa Barile, Stakeholder Engagement Specialist for PSE&G Corporate Social Responsibility on a visit to one of the TA Grantees, Woodbury Child Development Center in Gloucester County. I was blown away when I walked into the room because I hadn’t visited the program in over 6 months. The space was transformed. There was a lovely presence of the children’s love and excitement about their program and the staff excitement to show it off. The Exectuve Director, Phyllis Folk and NJSACC Consultant Dennis Groomes worked with the staff and children to transform the program.
We watched as the children moved through their newly designed space that included new books that were donated as a result of building community relationships, soft space purchased with grant funds, free play materials that were in great condition and age appropriate. Walls that were previously bare were alive with youth artwork and writing projects.
The children were very excited to show off their newly learned skill of cinematography as they used digital video cameras to record an interview wth PSE&G Foundation president Ellen Lambert. They showed her movies they had made and took her to the PSE&G Technology lab to give her a lesson on editing.
The kids were excited. They were working in teams, using technology and problem solving as they worked to make short films.
It was a great visit to witness a program so dedicated to making the environment a place where youth learn new skills, and gives them to the tools to foster creativity. The generous support of PSE&G Foundation made much of the changes at Woodbury CDC possible, but from my experience of daily TA, any program can use the Self-Study tools and process to make change that will impact on program quality.
This spring, I will get to visit the 2013 Quality Afterschool Funding Grantees and I look forward to sharing what I have learned from them.
On The Ground in Afterschool.
About Sarah Cruz, Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO):
Sarah has been working with children and for organizations serving children and families since 1996. Currently, she is the Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) for NJSACC.
Previously, Sarah was the Director of the Hanover Township School- Age Child Care Program (HTSACC), a program operated in a NJ Public School system. At HTSACC, Sarah facilitated the National Afterschool Association Accreditation of 3 public schools before and afterschool programs.
Sarah is a prolific trainer. Nationally, she serves as a National Association for Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Facilitator for the workshop “Aligning the Learning Day, Collaborating Strategies for Principals and Afterschool Program Leaders.”
Sarah is a National Afterschool Matters Initiative Practitioner Fellow and In 2001, Sarah wrote ‘Fantastic Finales,’ a compilation of activities for school age children. She attended Douglass College at Rutgers University and graduated with a BA in Urban Planning and a certificate in Professional Youth Work.
Sarah coordinates the activities of the NJSACC Afterschool Ambassadors, the NJSACC Afterschool CARES, Supporting Student Success and the PSE&G Energizing Afterschool Partnership.