The California Afterschool Network: Partnering to Build Strong Pathways to Educational Success
High-quality out-of-school time learning and enrichment opportunities promote child and youth success, support working families, and increase positive community outcomes. The Foundation’s partnership with the California AfterSchool Network helps provide the state’s school-aged children and youth with a strong complement to their education.
California funds and administers the largest system of Expanded Learning* programs in the nation, with over 4,500 K-12 Expanded Learning programs impacting over 800,000 of California’s youth and families that are most in need. By positively impacting academic, social, physical, and emotional development, Expanded Learning programs create the conditions necessary for children and youth to thrive in school, in the workplace, and in life. One of many positive outcomes of participation is increased academic achievement and school attendance which lays the foundation for success in higher education, often through the California Community Colleges.
Nathan Houston, a participant of a Sacramento-based afterschool program, shares how his program participation was both life-changing and career defining.
“After school programs literally saved my life.”
Growing up in the Meadowview neighborhood of Sacramento, California, Nathan Houston was exposed to gang activity, violence, drugs, and homelessness at nearly every turn. He also, however, found a safe space, a respite, a place to learn more about the world beyond, through the Sacramento-based, nonprofit Center for Fathers and Families (CFF).
Weekdays, Nathan spent three to four hours a day at CFF’s afterschool program called the “Intel Computer Clubhouse”, an expanded learning program that provides young people in underserved communities an opportunity to learn and explore their own ideas, develop new skills, and build confidence in themselves through the use of technology. As a high school student he aged out of the program, but because of the impact it had on his life, he deeply wanted to stay involved. Nathan worked hard to boost his grade point average in order to start volunteering at CFF, helping students in his community gain fresh perspective and develop long-term visions for their futures.
With the support and encouragement of his mentor, CFF’s Chief Executive Officer Rick Jennings, Nathan participated in many professional development opportunities, including attending board meetings and speaking publicly about his experiences. He quickly began advancing in the organization, serving as a program assistant and then site coordinator, helping launch CFF’s first After School Education & Safety program.
It’s important to have someone in your life who will challenge and help you create a new norm. When I first started the CFF program, I was an average student and didn’t set high expectations for myself, until I met Rick Jennings, the Chief Executive Officer at CFF. Rick believed I was capable of more than I thought I was. He provided me the opportunity to mentor and change the lives of the kids participating in the CFF program, much like Rick had done for me.
Nathan Houston, Director of Training and Professional Development, Center for Fathers and Families
Nathan continued to challenge himself and his fellow colleagues at CFF to innovate their program and make it even more relevant for participants. To better understand the youth they were serving, Nate implemented a process with his staff to gather real-time data on student experiences by documenting their candid reactions to program activities on sticky notes. These notes were then placed on the white board at the end of each day so that staff could reflect on what went well, and how they could immediately improve their practice.
When a new state policy to implement a "data-driven Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) process" was implemented statewide, the California AfterSchool Network (CAN), a Collaborative Impact Partner of the Foundation for California Community Colleges, was engaged by the California Department of Education to provide statewide professional development related to CQI. During one of the organization’s professional development sessions in Sacramento, Nathan joined and shared the innovative strategies he used for Continuous Quality Improvement on his site – the sticky note activity – which had the potential to be replicated statewide. His work became known statewide and, in 2016, Nathan was honored by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, as an Emerging Leader in the field of Expanded Learning and, in 2017, he was asked to give the keynote at CAN’s Site Coordinator Expanded Learning Symposium.
Nathan Houston with #iAmImpact workshop attendees
Today, Nathan is CFF’s Director of Training & Professional Development. As part of his role he works closely with CAN to engage California’s Site Coordinators through an innovative new “Site Coordinator Network.” The Site Coordinator Network aims to better engage Site Coordinators and stakeholders across the state to collectively address significant needs and advance innovation in the field. Nathan is also a sought-after motivational speaker throughout California discussing his #iAmImpact philosophy, “a transformational approach to empower people to discover their internal gifts.”
Partnering for Impact
Since 2000, the Foundation for California Community Colleges has provided fiscal sponsorship and management services through our Collaborative Impact Program for education-related nonprofit organizations, programs, initiatives, and projects that aim to better the greater California community. Our Collaborative Impact Program allows partners to focus on program activities while the Foundation provides professionalized and streamlined back office services (finance, human resources, contracting, information technology, communications, grants management, and operations). Currently, the Foundation’s Collaborative Impact Program hosts 14 organizations, including long-standing partners the Career Ladders Project and the California College Guidance Initiative. Impact Partners are empowered to work closely with the Foundation’s other programs and partners, benefitting from each other’s expertise, connections, perspectives, successes, and more, to create and scale catalytic change across the state.
Founded in 2006, the California Afterschool Network aims to increase children’s and youth’s access to high-quality out-of-school time programs that support development and educational success. The mission of the organization is to provide professionals, advocates, and community members the tools and resources necessary to build high-quality out-of-school time programs. CAN works at all levels to ensure both local and state stakeholders prioritize high-quality out-of-school time learning and enrichment opportunities, and are continuously seeking new ways to improve afterschool programs across California, which boasts the nation’s largest expanded learning infrastructure.
CAN is led by Executive Director Jeff Davis. Like Nathan, Jeff advanced within the organization from program coordinator to his current position.
Collaborative Impact is the most accurate way to describe our partnership with the Foundation for California Community Colleges. The high-quality backbone support provided by the Foundation allows us to stay focused on our important field-facing work. The Foundation has proven to be nimble and always seeking to understand, not whether something can be done, but HOW we can accomplish complex tasks together. The Foundation provides a strong bedrock for our organizational structure.
Jeff Davis, Executive Director, California AfterSchool Network
The Foundation is proud to partner with CAN, an organization closely aligned with our goal of expanding student access and improving educational and career outcomes for all students. The Foundation’s relationship with CAN connects CAN to the state’s expansive, multi-level learning ecosystem, including the nation’s largest system of higher education, the California Community Colleges. By supporting career skill development and promoting teacher pathways, leveraging expanded learning as an opportunity for clinical experience for future teachers, CAN is a vehicle for workforce development. Additionally, the organization’s work supporting California's Expanded Learning and out-of-school time programs increases student success and college readiness. Because CAN’s work supports children and youth in California with the highest need, their work serves to help mitigate economic, educational, and health inequities in our communities. CAN works hard for the children and youth in California because the organization knows that all children can achieve a high level of success when, like Nate, they are provided the opportunity.
*Expanded Learning is defined by the California Department of Education’s Expanded Learning Division as follows: “the term Expanded Learning refers to before and after school, summer, and intersession learning experiences that develop the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs and interests of students. Expanded Learning opportunities should be hands-on, engaging, student-centered, results-driven, involve community partners, and complement learning activities in the regular school day/year.”