Vision: all Kalamazoo County youth are college or career ready by 21.
Mission Statement: Ensure that all Kalamazoo County youth have access to high quality, youth-driven, diverse, inclusive, and equitable out-of-school time (OST) programs that are part of a well coordinated system that uses data and best practice strategies.
Brief Organizational History: The Kalamazoo Youth Development Network, or KYD Network, began in 2000, through a collaborative effort among the city of Kalamazoo, the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, and the Hispanic American Council to provide networking opportunities for youth-serving organizations. Since 2014, KYD Network has transitioned from a networking and information-sharing program to an intermediary organization that is building a sustainable out-of-school time system in Kalamazoo County. In 2018, we received our 501(c)3 status and moved to a new location, Lincoln Elementary School.
Organizations that serve youth work in the out-of-school time, or “second shift.” While youth spend seven hours a day in school during the “first shift,” many youth spend as much, or more, time with us during the second shift. We believe we offer a powerful and unique opportunity to improve outcomes for youth by giving young people time and space to identify their interests and assets and by providing them with opportunities to explore and learn new skills they can use in school, at home, and to better their community.
In order to achieve our vision and fully implement our mission, KYD Network, serving as the intermediary for the OST sector, is building a sustainable OST system. Over the past four years, KYD Network has learned what elements are necessary for our sustainable OST system, including:
- A shared vision for our youth, that they are college, career, and community ready by age 21;
- A common definition of quality OST programming that uses the Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI), a research-based model created by the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality (Weikart Center) and the Michigan OST quality standards;
- A common definition of social emotional learning (SEL), common measurement tools, and a common vision for youth;
- Common definitions and assessments of diversity, inclusion, and equity and vision for our youth to be able to counter exclusion and inequity;
- A two-generational approach that recognizes the need to authentically engage families;
- County-wide coordination of the OST sector through KYD Network;
- Engaged leadership from the OST sector and youth to build and sustain the sector through Affinity Groups, Youth Advisory Councils, and the Kalamazoo County Youth Cabinet;
- Shared accountability for performance targets;
- A commitment to continuous quality improvement through the YPQI;
- Sustainable resources from local, state, and national sources; and
- Coordinated advocacy for the OST sector that results in more and sustained funding and supportive policies.
KYD Network realizes that this system will take the next five years to fully build with our members and stakeholders. Several needs exist with regard to building a high quality OST sector so that all youth are ready by 21. The needs revolve around: (a) the OST sector’s capacity to serve a critical mass of youth; (b) quality of OST programming; (c) ability of Youth Development Professionals (YDPs) to create high quality, youth-driven, culturally agile, and family-focused learning environments; (d) organizational capacity to sustain improvements; (e) youth’s social emotional learning skills; and (f) youth leadership opportunities and skills.
First, with regard to capacity to serve a critical mass of youth, approximately 50,000 school-age youth live in Kalamazoo County, almost half of whom live in households that are eligible for free or reduce price lunch. The overall graduation rate for county youth is 73% and ranges from a low of 48% to a high of 95%. We also know that in the state of Michigan, 210,386 (13%) of school-age youth participate in OST programming while 625,026 (44%) would participate if opportunities were available.
Historically, KYD Network has estimated that 65 OST organizations served roughly 6,000 youth in the County…a far cry from the 50,000 youth who could be participating in, and benefiting from, after-school and summer programming. If we were serving the state average of 13% this would mean that the Kalamazoo County OST sector should be serving 6,500 youth; almost double what we currently serve. In addition, if the state average of 44% “would participate if opportunities were available” held true in Kalamazoo County, our sector should be serving 22,000 youth. Thus, the data confirm that we must continue to build the capacity to serve MORE youth in the out-of-school time over the next five years.
KYD Network is currently conducting a scan of the OST sector to determine: how many OST organizations exist; how many youth they serve; where they serve youth; where these youth live; the types of opportunities available to youth; and the structure of these organizations. The results of this scan will help KYD Network tailor its outreach throughout the county.
Regarding quality of OST programming, we know that when youth participate in high quality OST programming they are more likely to engage in school and gradate. We also know that quality can be measured through the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA), the tool that KYD Network uses as part of the Youth Program Quality Intervention, a continuous quality improvement process offered by the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality to over 300 communities across the country. We also know that our local trends mirror national data, with scores for Safe and Supportive Environments near 4.0, Interaction at 3.0, and Engagement near 2.5 (out of a 5.0 scale). Over the next five years, KYD Network will work with our 50 cohort organizations so that their programs continue to improve and so that they create systems to sustain these improvements. Based on the data we collect (YPQA and youth, family, and staff surveys), we know that our gains leveled-off during 2017-18. Feedback indicates that it is because KYD Network has not been able to keep pace with the increasing number of cohort members. We have grown from seven to 50 in four years and must now increase our capacity to be able to attain the level of support we provided three and four years ago. We know, based on data from various sources, that the YPQI works. What we need is the capacity to fully implement it with 50 organizations.
With respect to social emotional learning, we know that when youth participate in an intentional SEL strategy over a sustained period of time (one year), they:
- Have grade point averages that are 11% higher than their peers;
- Score higher on standardized tests;
- Are more likely to graduate from high school;
- Are more likely to be successful in the workforce; and
- Are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors that interfere with learning such as violence and drug and alcohol use.
The Kalamazoo County OST sector identified social emotional learning as its “wheelhouse,” our unique contribution to young people’s growth and development. Thirty (30) members of our cohort use a standardized assessment to understand youth’s strengths and areas of need, the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment, or DESSA. Through this assessment, we know that the youth who participate in our SEL cohort score relatively low on the DESSA as 30% of our youth score “in need” as compared to 16% of the national cohort. We also know that our SEL interventions are beginning to yield positive outcomes, as confirmed by the multiple assessments completed by local organizations (we can provide reports if requested).
Third, we know that we must improve our approach to inclusion and equity in the OST sector. To that end, we created a multi-year action plan in 2018 that includes an explicit commitment to creating equitable, inclusive, and cultural agile practices in the OST. Our sectors also focuses on trauma-informed care, understanding that many of our youth have experienced, and continue to experience, trauma in their lives. Our Youth Development Professionals and our youth and families view themselves as agents of change and embrace our theme of “own your culture.” We have identified Guides on the Side for each of these three areas who provide training, coaching, and technical assistance to individuals, programs, organizations, and our sector. We created a anti-racist organization assessment, based on the “Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist, Multi-Cultural Organization,” to establish organizational and sector goals and assess our progress.
Fourth, we understand that while we have to the opportunity to be with youth for a significant amount of time, their families play the most critical role in their development. Thus, in 2018 we created a more intentional two-generational approach to our work and added a half-time Family Engagement Liaison who helps our cohort members create more authentic family engagement strategies and who works with a caseload of 20 families in a trauma-informed way to support their myriad of goals (income, housing, educational, etc). We have been overwhelmed by the response to this support and the need to increase this role to a full-time position has quickly emerged.
Finally, local youth have few opportunities for authentic leadership in our community. To address this need, KYD Network coaches OST organizations to form and sustain Youth Advisory Councils (YACs) and through the recent creation of our Kalamazoo County Youth Cabinet. The latter consists of twelve youth, ages 14 to 20, who reside in the county. Over the past two years, over 80 youth leaders have convened twice through retreats and identified four community issues: (1) racial tension; (2) healthy neighborhoods and youth violence; (3) college and career readiness; and (4) health and wellness. These young leaders also created goals within each issue and work across YACs to implement strategies to achieve their goals.
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 Crossroads Ministry, Chicago, IL 2013.