The Summer Secret to Back-to-School Success

Posted by: Heather Burright

How do year-round youth development organizations bring the energy of summer into afterschool programs? The secret is planning ahead by hiring high-quality staff before school starts. A thoughtful and intentional approach to the hiring process better positions afterschool programs to help all kids reach their full potential.

teacher with kids in classroom

So, what does that look like and how do you find these year-round rock stars? It begins in the interview process.

By listening for key responses, leaders can more quickly identify and offer employment to those professionals who have the skills, abilities and knowledge required to support a successful youth development journey.

Listen for the following:

  • Previous experience working with youth
  • Specific examples of past behavior
  • A focus on the relationship between staff and youth
  • Inclusive approaches for interacting with youth
  • Respect and appreciation for diverse perspectives
  • The ability to create a safe, welcoming environment

Here’s how these conversations might sound:

Describe your typical approach to interacting with youth. Give a specific example that illustrates that approach.

I believe in getting down to their level, so when I work with toddlers, I kneel or sit when giving direction or responding to a need.

Give me an example of how you have encouraged the open exchange of ideas with youth.

I ask. If a child doesn’t share, I ask if she would like to share. If the answer is yes, I encourage her. If it’s a no, I respect that, but I’ll find time later to ask about it so that hopefully, I can figure out a way to make the child more comfortable in the future. I want children to know that I want to hear from them, and that the other kids do, too.

If you were working with a group of youth, how would you promote mutual respect and acceptance of everyone?

Relationships are key. I try to continuously make connections among the kids. If Casey is interested in soccer, and I learn that Jorge is too, I encourage them to share that common interest. That said, in a given situation, I always encourage everyone to treat others as they want to be treated.

Looking for more tips and support?

Ready to begin hiring school-year staff that can deliver transformational experiences to youth? Email me for access to the YMCA’s Youth Development Hiring Guide, which includes tips for updating job descriptions, interview preparation tools, more sample questions and expected responses and an interview assessment tool.

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The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.