The Synergy Conference 2021 will convene virtually April 27th, 2021 to April 30th, 2021. This year's conference is themed: 
The conference timeline can be viewed herePlease note that the Tuesday, April 27th and Wednesday, April 28th portion of the conference will consist of the 21st Century Community Learning Center Statewide Meetings only. For those registered attendees that are not 21st CCLC programs, the first live plenary of the Synergy Conference will begin at 10:00 am on Thursday, April 29thIt is our hope that you will join us virtually utilizing the platform, iCohere. 

The Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for workshop presenters and vendors are now open. Workshop strands include Arts & Literacy, Closing Gaps, College & Career Readiness, Organizational Capacity, Public/Private Partnerships, S.T.E.M, Social & Emotional Learning, and Youth Development. 

Descriptions for each conference strand can be viewed on the Request For Proposals. Copies of each RFP, deadlines, and additional details can be accessed by visiting the Synergy Conference 2021 page. Proposals will be due January 31st, 2021. Early registration for the virtual conference will open in January. 


Diana Paredes joins the North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs (NC CAP) as the Afterschool STEM Expansion Vista. Diana will work directly with the Director and Program Coordinator to increase access to and exposure of high-quality STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) for youth statewide, particularly those that are impoverished, and establish a community support system that links afterschool programs with potential partners and resources. 

Prior to joining NC CAP, Diana earned a Bachelor's of Arts in Exercise and Sport Science with a minor in Latinx Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Diana is devoted to mentoring youth and youth development. During her time at UNC Chapel Hill, Diana worked as Co-Director of SOAR, a STEM mentoring program for middle school students. She has also worked as a leader for Juntos, an organization which aims to ensure high school graduation of Latinx students and provides access to overall educational success. Diana is passionate about working towards an equitable school system and future for all students. 
The North Carolina Business Committee for Education's Ready, Set, App! challenge is a mobile app development competition for high school students sponsored by Lenovo. Student groups are asked to develop a mobile app using a mobile app development platform (i.e. MIT App Inventor) to solve a problem in their community or school. Ready, Set, App! focuses on three primary pillars: (1) Mobile App Development; (2) Professional and Personal Development; (3) Interpersonal and Soft Skills Development. If groups have any questions, please contact Program Manager, Kiya Edwards at The competition closes on November 30th, 2020 at 11:59pm EST. To review official rules, click here

For additional information about Ready, Set, App!, click here
The North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs (NC CAP) is excited to announce a partnership with Afterschool Coaching for Reflective Educators in STEM (ACRES). Over 400 educators from across the country have participated in their workshops. The ACRES Project brings together educators in live and interactive virtual workshops. They create small communities of reflection, so participants have a safe and brave space to learn new skills. ACRES offers participants contact hours, certificates of attendance, and many ready-to-use resources. North Carolina out-of-school time educators that participate can earn a $100 stipend! 

The first professional development opportunity is Virtualizing Your Out-of-School Offerings. Have you felt like the last few months of remote learning during COVID-19 were hectic and stressful? You are not alone with those feelings. It doesn't have to feel that way going forward. Join this cohort and participate in highly interactive coaching sessions. You will reflect on what you did, if anything, and what you could do to virtualize your out-of-school STEM offerings. Bring your examples and questions. Tips, tricks, and tools will be shared as a small groups come together to practice and hear success stories. Please note that the expectation is that all participants will attend all three live sessions and will be an active member of this coaching cohort. 

To learn more about STEM Professional Development and ACRES, click here

Afterschool professionals and leaders have a responsibility for providing healthy and safe environments, for young people and those who work for them. They're also often required to maintain current first-aid certification. 

Organizational and program policies cover physical health and safety, which has become increasingly important as we navigate the challenges of many unknowns related to COVID-19. But what about "psychological first aid": aka PFA? Are the members of our field equally equipped to support those affected by trauma resulting from the ongoing bad news and challenges related to the pandemic, racism, natural disasters, and more? 

A recent Washington Post article shared the basics of "psychological first aid" and why these basics are vital to know: 
  • Address basic bodily needs. If you know people who are struggling to get enough food, water, or shelter, help them directly or indirectly. Make a conscious effort to consume nutritious foods, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, do some form of physical activity every day, and avoid using substances such as alcohol or cigarettes to cope. 
  • Avoid further harm. Protecting people from additional distress is a key aspect of PFA, according to the article. Check to make sure conditions are physically safe, then take steps to ensure emotional "safety" by treating others and yourself with respect and compassion. This includes trying to protect yourself from information overload. 
  • Keep calm to carry on. Maintaining a gentle tone of voice can have a calming effect on distressed people around you. Remind yourself and encourage others to do a relaxing activity. When you feel stress-overload coming on, hit the pause button on what you're doing and focus on deep breathing. 
  • Set priorities. Consider your and others' most urgent needs, including how to prioritize and address them, versus what can wait. This can help to distinguish between what you can and can't control.
  • Build hope. Especially during periods of uncertainty. One effective way to do this to is to consciously focus on what's going on right now. This could also include keeping a gratitude journal.
  • Connect with others. Physical distancing doesn't have to mean social distancing. Reach out to friends and family members on social media; try to rekindle old friendships by phone, text, email, or video conferencing. Consider establishing your own coronavirus-safe pod or bubble so you can spend in-person time with supportive people. 
  • Practice good communication. When youth or others are distressed, practice active listening by giving them your undivided attention and letting them take their time expressing themselves, rather than pressuring them to talk or immediately providing advice. 
  • Reinforce coping skills. Ask someone who is distressed about coping mechanisms used in the past  and encourage the person to use those strengths and strategies to handle the current situation. 
How are you providing PFA for yourself and others? 

Excerpt from: National Afterschool Association. "The new first aid we all should be practicing." National Afterschool Association. 10/12/2020.
Particularly during this time, arts programming is an invaluable way to engage children in a wide range of subjects - from science and math, to language literacy and digital media, to 21st century skills. 

High-quality learning experiences in the arts can also support children's social-emotional learning and well-being, and they can help young people navigate these uncertain times. Family support is widespread for including the arts as a part of a student's well-rounded education. Yet many underfunded schools have been forced to shrink their student programs in music, drama and visual arts, and redirect funding and teaching resources to proficiency subjects like math and reading. This year, school closures due to COVID-19 have compounded the problem. High-quality afterschool and summer learning programs can help narrow these gaps. Most programs already integrate some arts and crafts into their daily curriculum. But partnering with schools and community organizations on choosing and developing arts programming and including arts activities as a part of "virtual backpacks" can open doors to a broader range of enrichment activities that excite, engage and educate students - and even reveal students' hidden talents. 

Here are some tips to consider when choosing an expanded arts curriculum for your afterschool program, including some ideas for remote learning: 
  • Reach out to local performance arts groups, dance studies, university drama departments and arts clubs and let them know you're looking to offer expanded arts enrichment to the kids you serve. See if any of these local organizations are willing to partner on online instruction or demonstrations, or host an evening film screening or streamed student production - one parents can also attend. 
  • Plan to host a student art show at the end of the semester or the end of the year. Give students the option to work on their display pieces throughout the semester, so they have several pieces to choose from and ample time to work on larger pieces. Offering children the chance to show and gain recognition for their art can be a tremendous source of self-esteem and motivation to work toward a goal. If you can't gather in person, consider hosting a student art show or gallery walk virtually. 
  • Experiment with new mediums beyond what kids are exposed to during the regular school day. If music education isn't offered regularly, for example, see if you can create and afterschool music class with the help of parents, students, local musicians, and community organizations. The League of American Orchestras is one place to look for inspiration. Through grants, the League helps fund student orchestras in cities across the U.S. 
  • Combine physical movement with learning to strengthen cognitive learning. Dance, in particular, benefits the brain, according to the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO). NDEO reports that dance can help students become more aware of their physical presences, spatial relationships, breathing, rhythm and emotions. it can also provide a valuable outlet for social and cultural self-expression. Look for ways to bring multicultural dance to your school through live demonstrations from local dance groups or virtual dance classes and invite students to participate in selecting the types of dance groups they would like to see. 
  • Work with teachers at schools you serve to help reinforce the importance of learning through art. Find out what major learning initiatives might be underway and see if you can support these initiatives through "stealth learning". Examples of stealth learning techniques might be incorporating geometry in drawing, making paper and mixing plants to learn about science and chemistry, and participating in plays or watching live performances to learn about history. 
The possibilities - as well as the benefits - for integrating arts education in afterschool programs are nearly endless. In addition to providing much-needed arts education, integrated arts programming can be a powerful tool for attracting young people to join afterschool programs. Integrated arts programming can just as powerfully build community and increase parent involvement - setting the stage for long-term academic success. 

Download Mizzen by Mott to find these Pro Tips in full - and more than 1,000 pieces of high-quality content to engage and inspire your learners. 

 To learn more about the Mizzen app, click here
Across the country, many communities lack support and access to the tools and experiences that can unlock a better future and prepare teens for the challenges ahead. Young people of color are disproportionately affected by these disparities. Best Buy believes that technology can empower people to dream big and accomplish great things. 

Best Buy Teen Tech Centers are a place where teens can develop critical skills through hands-on activities exploring their interests through project-based learning. Each location works to bridge the digital divide by giving young people access to tech education and mentor guidance while building the confidence they will need to be successful in school and in their future careers. 

Building on the success of the 35 Best Buy Teen Tech Centers thriving today, Best Buy will bring new Teen Tech Centers to more than twelve new locations in 2021. In order to do so, they are seeking to identify non-profit organizations to be their partners in establishing and running each new Teen Tech Center. Their ideal partner is one that has an existing afterschool teen program in a dedicated space and a commitment to youth in under-served communities. 

They are currently seeking proposals for the following metropolitian cities: San Francisico, CA; East Palo Alto, CA; and Charlotte, NC. Proposals are due on December 4th, 2020. 
To access the Request for Proposals for the Best Buy Teen Tech Centers, click here
This report presents important results from EDUCAUSE's 2020 research on students' experience with information technology, which included 16,162 undergraduate students from 71 US institutions. 

The study includes key findings from the analysis of students' responses, concrete next steps your institution can take in response to these findings, and opportunities for connecting with peers who are implementing innovative practices in the areas of student success, technology use, and environmental preferences, data privacy, online harassment, and accessibility. 

To learn more information about the 2020 Student Technology Report, click here
The North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs is joining the Million Girls Moonshot, a collective impact initiative designed to increase diversity and equity in STEM. Launching now, the Million Girls Moonshot will help close the persistent gender gap in STEM fields by engaging 1 million girls across the United States in STEM pursuits through high-quality, innovative afterschool learning opportunities over the next five years. 

The Engineering Mindset Toolkit is a collection of resources and tools for all 50 Mott Afterschool State Networks and their partners to access and utilize for the Million Girls Moonshot Initiative. The resources in the Engineering Mindset Toolkit are not exhaustive. STEM Next will continue to add and modify the resources as the Initiative evolves and depending upon the needs of the Networks. The Million Girls Moonshot focuses on the Engineering Mindset which STEM Next believes compliments the STEM mindset, as well as innovation, invention, and entrepreneurial education. 

To access the Engineering Mindset Toolkit's activities, tools, and webinars, click here

To join the Million Girls Moonshot initiative, click here
Strengthening Workforce and Quality Systems That Support School-Age Programs During Challenging Times is a four-part, participant-driven community of practice (CoP) for cross-sector state, territory, and Tribal teams. Participants will share promising practices and policies to support the school-age workforce and to strengthen quality improvement systems during such challenges as natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. The first session will focus on workforce supports and allow participants to identify priority topics to explore during the CoP meetings. Cross-sector teams will identify ways to build on existing supports and will create additional supports through peer-sharing and team discussions. 

Session Dates & Times
CoP participants will meet virtually for four monthly meetings from December 2020 through March 2021. The meetings will be held on the second Tuesday of the month, from 2-3:30pm EST on the following dates: 
  • December 8th
  • January 12th
  • February 9th
  • March 9th
Application and Potential Cross-Sector Members
Each state, territory, and Tribal team lead will complete an application that includes information about cross-sector team members, goals for the CoP, and areas of interest and expertise. Team members could include: 
  • Child Care and Development Fund administrators and staff members
  • Quality rating and improvement system and licensing system personnel
  • Statewide afterschool network and National Afterschool Association affiliate staff members
  • Training and technical assistance professionals
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) state coordinators and other state education agency staff members
  • Child care resource and referral agency personnel
  • Stakeholders that represent the diversity of populations served
  • Representative providers, such as those from the school-age child care, 21st CCLC, and family child care areas
Application Deadline: November 9th, 2020 at 6pm EST.

To apply, click here
The STEM Career Showcase for Students with Disabilities is an annual educational event where students in grades 6-12 meet role models with disabilities who have thriving careers in STEM fields. 

This year's showcase will be an entirely virtual experience that will feature remarks from the keynote speaker and the opportunity for students to engage with their panelists. Learn about how their lived experiences and diverse perspectives shaped their unique approaches to navigating and pushing boundaries in their fields. 

The 8th Annual STEM Career Showcase for Students with Disabilities will start at 1pm EST on Tuesday, November 17th, 2020. ASL interpretation, live captioning, and audio description will be provided for the entire program and for each breakout room. Please contact Jessie Rassau at or by phone at (919) 707-9976 to request additional accommodations. 

STEM Career Showcase for Students with Disabilities 2019 Highlights
STEM Career Showcase for Students with Disabilities 2019 Highlights

To learn more about the STEM Career Showcase for Students with Disabilities, click here
To view other STEM opportunities in North Carolina, click here
Work with ScholarStem to launch a Tech Builders Club for your students. Students will learn tech by developing real world projects. Course topics include Roblox Game Design, Intro to Coding, Virtual Reality, Web Development, and more. Every class is project-based, so students spend the entire class period creating things they want to make and develop marketable skills in the process. ScholarStem seeks to bring out the tech builder in all of its students. At this time, all classes are virtual with a club leader meeting with students on a regular schedule. 

To learn more about ScholarStem and Tech Builders Club, click here
How can educators and providers in youth-serving settings better align their practices with what the science says about human learning? Our popular video series, featuring Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute; Pamela Cantor, MD, founder and senior science advisor of Turnaround for Children; and Karen Pittman, founder and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment, pairs research insights with a variety of illustrative strategies from schools and youth development programs around the country, all grounded in the science of human learning and development. 

We think these techniques will resonate with practitioners everywhere: They are focused on taking advantage of the incredible opportunity to help children reach their full potential by creating positive relationships, experiences, and environments in which every young person can thrive. In fact, the science is beginning to hint at even more dramatic outcomes. Practices explicitly designed to integrate social, emotional, and cognitive skills in all the places and spaces where young people learn, the research suggests, can reverse the damages wrought by childhood trauma and stress-while serving the needs of all students and moving them onto a positive developmental and academic path.

To learn more information about Edutopia's resources, click here
NAA's Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders identifies young leaders and recognizes and cultivates the talent of rising stars who have the potential to influence the field of afterschool for years to come. The selected emerging leader honorees will have: demonstrated contributions that have started to influence beyond individual programs to organizations and communities, a proven passion for development of themselves and others, active engagement in efforts to elevate the afterschool field and demonstrated persistence in their work to grow as leaders. 

Join NAA and the North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs in recognizing extraordinary individuals, age 30 or under, strong believers in the power of afterschool - who are vested in things like advocacy, professional development, creative program design, the power of youth voice, data and evaluation, and racial justice. If you know of a candidate worthy of this honor, review the eligibility information and then nominate for this national honor November 13th, 2020. 

To learn more information about the Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders 2021
click here
NC CAP wants to highlight your program!
The North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs would like to highlight program successes statewide. Tell us about your program and you might be our Program Spotlight in the next edition of the Afterschool Observer or on Social Media. Click the Program Spotlight below to be redirected to the updated survey link to tell us about your program. 

The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation awards grants to organizations for whom a small amount of money can make a big difference. The Foundation welcomes requests from museums, cultural and performing arts programs, schools, hospitals, educational and skills training programs, programs for youth, seniors, and the handicapped; environmental and wildlife protection activities and other community-based organizations and their programs. Applications are due by November 10th, 2020. 

The Community Connect Program helps rural communities extend access where broadband service is least likely to be commercially available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for people and businesses. The projects funded by these grants help rural residents tap into the enormous potential of the Internet for jobs, education, healthcare, public safety, and community development. Applications are due by December 23rd, 2020. 

The Walmart Local Community Grant is for community development projects. Primary consideration for the grant program is to support local organizations with programs that align with Walmart and the Foundation's areas of giving which include: (1) hunger relief and healthy eating, (2) health and human services, (3) quality of life, (4) education, (5) community and economic development, (6) diversity and inclusion, (7) public safety, and (8) environmental sustainability. Applications are due by December 31st, 2020. 

YSA will award up to $500 each to support youth-led service or service-learning in afterschool programs. Afterschool programs must engage at least 50 youth as volunteers in virtual, hybrid, or safe in-person service or service learning projects between December 2020 and May 2021. Programs must engage a large percentage of middle and high-school aged youth from underserved communities. Applications are due by December 4th, 2020. 

The Community Progress Fund is designed to provide an infusion of short-term funding at the right moment and is intended to build on existing momentum to help move an issue, idea, or an organization forward. The Progress Fund allows communities to test ideas, expand promising efforts, or achieve greater impact. Letters of Intent are due by December 7th, 2020. 

To influence policy and serve as a catalyst, convener, and clearinghouse for afterschool programs through advocacy, professional development, and quality improvement. 

High quality afterschool programs accessible to all North Carolina children and youth helping them to succeed in and out of school. 
NC CAP | 919.781.6833 | Email | Website