We Can Move Mountains
Highlights from our National Institute
Jessica Donner, Executive Director of Every Hour Counts, sets the tone for the institute, highlighting the power of after-school systems to move mountains for young people.
Gathered a mile above sea level and facing the Rocky Mountains, more than 200 leaders from nearly 40 communities across the U.S. (and one from Canada!) came together in Denver to share ideas, resources, best practices, and inspiration at our fifth and largest institute, We Can Move Mountains: National Institute for Building Expanded-Learning Systems .

This year's theme of We Can Move Mountains was fitting for the majestic backdrop of the Rockies, and encapsulates the complex work that after-school system-builders are doing to ensure young people have access to transformational learning opportunities.

Over the course of the two days, local teams of intermediaries, program providers, funders, school district leaders, municipal leaders, and young people came together to freely share their promising practices, resources and lessons learned. Through interactive workshops led by Every Hour Counts leaders, participants worked together to explore a range of topics on four themes: continuous quality improvement; equity and social justice; policy, advocacy and sustainability; and youth skills and development.
Institute Summits
With the quilt created from each community's six-word story at our last institute, From Idea to Action , Jessica Donner, Executive Director of Every Hour Counts, opened the event by applauding the collective action of our communities to mobilize around an expanded-learning movement. The quilt symbolizes the vibrant network of communities partnering, stitching connections, and striving to expand learning opportunities for young people.
Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Superintendent of Schools Susana Cordova, provided an inspiring welcome. Mayor Hancock spoke about how Denver has worked to ensure that children living in low-income communities have access to after-school and summer programs, and Superintendent Cordova shared her incredible commitment to the value of after-school.
Monica Walker of the Racial Equity Institute presented on racism's deeply rooted place in our nation's systems and institutions. She challenged us to focus not just on serving children and families, but also on what we can do to eradicate systemic racism.
A series of Denver sessions highlighted the work of our host city partner, the Denver Afterschool Alliance , and their collaborative governance structure, public financing of after-school, social and emotional learning programming, and rich provider network.
Participants engaged in thirty content-rich workshop sessions, many of which featured multiple cities and offered reflections on shared challenges and collective lessons learned.
Youth leaders from the Brooklyn Bridge Alliance for Youth (MN) shared advice for how after-school systems can involve youth more deeply in their work.
Participant Peaks
When we began talking about formalizing our system-building work in Denver we felt as though we were on an island. We've tried a lot of things, but how do we turn that into a system? At this conference, there isn't a better group of leaders to learn from. It turns out system-building isn't an island at all, it's a strong, rich community where we all know what matters most our kids.

Maxine Quintana, Out-of-School Time Initiatives Director, Denver Afterschool Alliance
Collaboration doesn't come naturally to cities with no resources it's all competition. Sharing approaches, systems designs, and quality standards make it possible to roll your system out quickly so that everyone can feel the difference as soon as possible, then you can cut to the chase and get to a great youth and program provider experience.

Hillary Salmons, Executive Director, Providence After School Alliance
It's important to think about how you infuse advocacy into your organizational DNA. Policy happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Danica Petroshius, Principal, Penn Hill Group
Love covers over a multitude of sins. You know what else covers a multitude of sins? Aggregated data. In order to know what's happening, you need to disaggregate your data. Because that's really going to give you a picture of how your services are falling differently on different people.

Monica Walker, Racial Equity Institute
I believe that after-school activities shape who I am.

Youth Council Member, Brooklyn Bridge Alliance for Youth, Minnesota
A Mountain Range of
Six-Word Stories
As an inspiring way to kick off the institute, community teams introduced themselves by distilling their complex systems into just six poetic words.

From deference to action; toward liberation. Twin Cities, MN

Integrated supports lead to upward movement. Palm Beach County, FL

Children rise when we listen. Philadelphia, PA

Thriving, quality driven, connected, community-wide collaborators. Omaha, NE

Advancing quality together, advocating for youth. Detroit, MI

Imagine what can happen will happen. Fresno, CA
We Can Move Mountains was full of incredible lessons, inspiration, and reflection. Thank you to our host city partner, Denver Afterschool Alliance , f or their commitment, support, and leadership to make this event an inspiring experience. We are grateful to The Wallace Foundation f or their support to make this event possible.

For more photos and highlights, check out our photo album , Twitter Moment and #ehcmovemountains .
Photo credits: Chris Haugen