Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Invest in Our Shining Lights

When it comes to the quality of expanded learning programs, DC ranked second in the country according to the Afterschool Alliance in their latest report “America After 3PM.” As a coalition of youth development organizations, DCAYA knows this ranking is well deserved. Our expanded learning partners are passionate about their programs, focus heavily on quality curriculum development, and hire astounding program staff to reach the various needs of young people. It is truly the dedicated work of these hard working individuals that accounts for this high ranking score.

While the full report and data sets paint a picture of the expanded learning landscape in DC, the smiles of young people tell us a story.

Click the picture to view the Photo Slideshow: Slidely Slideshow

Even though DC is ranked number two in the country for having quality afterschool programs, there are still many low-income children not accessing these vital enrichment opportunities. In fact, even when you look at the numbers there are 31,633 at-risk students attending DC public schools, but only 6,935 available expanded learning slots [INFOGRAPHIC]. It is easy to see the severe deficit in programming for young people who need the supports most.

Access to quality programming for students in at-risk communities is a high priority on DCAYA’s advocacy agenda.

We need to #KeepTheLights on afterschool so ALL DC children have access to the amazing expanded learning programs our community has to offer.

Share the blog and photo slideshow with friends & colleagues to advocate for keeping the #LightsOnAfterschool.

Sign-up to our Expanded Learning list serve to receive updates on our advocacy campaigns and policy proposals throughout the year.

City Kids Wilderness

Thank you to all of our members who lent their smiles and cute kids to our advocacy photo slideshow. Together we can "Keep the #LightsOnAfterschool."

For more on youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook,SUBSCRIBE to this blog and VISIT us at

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Turning $15,000 Into $50 Million for At-Risk Youth

Photo by AISM Photography

Letter from the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates executive director, Maggie Riden. 

DCAYA is a community.

A community of nonprofits, funders, advocates, youth, parents and policymakers gathered around a joint vision for DC youth. Our shared commitment to this vision brought us together on the beautiful evening of September 26th for the 10th Anniversary of DC Alliance of Youth Advocates.

The night honored the ground-breaking work of our organization’s founders and set the tone for another ten years of life-changing youth advocacy.

Through the generous support of our community of youth advocates, the Anniversary raised over $15,000.

As an advocacy nonprofit, we are able to turn $15,000 of donations into over $50,000,000 of public investment in youth initiatives. Talk about return on investment.

How do we do this? Through our coalition-building, advocacy campaigns, and policy expertise, last year alone we influenced:
  • The increase of public investments in afterschool and enrichment summer programs for at-risk youth. 

As committed advocates, we are able to take personal donations and transform them into community-wide social change.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of our members, partners, and benefactors. We can only achieve these successes with your support.

By this time next year, with your help, we plan to double our fundraising goal so we can double of our efforts to ensure all young people have:
My three committed and passionate staff members and I look forward to continuing to work on behalf of DC youth in the years to come. It is through your contributions and continued support that we are able to make this important work within our community possible.

Thank you,

Maggie Riden

To view more pictures from the 10 Year Anniversary visit our Facebook Page.

Photo by AISM Photography
Photo by AISM Photography
Photo by AISM Photography

For more on youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook,SUBSCRIBE to this blog and VISIT us at

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How Will You Vote?

Photo via WAMU
It’s election time in DC again, and we’re back with candidate questionnaires so you can know where potential District leaders stand on youth issues.  

The general election is November 4.  We sent questionnaires to all candidates running for Mayor or Council.  We are happy to announce that all major candidates did submit completed questionnaires.

The questionnaire is made up of 5 simple questions, and the candidates were mandated to keep each answer at 150 words or less.  The questionnaire covers expanded learning, youth homelessness, youth workforce development, and disconnected youth.  The questionnaire also has one general question about what the candidate would do in their first 100 days in office to address youth issues.

Without further ado, here are their answers:

We hope that these questionnaires serve as a voter education tool for our youth, our members, and our wider community.  We invite everyone to share them widely so that youth issues are elevated in the dialogue surrounding the election.

Please note that DCAYA does not endorse any candidates, in compliance with our 501(c)3 status.  These questionnaires are simply an education tool and should only be used as such.

For more on youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter,LIKE us on Facebook,SUBSCRIBE to this Blog and VISIT us at

Friday, October 03, 2014

Coordinated Entry: Boot Camp and 100-Day Challenge

This week homeless youth advocates went to boot camp.  There wasn’t a lot of yelling and push-ups, but there was sweat-inducing policy planning and some ice breakers that got a little intense.  

On Monday and Tuesday, along with the Interagency Council on Homelessness and Community Solutions, DCAYA co-hosted a DC policy boot camp on coordinated intake and referrals for homeless youth.  Participants came from Office of State Superintendent of Education, DC Public Schools, Department of Behavioral Health, Department of Human Services, Children and Family Services Agency, Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, The Community Partnership, Latin American Youth Center, Sasha Bruce Youthbuild, Wanda Alston House, and Covenant House.  Together, they mapped out a working plan to build a District-wide, coordinated entry system for unaccompanied homeless youth. 

Coordinated entry is a system where a homeless youth can show up at any “front door” government agency or community-based organization, be assessed by a standardized assessment tool, and then be referred in a standardized way to best-fit programs.  It sounds simple, but it is actually really difficult to get all the pieces in place to make this process work.  

Think about it, dozens of government agencies and community-based organizations, each with their own requirements and missions, have to come together to select and hone a standardized assessment tool.  They have to change their current referral protocols and habits to a semi-standardized referral protocol based off the chosen assessment tool.  They have to create and maintain a living database that shows available housing slots and service slots. Then they have to figure out what happens when a youth is assessed and referred, but there are not enough services for them.  And those are just a few of the challenges.

That’s why the boot camp model doesn’t end after the two-day planning period.  Now starts the 100-day challenge to implement the work plan.  DCAYA and its fellow participants have only 100 days to make coordinated entry happen. This is a very rapid timeline, meant to keep the momentum going to bust through the obstacles that have kept coordinated entry from happening in the past.

This 100-challenge is nationally historic.  While this model has been very successful in implementing coordinated entry for adults, this is the very first time it will be attempted for unaccompanied homeless youth.  The unaccompanied homeless youth system presents more challenges than the adult side: stricter privacy laws, mandatory reporting laws, working with the 18-24 age group that is often mis-resourced, etc.  But we know DC is ready for this challenge.  

DCAYA has been chosen as the lead organization for this challenge.  We are slightly daunted by the massive amount of work that we are facing over the next 100 days, but we know it is worth it.  It will be incredibly rewarding to collaborate with hard-working, creative, compassionate people from government agencies and community-based organizations. Our youth deserve a coordinated entry system when they come to us for help, and we are going to make it happen.

Katie Dunn is the youth homelessness and expanded learning policy analyst for DCAYA.  She is listening to Rocky pump-up music to get through this 100-day challenge.