Municipal Leadership for Expanded Learning Opportunities Project

Through the Municipal Leadership for Expanded Learning Opportunities (MLELO) project, supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the YEF Institute worked to deepen and enhance the role of municipal leaders in ensuring the availability of constructive activities for young people during non-school hours.

This 30-month technical assistance effort was launched in June 2001. From the outset, the project sought to assist local communities and to illustrate the leadership roles that mayors and city councilmembers can play to improve and expand afterschool programming

The project also set out to identify promising practices in municipal leadership and afterschool programming, and to develop a range of tools and resources for mayors and councilmembers who want to strengthen afterschool programming in their cities. Cities with populations of at least 50,000 were invited to apply to participate in the project by developing and implementing strategies for improving and expanding afterschool programs. The following eight cities were selected through a competitive process:

  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Fort Worth, Texas
  • Fresno, California
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Spokane Washington
  • Washington, D.C.

Once the eight cities were selected, YEF Institute staff worked closely with team leaders to assemble a diverse group of key stakeholders representing a broad cross-section of each community - including municipal officials, school board members, school administrators, parents, community-based organizations, and business and civic leaders.

YEF Institute staff provided ongoing support to the teams as they developed and implemented action plans designed to meet the individual needs, challenges, and circumstances of their cities. Cities involved in the initiative focused on a range of issues pertinent to the needs of their communities:

  • Addressing access to services in underserved neighborhoods;
  • Improving quality by creating standards;
  • Raising awareness and building public will;
  • Alleviating turf battles and competition through effective partnerships and collaboration;
  • Developing governance and finance structures to sustain programs; and
  • Engaging youth in program development.

The YEF Institute provided a range of services and supports to the eight cities participating in the project. The eight cities worked together as part of a national network of local communities dedicated to an agenda to improve quality and increase
the availability of afterschool programs. The YEF Institute held regular communications with project leaders through monthly and quarterly conference calls. In addition, leadership teams benefited from a listserv designed to encourage peer-to-peer exchange.

YEF Institute staff conducted annual site visits to meet with mayors, councilmembers, local team leaders, and community stakeholders. Community stakeholders included, but were not limited to, business leaders, faith-based leaders, parent organizations, and youth service providers. The YEF Institute conducted on-site analysis to determine local needs, assessed progress, facilitated discussion of each city's mission and vision for afterschool, and garnered media attention for the project.

In the face of budget deficits, leadership changes, shifting policy priorities brought about by the September 11 attacks, and other challenges, each of the cities was able to expand its afterschool infrastructure, providing valuable lessons for other communities seeking to do the same. Lessons learned from the project are documented in the YEF Institute report, The Afterschool Hours: A New Focus for America's Cities.