A Culture of Collaboration

A strong sense of community is the backbone of small town America and helps preserve the vitality of small communities. This asset is particularly valuable when providing educational and enrichment opportunities for young people during the afterschool hours.


A Community of Collaborators

City and school leaders are key collaborators when it comes to afterschool and summer learning. However, this culture of collaboration extends far beyond city hall and the school campus. A variety of community stakeholders are essential in creating high-quality, sustainable programming. These partnerships are often formed easily, because in small and rural communities the mayor may also be a fifth grade teacher and the police chief may be the president of the parent teacher organization. City leaders typically play multiple roles, and this pattern creates a foundation for collaboration, strong relationships and more streamlined communication.

In Mapleton, Ore., a science teacher connected his wife, the executive director of the local watershed council, to the afterschool program. As a result, all the K-12 afterschool students participate in activities and field trips where they learn about water conservation and environmental stewardship.

The Role of Local Business


In small communities, many local businesses recognize the importance of collaboration in providing educational opportunities to prepare young people for future careers.

In Ville Platte, La., dozens of businesses have partnered with the city’s Y.O.U. (Youth Opportunity Unlimited) afterschool program to provide job shadowing experiences for program participants.

In Falls City, Ore., the F.A.C.E.S. (Family Academic Clubs and Enrichment for Success) program partners with the local auto body shop to provide job skills training and the opportunity to apply those skills in a practical setting. For example, as students in Falls City were learning how to weld, they also participated in a community project to help build the bleachers for the local football stadium.

Police Departments as Key Partners

In cities like Hastings, Neb., the police department has recognized the value of afterschool programming in curbing juvenile crime. The Hastings police chief made youth development a priority and instituted the Zone program. With the help of partners across multiple sectors, including the YWCA and the school district, the police department hosts teens at their headquarters for daily afterschool programming.

Leveraging the Local Arts Council


Credit: Getty images

Municipal and community collaborators can also include local arts councils. In Donaldsonville, La., the local arts council has worked in partnership with the afterschool provider, Bright Futures Community Learning Center, to provide high-quality arts programming. One of Bright Futures’ goals is to expose young people to different cultures and experiences. This partnership provides that exposure through various media in the arts.

Formal Partnerships

In Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park, Minn., city leaders have formalized their collaborative efforts through a joint powers agreement. This agreement, which is the foundation for the Brooklyn Bridge Alliance for Youth, formally connects the two cities, Hennepin County, two local school districts and two local community colleges in a shared effort to invest in community youth. Local leaders from across the area have rallied together to push for expanded afterschool programming as a means to foster collective ownership of youth development initiatives.

With such a high level of cross-system buy-in, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center have been able to expand their efforts and involve a wide range of invested partners. Police officers, educators, and city leaders are engaged as mentors, and young people have access to a diverse range of community members who are actively committed to their future.

Whether formal or informal partnerships between nonprofits, local businesses, and city and school leadership, collaboration is essential for small and rural communities and critical to successful afterschool programs. This culture is strengthened when young people see all of these individuals and institutions come together to support their success.