The Wyoming Afterschool Alliance (WYAA) was initiated in the summer of 2006 under the name the Wyoming Afterschool Network, as it was recognized that a
core advocacy focus would be needed to ensure the full potential of out-of-school time programming throughout Wyoming.
On June 22, 2006, WYAA held its first formal meeting with key stakeholders and potential partners from all segments of Wyoming youth development and
education communities. This meeting was the culmination of many months of planning, development and communications with leaders from state agencies, public and private organizations as well as state policy makers. This was a
pivotal moment in the advancement of an afterschool network for Wyoming.
During the second meeting in September 2006 the attending partners agreed that if there was enough interest in advocacy on behalf of out-of-school time programming to begin operating as a coalition. The Wyoming Afterschool Alliance was formed as a result of this meeting.
In October 2007, the C.S. Mott Foundation accepted the WYAA's proposal to become a statewide afterschool network. The C.S. Mott Foundation provided WYAA with $65,000 per year for three years to accomplish the goals of the network. The funds allowed WYAA the opportunity to work with community and district afterschool programs to accomplish those goals, which are linked to the state and education goals.
More than 40 additional partners from across the state also support WYAA's vision. That support included then Governor Dave Freudenthal and Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jim McBride who both provided letters of support as part of the WYAA grant application.
During the first year of operation, the main priority of WYAA was to focus activities and attention on developing the network infrastructure along with education and outreach to communities and organizations across the state. In order to establish the organization statewide, WYAA spent the better part of 2008 reaching out across the state to a variety of organizations and communities to educate and provide information on the value of afterschool programs. It was the intention that this initial first year investment and commitment in time, money and effort made the difference between being "little known" and being an organization with expertise that can offer quality technical assistance and be a clearinghouse for critical resources and information dissemination.
Progress continued to be made as WYAA became more recognized in the state as a viable resource for providing technical assistance and by providing relevant and timely information through the website and listserv. Wyoming has its own unique set of challenges, and we found that whenever possible, an on-site visit is preferable. It provided an opportunity to visit with the community, understand its student and family demographics, as well as its geographical and physical consideration. WYAA's site visits to Pinedale, Big Piney, Wamsutter and Cheyenne to facilitate focus groups provided technical assistance and helped initiate viability studies for afterschool programs in the communities.
WYAA continued to be consistent with public outreach to maintain high visibility. These included presentations to sources such as the Wyoming School Board Association, Wyoming Association of School Administrators, as well as board positions on advisory councils and task-forces such as Senate File 70-State At-Risk Taskforce and Maternal and Child Health 2011-2015 Needs Assessment Population Workgroup.
On June 3-5, 2009, WYAA and ServeWyoming (AmeriCorps/Learn and Serve America) partnered to launch the 1st Annual WYAA State Conference on Afterschool Programs. It was a great success with 130 participants in attendance over two and one-half days. With a pre-conference sponsored by ServeWyoming, WYAA worked in conjunction to ensure that the sessions were relevant to both sets of attendees. In addition, the conference also featured a World Cafe, Quantum Learning Session and several keynotes geared towards inspiring and energizing the attendees.
2010 and Beyond
The Achievement Project is an integral expansion and extension of the core work of WYAA, which includes support and promoting school-community partnerships, research and policy development and advancing the principles of program quality. The project will support progress toward consistent implementation of high quality programming by encouraging statewide program use of research-based assessment tools and frameworks. WYAA wants to focus on statewide policy development through stakeholder-informed research on the effectiveness of Wyoming afterschool programs by designing and developing a longitudinal research and needs assessment in a joint partnership with the Third Mile Group of Denver, CO and the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College.
The ultimate goal will be to develop a professional development system of standards and curriculum for the afterschool workforce that can be included to expand existing "WY Quality Coiunts!" initiative and statute provided through the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. "WY Quality Counts!" currently provides tuition reimbursement and training opportunities for early care providers and staff ensuring Wyoming's children receive high quality services based on universal best practices. WYAA will be working to ensure this initiative will also include the afterschool workforce. This specific model of a statewide needs assessment that can be utilized to inform and expand existing policy is a unique undertaking. Moreover, if this project demonstrates the anticipated success, it can be developed for replication by NIOST as a model for other states.