A new year means new goals, and fresh opportunities to reach greater heights. Which is why - after reading WeAreTeacher’s “6 New Year’s Resolutions for Teachers” - we decided to share a few goals program leaders can set to improve their program’s success.

And, while a new calendar year generally means you’re only halfway through the school year, it’s never too late - or too early - to devise a plan and set it in motion. So, without further ado, here are New Year’s resolutions that every program leader should have on her list:

  1. Become an after school advocate. 2015 was a monumental year for the after school community - particularly with the reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which secured and increased funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative. The bill’s success is due, in part, to the relentless advocacy of the field, led mostly by the After school Alliance. There’s more work to do, and you can add your voice to the conversation. To get started, check out these tips for advocating in your local community.
  2. Consider students’ interests and background. Recent research found that interest can help students think more clearly, understand more deeply and remember more accurately. By participating in activities that interest them and are relevant to their lives, students are more likely to be engaged as well as learn new skills.
  3. Market your program. Marketing helps to get the word out about your program, which can also help generate more resources, recruit volunteers and increase student participation. While some programs use comprehensive marketing plans, there are simple, inexpensive ways to market your after school program.
  4. Encourage parent involvement. Parent engagement is a key predictor of students’ academic success, and results in higher student attendance, higher graduation rates and improved attitudes, behaviors and overall well-being. Check out a few ways to effectively engage parents in your program without demanding too much of their time.
  5. Commit to continuous quality improvement. Quality improvement helps program leaders ensure their programs are effectively designed and delivered. Here are some things to keep in mind when evaluating program quality.
  6. Be an exceptional leader. Your ability to lead will have a direct impact on program staff and participating students. To learn about leadership strategies in after school, we recommend one of our favorite books by Paul Young, PhD: “Lead the Way: 24 Lessons in Leadership for After School Program Directors.”

As you take into account your personal resolutions, don’t forget to add a few - or all - of the above resolutions to your list!