IAN Spring Virtual Conference – Mar 29-31, 2023

Save the dates!  March 29 – 31, 2023 for the exciting jam-packed IAN Spring Virtual Conference! 

Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and the success of the 2022 virtual conference, after careful thought and consideration, the IAN board has decided to hold the 2023 IAN Spring Conference virtually.  As optimistic as we are for the Covid numbers decreasing here in Illinois, we looked at our commitment to safety, affordability and access for providers across the entire state, the decision was made in this way.

Given the successful feedback and support from the afterschool field we are confident in delivering another engaging and impactful conference in the remote setting.

We hope you save the dates now and make plans to attend!  More information to come in the coming months.

Congratulations to our 2022 Spring Conference Award Winners!

Congratulations to our 2022 Illinois After School Network Spring Conference Award Winners. They are all very deserving, and it has been our honor to recognize them all for their great work this year.

Rich Scofield Award Winner:
Dr. Lolita Cleveland, Youth Guidance

IAN Jill Bradley Best Practice Award Winner:
By the Hand Club for Kids – Moving Everest, Chicago, Illinois

Deb Nelson Board Leadership Award Winner:
Deborah Rogers-Jaye, IAN Membership/Marketing Committee

Top 5 Tips for Developing Positive Relationships with Parents

It’s easy to look at our AfterSchool programs as being for youth, but our relationships with families are just as important as our relationships with youth. While every provider-parent relationship is unique, there are some general rules that – when followed, drive stronger & healthier relationships with families.

Check out the top 5 tips from our pals at Edutopia!

1. Smile When You See Parents

Believe it or not, parents are just as intimidated to meet you as you are to meet them. A genuine smile breaks the tension between both parties and helps ease the conversation toward where it needs to go.

2. Learn Their Names

By demonstrating that you know their names, you’re really demonstrating your dedication to a personalized learning experience. It may not be immediately reciprocated, but it still builds a positive connotation in that parent / guardian’s mind.

3. Declare Your Intention

When parents look at their relationship with staff as a partnership, they’ll be more willing to work with you on key issues. They’re also less likely to push back on your feedback, which gives all parties room to grow.

4. Communicate Often, and in Different Ways

There are many channels that you can use to keep a flow of open communication with families. Even if your program doesn’t offer it, having an email list of parents and guardians will allow you more flexibility and access to reach out when you need to. 

5. Make a Positive Call Home

Sending children off to school can be overwhelming for some families, and having positive reasons to speak with teachers and staff are something that most parents don’t expect. Solidify your relationship by demonstrating that you’re rooting for the student.

Feeling inspired? You can find more ways to connect to families at

Good Communication Helps To Make a Good Team

Having a dependable team is important to success. As a team leader, you have to be able to rely on your team members to know their role, and to communicate any potential challenges. But good communication practices come from the top, and your team is likely looking to you for cues. 

Being able to communicate effectively is key to having a successful team, but knowing how to communicate with other team members can be a hurdle for many team leaders. Often, it’s not what you say, but the way you say it that is that most important.  Everyone communicates differently.  Knowing your style and tendencies is a first step to good communication – and knowing more about your team’s communication style helps to make communication more effective.

In Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies, she asks the simple question – ‘How do I respond to expectations?’. By knowing how you respond to outer and inner expectations you gain insight into yourself. When you know how others respond to expectations, you can understand them better and how to communicate with them more effectively. 

“People fit into Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding this framework lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.”

-Gretchen Rubin
Author – “The Four Tendencies”

Curious as to which tendencies you gravitate toward most? Take the quiz on the author’s site to learn more about your own communication style!

Support IAN in the New Year – Friends of IAN Day

Illinois Afterschool Network develops the afterschool leaders of today through quality professional development opportunities.

By making a tax-deductible donation or signing up as a monthly contributor to IAN, you are helping support professional development programming for the afterschool community, thus creating a positive impact for students, families, and communities throughout all of Illinois.

Afterschool Educators in Illinois to Receive Free Professional Development for Next Four Years

The Illinois Afterschool Network has been chosen to participate in the National Science Foundation Scale-up Grant. IAN was one of 3 states (New York and Missouri), chosen by the ACRES (After School Coaching for Reflective Educators in STEM) Project to serve as a Hub of professional learning. During this three year, multi-million-dollar scale-up grant, the Illinois Afterschool Network will offer free coaching to afterschool educators who wish to hone their STEM facilitation skills, and will have extensive support to train afterschool leaders as coaches. 

The ACRES project has received national accolades for virtual and innovative coaching in STEM for Afterschool programs. The Illinois AfterSchool Network had several educators participate in the pilot program over the last few years. One participant had this to say about the experience;” I would say that it was a hands-on training with amazing documents that we continue to use to this day. It was great for staff to get together in this format explaining how to work with STEM projects with students”

The Illinois Afterschool Network will receive funding and support to, first train coaches and then offer free professional learning statewide with an emphasis on central and downstate Illinois. There will be increased opportunities to reflect on how programs can make STEM career connections and STEM equity will be a focus our work. There will be no fees to participate, lots of resources will be extended to all participants, and there will even be stipends available to those that participate in MMSA’s educational research as we wrap up the four year project.

Further details about the Illinois project is forthcoming.

Contact Information
To learn more about the how to take advantage of these opportunities visit
Illinois Project Leader: Curtis Peace

IAN Trainer Spotlight: Big Brothers Big Sisters Roundtable Discussion

IAN Trainer
Miesha Ransom

North Region Brand Ambassador, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Chicago

BBBS Roundtable Discussion
November 12, 2021
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Registration Link

Miesha Ransom is the North Region Brand Ambassador with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Chicago (BBBSChi).   Born and raised in Michigan, Miesha was a first-generation college student/graduate, and holds a master’s degree from Roosevelt University.  

Miesha has been with the BBBSChi for three years, working diligently to raise awareness about this FREE mentoring program accessible to Chicagoland youth and how it’s socio-emotional and educational impact matters.   During this time she has also helped increase youth and family engagement through development of inaugural events such as “Snack Break with BBBS” and “BBBSChi College and Career Day”. 

This session will highlight the history of BBBSChi agency, it’s purpose, the population it serves, select match stories, and other BBBS agency locations available throughout the state of Illinois. 

IAN and Safe2Help Illinois Announce Strategic Partnership

Affiliation aims to offer support to after-school providers

Many thanks to the providers who attended our Professional Development Roundtable Discussion Friday, September 24 with our newest strategic partner, Safe2Help Illinois. During the presentation, Samantha Kanish, Marketing & Outreach Coordinator, talked about their invaluable resources, tips and tools developed to share with educators, parents and the community at large. As a strategic partner, we are proud to now share the toolkit with providers here in Illinois! Going forward, there will be more shared about our strategic partnership regarding professional development opportunities.

More about Safe2 Help Illinois: In the absence of a trusted adult, Safe2Help Illinois offers students a safe, confidential way to share information that might help prevent suicides, bullying, school violence or other threats to student safety. This program is not intended to suspend, expel, or punish students. Rather, the goal is to encourage students to Seek Help Before Harm.

Safe2Help Illinois is more than a free information sharing platform. Safe2Help Illinois provides tips, tools and resources to help teachers, educators, parents and the community by providing additional educational resources for youth in Pre-K through High School.

About Safe2Help:
Safe2Help Illinois is a 24/7 program where students can use a free app, text/phone, website ( and other social media platforms to report school safety issues in a confidential environment. Once vetted, the tips will immediately be shared with local school officials, mental health professionals and/or local law enforcement, depending on the nature of the tip. The program also will help local officials by connecting them with mental health resources or other appropriate resources to intervene and help students before they harm themselves or others.