Jennifer Jones, Project Director, Talks about Community Partnerships
Behind every great ELO is a great partnership. Beyond School Bells (BSB) envisions schools and communities teaming up to create sustainable, high-quality ELOs or Expanded Learning Programs. From youth organizations to local banks to colleges, for a quality ELO to thrive, it takes a community. But what is that relationship like and how does it form?
When the coalition of 8 ELO communities launched in 2013, Jennifer Jones was there to help them develop and grow partnerships. Since then the communities have grown their partners, presence, and promotional strategies. Jennifer describes her experience working directly with those locations.
- Describe what you do. How does your initiative/position impact ELOs?
“I am the Director of community initiatives —I work directly with programs/communities that are involved in our various initiatives and provide support and technical assistance. I am also very involved in the development of the resources that we have made available to ELO programs to help support their work in improving program quality and developing local partnerships.”
- What is the main purpose behind the coalition of ELO Communities?
“The coalition of ELO Communities focuses on communities forging quality and sustainability in their partnerships.”
- How have those communities that you’ve worked with changed?
“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth. Before that, it wasn’t a simple process. Those afterschool programs had to take the time to be intentional, to really think critically about how to develop partnerships – that was one of the main benefits of the grants. Those communities put a lot of time and energy into how to message themselves better. Every [ELO] program radically improved in their marketing; there is a tremendous value in the tools they’re equipped with.”
- Can you say more? What are some of the ways those communities improved their messaging and enhanced partnerships?
“We work with programs to create marketing tools, including infographics and one-pagers, highlighting the program’s importance. We wanted to give communities high-quality marketing materials they could use in their outreach efforts. Programs now have videos and information to present. They also have other promotional tools crafted around specific program areas that help them reach out and talk to their Chamber of Commerce, for example, or other potential partners. And we can see the gains in the dramatic growth of sustained partnerships in these communities. In many cases programs have doubled or even tripled their partnerships and expansion in STEM and the diversity of their programs. Before there wasn’t as much STEM or career educational programs.”
- What’s one super-important thing people may not know (and that we should) about BSB?
“We are launching our new online toolkit in March that includes expansive resources for communities seeking to start a sustainable afterschool or summer program, as well as layers of resources to help Nebraska ELO programs strengthen their current programming, develop local partnerships and [create] sustainability.”