In selecting the NAA’s Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders 2021, the National AfterSchool Association sought to highlight emerging leaders who are making contributions that influence programs and organizations, and have the potential for long-term and broad impact on the afterschool field. The individuals are active in the broader afterschool community, demonstrate the NAA Core Competencies, possess passion for the profession and for their work as an emerging leader, have a clear purpose in their efforts to support others, and show determination to grow as leaders in the field of afterschool.
This year’s list included 46 outstanding individuals from across the county. Prime Time is happy to announce that both of the practitioners selected from South Florida come from programs currently enrolled in the Palm Beach County Quality Improvement System. Congratulations to Travis Conway from Edna Runner Tutorial Center and Michelle Cook from Urban Youth Impact for being recognized for their hard work and the lasting impact they have made and continue to make for the children and youth in their programs.
Travis Conway currently serves as the program director at Edna Runner Tutorial Center in Jupiter, Florida. This Palm Beach County Quality Improvement System participant provides afterschool, spring break, and summer camp services for more than 125 elementary and middle school-aged students. The Tutorial Center fosters educational achievement, positive self-esteem, and character development in a supportive and safe environment so that young people can flourish and grow to their fullest potential.
Before working for Edna Runner Tutorial Center, Travis was a one of the countless children whose lives were impacted positively by attending its afterschool program. His experiences helped him create memorable moments for the children and youth currently enrolled.
Another key impact afterschool practitioners are able to make, is being a caring adult for the children and youth at their program. Travis uses his naturally engaging personality, to build strong relationships for the children he serves.
“I’m authentically me! I learned early on that pretending to be someone you’re not, will not take you far.”
Through his commitment to always showing his authentic self, Travis has formed lasting connections with the children and youth he serves and has grown into one of the brightest stars in the afterschool field. When asked about the future Travis notes that he doesn’t know exactly what the future may hold, but his commitment to children and youth will not change.
“I’m not so sure what the future will look like, but I hope I’m still in a leadership role in the afterschool or education field.”
While the future may be full of many uncertainties, we know for certain that it will be incredibly bright for Travis Conway!
Michelle Cook currently serves as the Guidance Serves Coordinator at Urban Youth Impact, a Palm Beach County Quality Improvement System participant that serves the most at-risk inner-city youth in Palm Beach County through their award-winning afterschool program. It is here that they are loved through trusting relationships, equipped with academics to succeed in school, empowered with leadership skills to begin successful careers, their potential is expanded by discovering artistic and creative talents and they are guided to discover their purpose in life.
Michelle plays a large part in the program’s nurturing atmosphere, as she has a gift for working with children some may mislabel as the “bad kids,” because she knows that no child is truly bad, and all children deserve to feel loved.
Michelle credits her ability to stay calm, her understanding of the needs that behaviors communicate, and the unconditional love she has for each and every child as the skills that have served her best in her career in afterschool.
“I have worked really hard alongside the amazing team at Urban Youth Impact to find a balance between connection and correction in our afterschool setting. This combination of genuine care and structure provides our youth with an optimal environment for building relationships and learning.”
It’s through this balance that Michelle hopes she is able to leave a lasting impact with the children and youth she serves. This impact will only continue to grow as she continues her rise in the afterschool field. She is currently working on her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, which she plans to use to better serve the children and youth that come through the doors at Urban Youth Impact
“My hope is to grow a team of people who can coach and support our kids and staff with tools for social and emotional learning. My dream is that one day, I will be able to provide therapy and a whole team of therapists at Urban Youth Impact for our kids and families!”
Through her continued hard work and dedication to supporting the children she serves, it’s only a matter of time before her dreams become reality.
Congratulations Travis and Michelle! We are so proud of all of your hard work, accomplishments and commitment to the children and youth of Palm Beach County. We hope you share in the excitement about these leaders, their incredibly bright futures and how their contributions are shaping the next generation of the afterschool field both in Palm Beach County and across the country.