Every organization strives to develop programming that delivers optimal outcomes for the people they serve. Thanks to their partnership with Aspire Toledo, YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo has a better understanding of their ability to meet the needs of the children they serve. By using Aspire Toledo resources as a guide, the Y has been able to demonstrate their programs’ effectiveness and overcome any barriers to continuous improvement.
Brad Toft had just signed on as the YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo’s President and CEO when Aspire Toledo was initially developing the five outcomes that have served as Aspire’s overarching principles. He immediately recognized that these outcomes aligned perfectly with the Y’s overall mission, and a solid partnership was quickly established between the two organizations. The team at the Y saw that a data-driven approach, would help the Y assess their strengths — and address any weaknesses.
Using Aspire Tools for Better Pre-K Outcomes
In looking at Aspire Toledo’s five outcomes, an opportunity immediately presented itself to apply Aspire Toledo’s resources to their pre-kindergarten programming. The Y could look at the tools at their disposal and how they could be enhanced.
“Initially,” he says, “our curriculum had existed on paper binders spread throughout the city. There was no quality control. We upgraded to an online system, where information could be accessed via an iPad. This gave us a centralized database that’s enabled our staff to work more closely with teachers.”
In addition, this software has an online validation tool that assesses staff member’s abilities in comparison with a master curriculum expert. The staff member views a hypothetical case and answers questions related to that case. In order to pass, the individual must achieve an 80% or higher. Every Y staffer passed, with an average score or 91%, providing proof positive that the Y’s approach was indeed valid.
The Y’s Youth Opportunities Program: Excellence in Action
The Youth Opportunities Program (YOP) offers year-round after-school programming for disadvantaged Lucas County residents age 16 to 21. This program helps young people achieve their fullest potential by offering everything from tutoring and supportive services to work experience and leadership development. The YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo has long touted the YOP as an exemplary program; in conjunction with Aspire Toledo, they’ve learned just how exception it truly is.
Much like Aspire Toledo, the YOP has benefitted greatly from integrating Lean Six Sigma methods into their program evaluation. By using the services of two Black Belts, on loan from The Andersons, Y staffers were able to define their focus area, identify any obstacles and ensure that intended outcomes were being met. In addition, they found that the YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo outperformed every other Y in terms of member engagement.
Clearly Defined Objectives for Clearly Better Outcomes
What ultimately makes a partnership between Aspire Toledo effective is that it gives organizations like the YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo a set of clear objectives that serve as guides throughout the program evaluation process. According to Brad Toft, “the evaluations help us understand what we’re measuring and how effectively we’re measuring it. Aspire Toledo’s model is based on continuous improvement, and its goals match perfectly with the Y’s objectives as they relate to preschool goals and member engagement.”
Katie Enright, Aspire Toledo’s Executive Director, agrees. “Aspire Toledo is dedicated to the idea that service organizations need to be built on a solid platform of success,” she says. “Our Program Assessment Tool gives programs like YOP a better understanding of the specific steps they can take to improve their service offerings.”
The YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo intends to apply Aspire Toledo tools as they assess their next set of services: 3rd grade reading. The Y serves more kids than anyone in the area, and they have the infrastructure necessary to implement the recommendations that come from working with us. At Aspire Toledo, we are confident that the YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo will once again demonstrate impressive results in this new endeavor, and that they will remain a valued partner for a long time to come.