Once I was all settled and had met people and had my desk built and could actually dial both in and out of the office, I turned my attention to getting to know my program. My first full week of work all I did was read and ask questions. I grabbed the original grant for the 9 site program and read the whole thing. I grabbed the original grants for the other two sites (each with its own grant) and read those. I read the entire CIPAS report (still don't know for what it stands but basically they kind of critique your afterschool program and offer "expert insight" into improvements and what is going well) as well as all the materials the program provided the CIPAS team.
Then, after reading hundreds of pages in binders at my desk, I started reading hundreds of pages online at my desk. Since the funding stream for my program came out of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act it made sense for me to learn about the damn thing. Then I read about the 21st Century Community Learning Centers itself and about how the funding has been stunted (at one point it was actually reduced) even though NCLB contains numbers for the amount of dollars to be earmarked each successive year. After that I began reading about federal grant opportunities. CCDF grants, TANF funds, DOJ grants, the Federal Projects Titles I-V, even the CDC, Staples, and LEGO have grants out there.
What did I do with all the info that could possibly pertain to the program? Well, I put it in a folder I made. As my first month went by the only section that really had anything in it was the sustainability section. I had found models to use, pdf files pertaining specifically to 21st CCLC sites, lists pertaining to NH grants and even smaller, Manchester only grants for which the program could apply.
Another big part of my job is to create databases and track people/funding and events. Well funding, not so much - but people, I'm all over that. I began compiling the names and contact info of every person with whom the program had ever worked. This, of course, was no easy task. Since the program never really had a good administrative assistant (apparently it had one that was mediocre at best and ended up screwing up more stuff) none of this information was really easily attainable. Sure, there were folders from past providers and companies, but I had to take names off of emails and search MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding) for contact people and then use the internet or go back to another email to get contact information. Not that I ever complained. It gave me something to do and I plugged along like a good little VISTA. Eventually I had a bunch of names and, after repeatedly asking Donna "so who was this person?" and "what is our relationship with this person?", I had an inkling of what the program was really doing and with whom it was currently working.
But once I had all these names I didn't really know what I supposed to do with them. Then I looked at my work plan again and I figured it out. In order to "build the capacity" of the program I needed, and still need, to figure out what the teachers, children, parents, and providers think of the program. And, it occurred to me, if I needed to recruit people for sustainability subcommittees why not kill two birds with one stone? That's when I started emailing people...