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Forum Executives Among Nation’s Top Afterschool Leaders

Karen Pittman and Charles Smith named to 25 Most Influential Leaders in Afterschool by National AfterSchool Association.
Press Release
April 9, 2014

Who does the most to shape the nation’s afterschool field? The National AfterSchool Association just named the 25 most influential leaders – including the CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment and the executive director of its Weikart Center on Youth Program Quality.

Karen Pittman and Charles Smith were among the leaders named today by the NAA, which focused on those “whose service, research, and action influence and impact large numbers of children and families,” said NAA Executive Director Gina Warner. “These leaders bring positive attention and investment to the field of afterschool.”

What’s most important about these awards, Pittman said, is that “the NAA is lifting the profile of the afterschool field, and making practitioners more aware of the people and innovations that have brought afterschool to where it is today so that the next generation can better shape tomorrow.”

The winners will be introduced in a special edition of the NAA’s AfterSchool Today magazine this spring. The Forum for Youth Investment congratulates all the winners for their impact and for their recognition by the NAA.

Pittman and Smith have focused much of their efforts on promoting quality improvements in afterschool services.

Karen Pittman

What she’s done
Pittman started her career at the Urban Institute, conducting studies on social services for children and families. She later moved to the Children’s Defense Fund, launching its adolescent pregnancy prevention initiatives and helping to create its adolescent policy agenda. In 1990 she became a vice president at the Academy for Educational Development, and in 1995 joined the Clinton administration as director of the President's Crime Prevention Council. From there she moved to the executive team of the International Youth Foundation, helped to create America’s Promise Alliance, and launched the Forum for Youth Investment with Irby. Read a short biography here.

What she’s proud of
Asked by the NAA what accomplishments she is most proud of, Pittman said, “The most important things Forum co-founder Merita Irby and I have done for the field are to promote the importance of program quality standards as a way to codify the ‘how’ of afterschool, and to finance the creation of the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, which has brought the science of quality improvement into practice.” 

Charles Smith

What he’s done
Smith impact on the field began when he was a student at Wayne State University, where he co-founded, implemented and evaluated the Youth Urban Agenda Civic Literacy Project. He later joined the High/Scope Foundation, where he managed research and technical assistance projects in the early childhood and out-of-school time fields. As head of the David P. Weikart Center on Youth Program Quality, Smith led the development and validation of one of the field’s most prominent performance improvement tools, the Youth Program Quality Assessment. Read a short biography here.

What he foresees
Asked by the NAA about the future of the afterschool field, Smith said he hopes that in 10 years the field will be “a lot closer to the goal of stable public funding for a greater proportion of a larger out-of-school time/expanded learning/afterschool sector. I also see our field becoming the exemplar for what many refer to currently with the term collective impact.”


The National AfterSchool Association is the membership association for professionals who work with children and youth in diverse school and community-based settings to provide a wide variety of extended learning opportunities and care during out-of-school hours.

The Forum for Youth Investment is a nonprofit, nonpartisan action tank dedicated to helping communities and the nation make sure all young people are ready by 21 – ready for college, work and life.

The Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, a division of the Forum, empowers education and human service leaders to adapt, implement and bring to scale best-in-class, research-validated quality improvement systems to advance child and youth development.


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