Afterschool Innovators Honored

Afterschool programs in California, Idaho, Michigan, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., were honored by the Afterschool Alliance and MetLife Foundation for innovative and fresh approaches that help middle school students succeed in their programs, in school and in life. The winning programs received $10,000 each to expand their work. This year’s winners focused on arts, digital learning, school improvement and parental engagement to boost student success.

“Children learn in a variety of ways and middle school is the perfect time to take advantage of a student’s natural curiosity and interest in learning new things,” said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “We are pleased to join the Afterschool Alliance in recognizing five afterschool programs that represent some of the most exciting innovations in expanding horizons and helping middle school students achieve their full potential.”

The 2012 Afterschool Innovator Award winners are:

  • California: The Wooden Floor in Santa Ana, for using dance to empower low-income youth and strengthen their self-esteem, self-discipline and sense of accomplishment, as well as problem-solving, teamwork, leadership and other skills.
  • Idaho: Parma Learning Center, for its partnership with Parma Unified School District, which utilizes 21st Century Community Learning Center and School Improvement Grant funding to provide hands-on activities, including robotics, broadcasting and gardening, to teach math and science skills and support overall school improvement efforts.
  • Michigan: Green Energy Technology in the City (GET City) in Lansing, for taking advantage of digital learning to provide hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming for low-income and underrepresented youth.
  • Wisconsin: Latino Arts Strings & Mariachi Juvenil Program in Milwaukee, for a high-quality, skills-based musical program that prepares middle school students to participate in top-level high school orchestra programs.
  • Washington, D.C.: Kid Power, Inc. - The VeggieTime Project, for involving students’ families in regular gardening and cooking activities to encourage healthy eating habits.

Every program honored as an Afterschool Innovator has been or will be highlighted in an Issue Brief on the Afterschool Alliance’s website, addressing the ways in which afterschool programs benefit middle school students. The Afterschool Alliance’s Issue Brief series examines the role of afterschool programs in addressing a variety of contemporary issues facing youth, schools and communities.

Representatives of MetLife and the Afterschool Alliance presented the awards at special local ceremonies that were part of Lights On Afterschool in October and early November.

“Afterschool programs are terrific settings for innovation,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “In afterschool programs, directors and staff have the flexibility to try creative and unusual approaches to learning and building skills that can help kids succeed in school and in life. We’re so grateful to MetLife Foundation for working with us to highlight and recognize these outstanding programs.”

This story originally appeared in the Afterschool Advocate (Vol. 13, Issue 11).

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