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Snacks by Rachel Clark


Cast your vote in the 2017 Lights On Afterschool poster contest!

By Rachel Clark

Over the last few months, we’ve received hundreds of impressive submissions for the 2017 Lights On Afterschool poster contest. Using paint, crayons, colored pencils, mixed media, and even digital design tools, students of all ages from communities nationwide shared a wide variety of creative interpretations illustrating what afterschool means to them.

Given the volume of artwork we received, it was challenging to narrow down all of these submissions and select our finalists. After much debate, we’ve chosen four designs to advance to our round of online voting. Our finalists are:

  • Angela, an 11th grader from the Youth Policy Institute at Camino Nuevo HS – Miramar in Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Malisa, an 8th grader from the 21st Century Learning program in Kapolei, Hawaii
  • Pamela, an 8th grader from the Valley View Middle School Texas ACE Program in El Paso, Texas
  • Marquez, Ethan M., Andrew, Ethan B., Takhia, Gabby, and Janasia, a team of artists in grades 9 to 12 from BCHS 21st CCLC Afterschool Program in Bay Minette, Ala.

You can see previews of the finalist designs above—be sure to head over to our Facebook page to pick the winner! To vote, simply click “like” (or another reaction) on the image with your favorite artwork. You can vote for multiple designs if you’d like, but we encourage you to stick to picking one favorite—remember, voting for more than one design dilutes the power of your vote.

The voting period will close at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10. The finalist with the most likes and reactions at that time will be your 2017 Lights On Afterschool poster! The winning artist (or team of artists) will see their masterpiece featured on tens of thousands of posters at more than 8,000 Lights On Afterschool celebrations nationwide and take home $500 for their afterschool program.

The exemplary artwork we’ve seen this year not only demonstrates the amazing artistic talent being fostered in afterschool programs across the nation, but also how much students love their afterschool programs. Congratulations to this year’s finalists!

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learn more about: Arts


The president says afterschool doesn't work. That's just not true.

By Rachel Clark

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

This morning, President Trump unveiled his budget priorities for 2018. Among those priorities? Singling out afterschool funding for elimination.

The president’s budget justifies this devastating cut by claiming that “the programs lacks [sic] strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.” But the evidence is clear: 21st Century Community Learning Centers across the country help our students reach their full potential.

Afterschool works: the evidence

  • In Texas’ 21st CCLC programs, students with both low and high attendance levels were more likely to be promoted to the next grade. The longer students were in the program, the greater the impact reducing disciplinary incidents and school-day absences.
  • A statewide longitudinal evaluation of the After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) program—California’s high school component of the Community Learning Centers program—found that students participating in the ASSETs program received higher ELA and math assessment scores, and performed better on the ELA and math sections of the California High School Exit Examination than non-participants.
  • A statewide evaluation of Rhode Island’s 21st CCLC programs found that students participating in the program reported that they believed that the program helped them in academic and social/personal skill building.
  • Teachers of students participating in Wisconsin Community Learning Centers programs reported more than two-thirds improved their class participation, 60 percent saw improvements in their motivation to learn and 55 percent improved their behavior in class.

For additional details on these evaluations, download our 21st CCLC Statewide Evaluation Academic Highlights fact sheet.

Afterschool also shows returns on investment with reports from Minnesota, Vermont, Maryland, Oklahoma, and the national level showing that each dollar invested in afterschool saves up to $9 by increasing young people’s learning potential, improving student performance in school, and reducing crime and welfare costs. 

Want more evidence illustrating how Community Learning Centers and afterschool programs in general have a positive impact on student achievement and success? You’re in luck. Check out our 21st CCLC fact sheet; read After School Programs as an Oasis of Hope for Black Parents, a report co-authored by Gerard Robinson, now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; or delve into the wealth of information within Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success, a compendium of studies, reports and commentaries by more than 100 thought leaders.

Communities without Community Learning Centers: the impact

In 2017, more than a million students are served by 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Kids and families in all fifty states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have access to afterschool options that rely on this federal investment—and could be left in the cold if Community Learning Centers are eliminated.

What could this mean for families in your community? Find out how many thousands of children are currently served by Community Learning Centers in your state—and would be left without an afterschool program if the president’s budget proposal is enacted.

How can afterschool supporters fight back?

If enacted, the president’s budget could devastate more than a million families in all parts of the country. In addition to 21st CCLC, a wide range of other supports for families and children could face cuts as well. Fortunately, the battle has just begun: the president’s proposal faces hurdles in Congress, and there’s time for Congress to stand up for afterschool programs.  

To make sure our allies in Congress stand strong for afterschool funding, we need to tell them loud and clear: Americans support afterschool and summer learning programs! Take action now.

Do you represent a local, state or national organization? You can make an even bigger impact by signing our letter of support.



New research: afterschool STEM helps close America's skills gap

By Rachel Clark

21st century skills like critical thinking and perseverance are in high demand in today’s workforce—but executives report a severe gap between the skills they need and the skills workers have. New findings from the Afterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016, previewed today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., demonstrate that afterschool programs play a vital role in closing the gap by helping students develop the skills to succeed in school, work, and life.

Supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and STEM Next, the study surfaced several key findings that illustrate the potential for afterschool to prepare students for future success:

  • 72 percent of students reported an increase in their perseverance and critical thinking skills
  • 73 percent reported an increase in their personal belief that they can succeed at science
  • 78 percent reported a positive change in their interest in science
  • 80 percent reported a positive gain in their science career knowledge

Check out findings from the study in the new “STEM Ready America” compendium, alongside articles from 40 experts and thought leaders in the out-of-school time and STEM learning spaces—and stay tuned for the release of the full study later this month.

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Science


Parents share why they love their kids' afterschool programs

By Rachel Clark

A West Virginia parent (L) and Alaska student (R) share why they love their afterschool programs. Photos via @WVSAN and @AKAfterschool.

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day with loved ones, family, and friends, many afterschool students, staff, and supporters are sharing from the heart why they love afterschool.

In addition to sharing on social media, parents from communities across the country have written heartwarming love letters to the afterschool programs they and their children rely on every day. The reasons afterschool is close to their hearts are as diverse as the afterschool field itself.

Afterschool supports working parents

For Pennsylvania mom Tami Reichman, the LifeSpan afterschool program offers job security and the priceless peace of mind of knowing her kids are safe and learning while she’s at work.

“As a single mom of two who is working full time while earning her bachelor’s degree, it’s important for me to have someplace safe for my children to go after school,” Tami shared with The Morning Call.

“With my job as a shipping manager, I can’t afford to miss days of work because of inclement weather or school holidays. LifeSpan offers care right at the school so my children have somewhere safe and supervised to go.”

Afterschool gives students the tools to achieve

Amanda Owens of West Valley City, Utah, loves her son’s afterschool program because it’s given him more confidence in school.

“For years my son struggled with reading. The help and tutoring he's received from the afterschool teachers has been immense,” Amanda wrote in The Salt Lake Tribune. “I cannot imagine how far behind in reading he would be without the afterschool program. Now he's no longer embarrassed to read. He even gets excited to read to his younger siblings!”



Easy Valentine's activity: Share why your students love afterschool!

By Rachel Clark

This month, we’re celebrating the millions of reasons to love America’s afterschool programs, and we want to see why you and your students love afterschool!

Joining in can make for an easy and fun activity for your program in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. We’ve already seen programs in Washington and Alaska invite students to participate, with some unique and creative results.

Taking part is simple. All you have to do is:

  1. Download the toolkit.
  2. Make copies of the included We Love Afterschool sign.
  3. Ask students (and parents!) to fill them out.
  4. Snap photos of the finished product and share them on social media with the hashtag #AfterschoolWorks!

Ready to get started? Download the toolkit now.

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learn more about: Afterschool Voices Marketing


Do you love afterschool? Proclaim it loudly!

By Rachel Clark

By Matt Freeman

“This year, my Valentine is to a program that makes all the difference for me and for my family,” So began West Valley City, Utah, resident Amanda Owens in her Salt Lake Tribune letter-to-the editor in 2015. The “program” she went on to describe was her son’s afterschool program, run by the Community Education Partnership.

Amanda Owens is not alone. For the past several years, a number of parents of children in afterschool programs around the nation have sent similar letters to their local newspapers explaining from the heart why they love their children’s afterschool programs.

Are you a parent with a child in afterschool who feels the same way? Or are you a program provider with parents who might be willing to send a letter?

If yes, here are few questions Valentine letter writers might consider as they write.

  • Do you love that your child’s afterschool programs helps with homework?
  • Do you love that your child’s program keeps her or him safe in the afternoons and during the summer?
  • Do you love that your child’s program gives her or him opportunities to get physical exercise, and provides healthy snacks or meals?
  • Do you love the way afterschool program staff care for your child?
  • Do you love the way your child’s eyes sparkle when she or he talks about what they do in the afternoons?

It’s easy to submit letters-to-the-editor; most newspapers will take them via their website or by email. To find out about word limits and how to submit, just do a web search for the name of your newspaper and the words “letter-to-the-editor submission.” If that doesn’t work, try going to the newspaper’s website, finding the letters section and looking for submission guidelines.

But the most important tip is the obvious one: Write from the heart!

That tip also applies to another way you can show why you love afterschool: social media. We’ve created a simple toolkit with guidelines and a printable that you and the afterschool students, parents and providers in your life can use to share what you love about these programs.

Participating is simple: Just print a page straight from the toolkit, fill it out with the heartfelt reasons you love afterschool, snap a photo of the finished product, and share it on your favorite social media sites using the hashtag #AfterschoolWorks (for example, “#AfterschoolWorks for my students!”).

We can’t wait to see the reasons you and the parents of kids in your program love afterschool. Be sure to tag us @afterschool4all on Twitter and Instagram or @afterschoolalliancedc on Facebook so that we see your social media posts and any letters-to-the-editor that you get published!

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learn more about: Afterschool Voices


7 tips for connecting with newly elected officials on social media

By Rachel Clark

As elected officials take office in communities across the country, we in the afterschool field have an important opportunity to introduce ourselves to newly elected officials, reconnect with reelected policy makers, and remind our representatives of afterschool’s impact in the communities they serve.

The first things you should do: familiarize yourself with winning candidates’ priorities and stances on the issues, write introductory letters to newly elected officials, and invite policy makers to visit your afterschool program.

But as you wait for your letters to be delivered or to get a visit scheduled, reaching out to your representatives online is an easy and effective way to put afterschool on their radar. Here’s how:

  1. New to social media? Learn the basics. Our social media resources include introductory Facebook and Twitter tipsheets, popular hashtags in the afterschool community, and two webinars on social media strategy.
  2. Find out how to get in touch with your representatives. Find social media handles for your local policy makers in our interactive database. Simply enter your program’s address to see if the local, state and federal officials who represent you are active on social media and how you can reach them.
  3. Make it clear that you’re a constituent. Policy makers’ offices receive thousands of letters, emails, and social media messages each day, so they generally only have time to acknowledge and respond to residents of their own districts. If your city and state aren’t publicly available on the social media profile you’re using for your outreach, it won’t be clear that you’re a constituent, and your message is much more likely to be ignored.
  4. Tell the stories of the people who are impacted by your program. Collect short anecdotes from students, parents, teachers, local business leaders, law enforcement officers, and other community partners explaining in a few words why afterschool works for them. Tell your program’s story through their testimonials by sharing those quotes with elected officials on social media.
  5. Run the numbers. Policy makers want to know how issues affect their constituents. Supplement personal stories from your program with America After 3PM statistics from your state to drive home the widespread demand and support for afterschool programs in your community.
  6. Mention your federal or state funding streams. Does your program get funding through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, the Child Care Development Fund, or other federal or state funding streams? Be sure to note that in your outreach to emphasize the importance of these investments (e.g. “With support from Community Learning Centers, kids in [program name] are performing better in math.”).
  7. Have a specific ask. Your outreach should drive toward a goal—ideally, getting an elected official or a member of their staff to visit your program and see afterschool in action! When you connect with policy makers on social media, try to include a few words inviting them to see afterschool for themselves. Afterschool Ambassador Brent Cummings successfully used this tactic to secure a site visit from a U.S. Senator!  

We know from academic research and surveys of congressional staff that policy makers are listening to constituent voices on social media. In one survey, 80 percent of congressional staff reported that getting their attention takes fewer than 30 posts or comments about an issue! For state and local officials, the threshold to get afterschool on their radar is likely even lower.

With online outreach, a small investment of time can make a big impact and help lay the foundation for a long and rewarding partnership with your representatives.

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learn more about: Advocacy Marketing


Looking back at 2016 in the afterschool field

By Rachel Clark

2016 was an eventful year for the United States and the world, and the changes that were set into motion this year are impacting the afterschool field just as they’ve affected communities across the country.

As we look ahead to the year to come, take a moment to bid farewell to 2016 and look back at some of the biggest moments of the year.

  1. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Election Day was easily the most consequential moment of 2016 for our country. Take a look at our early analysis of what the Trump Administration could mean for the afterschool field.
  2. A new Congress was elected. Though Donald Trump’s victory was the biggest story on Election Day, the afterschool field should pay close attention to the 115th Congress, which is set to make big moves in the next several months. Learn what afterschool advocates should look for in the first few months of 2017.
  3. New research highlighted the wide-ranging impact of America’s afterschool programs. This year, we finished up the 2014 America After 3PM series with our first-ever special reports on afterschool in rural America and afterschool in communities of concentrated poverty. New reports also highlighted the impacts of afterschool STEM and the state of computer science education in afterschool.
  4. Lights On Afterschool partnered with two NBA teams to kick off the 2016 celebration. In one of our most exciting Lights On kickoffs to date, we joined NBA Math Hoops to celebrate afterschool with a Math Hoops tournament before the Golden State Warriors faced off against the Sacramento Kings in San Jose, Calif. The tournament winners—and the beginning of the national rally for afterschool programs—were even recognized at halftime!
  5. Notable shifts occurred in state legislatures. With party control switching in seven chambers and voters in two states passing three ballot initiatives that could impact afterschool funding, November 8 was an important day at the ballot box for many states.
  6. President-elect Trump announced his nominee for education secretary. Betsy DeVos, a philanthropist and former chairwoman of the Republican Party of Michigan, is a longtime school choice advocate whose family foundation has supported local afterschool providers in the past.
  7. Diverse partnerships brightened Lights On Afterschool 2016. From the tenth annual lighting of the Empire State Building in honor of afterschool to a Senate resolution recognizing the celebration, partnerships at the local, state and national levels made this year’s rally shine.

What was the biggest moment of 2016 for you and your afterschool program? We want to hear from you! Share a photo of your favorite or most important memory on Instagram and tag @afterschool4all for a chance to be featured.