The chance to hang out with LeBron James, the Miami Heat power forward, is pretty rare. But even rarer is the chance for 10 academic all-stars from Akron Public Schools Extended Learning program to be flown to Miami and share the stage with James as he was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player for the fourth time.
Last Friday afternoon Akron students were sitting in class at Seiberling Elementary School in Akron, Ohio, but on Sunday morning, the 10 academic all-stars were enjoying a gourmet breakfast in a swanky dining room at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami, courtesy of the LeBron James Family Foundation. This was one of the many rewards for being selected out of the nearly 500 children participating in the foundation’s Wheels for Education program.
From Alabama to Washington state and places in between, afterschool programs are embracing the USDA Child and Adult Care Feeding Program’s (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Meals program. This spring, hundreds of afterschool programs are providing nutritious meals at no cost to those children who need them most. With summer around the corner, providers are also taking part in the Summer Food Service Program to ensure young people have the nourishment they need when school is out. Here are a few examples from around the country:
- In Huntsville, Alabama, and the surrounding area, children will be able to receive three meals per weekday during the summer as part of Huntsville City Schools’ new Summer Feeding Program. Young people under the age of 18 will be able to enjoy up to three meals per day at no cost at 10 area schools through the Summer Food Service Program. Summer learning programs will be offered at most of the schools allowing students to nourish both minds and bodies.
- The Albuquerque Journal recently reported on a number of schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico, including Kirtland Elementary School, that started serving a meal as part of their afterschool program.
It seems these days that if you’re keeping up with what’s happening in education, you can’t help but hear about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Last week, our vice president for policy and research, Jen Rinehart, wrote a stellar blog that not only walks you through what the Common Core State Standards are, but explains why they were developed, what they mean for education policy and the valuable role the afterschool field can play to support learning under the Common Core.
To keep up the Afterschool Alliance’s drumbeat of providing the afterschool field with helpful information connecting afterschool and the Common Core, I tuned in to “Leveraging Expanded Learning Opportunities to Support Common Core Implementation,” a webinar hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and America’s Promise Alliance. The webinar featured Jenell Holsted, Ph.D. of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, who discussed a recent brief, “Making the Connection: Next Generation Learning and Expanded Learning Opportunities,” and Sarah Cruz, director of expanded learning opportunities at the Statewide Network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities (NJSACC), who shared information about New Jersey’s statewide pilot training program that helps providers align their programming with the Common Core State Standards.
With the sequester now in effect, 3,400 AmeriCorps positions are expected to be cut. A recent story in the Baltimore Sun illustrates the concern that many afterschool providers have about the implications these cuts might have for their programs. At the Mother Seton Academy, a school for low-income children in Baltimore, AmeriCorps members serve in a number of vital roles, including helping out the afterschool program. As the school faces budget constraints and teachers are overworked, AmeriCorps members expand the capacity for schools and nonprofits to serve.
During a time of budget cuts, AmeriCorps members make all the difference in overcrowded classrooms, afterschool programs that keep kids safe or in tutoring programs that lower dropout rates. A recent blog post on Service Nation argues that the small living stipend offered to AmeriCorps members costs the country far less than the price of a teenager who drops out of school. With the wide range of services that AmeriCorps members offer, cuts to the program will undoubtedly have a large impact.
AmeriCorps currently engages more than 75,000 men and women at more than 15,000 locations including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community- and faith-based groups across the country. During their year of service, AmeriCorps members help communities with a wide range of issues including disaster services, economic opportunity, education and healthy futures.
This week is National Volunteer Week, a special time to recognize the extraordinary contributions of volunteers across the country.
Afterschool professionals understand the importance of volunteers. These dedicated individuals are key to ensuring all children have access to high quality afterschool programs. Volunteers fulfill a number of different roles, from serving as tutors and mentors to educating students on specific subjects. They also fundraise for these programs and can manage certain aspects of program operations Without volunteers, many afterschool programs would not be able to serve the 8.4 million students they reach.
Community volunteers are not the only people afterschool programs rely upon. Volunteers from the major national service programs, including AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA, also play important roles in many afterschool programs. During their year-long service commitments, AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA members manage volunteers, fundraise, promote program sustainability and work directly with enrolled students. These volunteers are critical to the day-to-day operations of many afterschool programs.
If you are an afterschool program volunteer, thank you for all that you do! If you manager or work for an afterschool program, be sure to take some time this week to thank your volunteers.
As summer learning program providers gear up for the summer months, now is the time to finalize arrangements for offering summer meals to participating children. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides at least one healthy meal at no cost to children who rely on free and reduced price school meals during the academic year. While the SFSP reaches many eligible children, the need is much greater. During summer 2011, only 1 in 7 children who were eligible for free or reduced price school lunches participated in the SFSP.
In an effort to better understand how summer learning providers feed participating children, please complete a short summer food survey, available here. The survey closes April 30, and findings will be made available this summer.
It's not too late to learn how to become a Summer Food Service Program sponsor or site.