By Jodi Grant
On Monday, the National AfterSchool Association released their list of the top 25 most influential people in afterschool. I was honored to be included on that list, along with our wonderful board members Terry Peterson and Lucy Friedman. The recognition provided a nice moment to step back and celebrate the hard work of our team, and to reflect on why this work is so important, and why we are so determined to expand afterschool resources nationwide.
We are dogged in our work because the people and programs in the afterschool field are nothing short of amazing. Afterschool programs are changing lives; saving a child from hunger; creating innovative approaches to learning; and developing our next generation of leaders, citizens and scientists. And they are doing it on a shoestring budget with a will that won’t quit and a mind for innovation.
There are hundreds of stories and people that come to mind, but I thought I’d share just a few examples of what drives us to get up and work as hard as we possibly can to give voice to the afterschool field. I’d love to hear your afterschool inspirations, too, so please take a moment and send in your thoughts in the comment field below.
By Jen Rinehart
|Photo Credit: Youth Today—Read their coverage of the announcement.|
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to talk with a room full of mayors, city council members and education/policy advisors about the role of federal policy in local afterschool efforts. With a crowd like that, I certainly felt like I was standing on the wrong side of the podium!
It was a dynamic discussion about how federal policies related to 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants, Child Care Development funds and newly proposed initiatives—like Race to the Top-Equity and Opportunity—may impact local afterschool initiatives.
Many of the city leaders in the room were first drawn to afterschool because they recognized it as a strategy to keep their communities safe. After learning more about afterschool, they readily saw how keeping youth safe also supports working families, which is linked to worker productivity and therefore economic development. This necessitates a skilled workforce of the future, which brings you right back to education and safety again. In short, they were quickly sold on the importance of afterschool.
I’d like to take credit for the participants’ excitement about afterschool, but in truth it was most likely the result of an announcement made earlier that morning. Saint Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Chris Coleman, president of the National League of Cities, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan laid out a plan detailing how they would work together to boost partnerships among federal and local governments, schools, families, faith-based organizations, businesses, nonprofits and universities to advance learning, enhance student engagement and improve schools in cities across the country.
As afterschool professionals, we understand the importance of raising awareness of our programs and afterschool in general. With local and state budgets including sharp cuts to education and youth development programs and major federal policy challenges threatening the integrity of afterschool programs, advocacy is more important than ever. While we can speak about the work afterschool programs do to provide children with opportunities to participate in hands-on, interactive learning, it’s important to include other voices in our advocacy efforts.
This year, through the generous support of the Robert Bowne Foundation, the Afterschool Alliance is hosting a series of webinars on how we can engage parents, students and communities in advocacy. Last Tuesday, we held our first webinar in this occasional series. The first installment focused on engaging parents in afterschool advocacy. Esther Grant-Walker, director of School Age and Family Engagement Services at the Isaacs Center Afterschool Program in New York City, shared how she engages parents and prepares them to be effective afterschool advocates through hands-on training and other initiatives. Student engagement was the focus of our second webinar on Feb. 18. Alberto Cruz, Senior Director of Youth and Family at the YMCA of Greater New York, along with Patrick Pinchinat and Marlena Starace of the Queens Community House discussed how they involve students in advocating for afterschool.
Using social media to advocate will be the subject of the final webinar of this series on March 27. Deepmalya Ghosh, Director of Youth Development at the Child Center of New York, Inc. will share how he engages the public in afterschool advocacy through social media. Visit our webinars page to register.
By Jodi Grant
Valentine’s Day is all about showing the people you love how much they mean to you. It’s about expressing how you feel to those who make your life richer and more meaningful.
This year, moms around the country are sending Valentines to their afterschool programs.
It’s no wonder that afterschool programs hold a special place in the hearts of many busy parents. As a mom myself, I know how important it is to be sure that when they are not with me, my children are safe, supervised, learning and engaged. Afterschool programs do all that—they provide a space for children to expand their horizons, learn new skills, have new experiences, and explore their potential—all in a safe environment with adults who care about their success in school and in life. For moms in the workforce in particular, they are a life-saver.
Every day at the Afterschool Alliance, we hear from mothers who tell us how important afterschool programs are to them. They are impressed with the dedication and commitment of afterschool staff and volunteers, who work so hard to create opportunities for their kids to explore their interests. They say their children enjoy the programs, talk about what they learned there, and participate in exciting activities – from judo to robotics to dance to creative writing.
Patrick Riccards, co-host of the #CommonCore radio podcast on BAM Radio Network, described the episode that included our own Vice President of Policy and Research Jen Rinehart as a “breath of fresh air.” Riccards was impressed that the interview—which also included Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president of the National Center on Time & Learning—focused on learning, rather than testing. He also pointed out the value of conversations centered on what learning means for students, and how can we best ensure that our students succeed not just under the Common Core, but in school, career and life.
Jen spoke about the integral role afterschool programs can play in supporting students and teachers around the Common Core State Standards:
“ We know that afterschool programs are working to provide very engaging learning environments for kids where they have the opportunities to be active learners, to collaborate and communicate with peers in a low-stakes type of setting where they can feel free to try things out and not be concerned about failing…and that sort of environment aligns very nicely with the habits of mind that underpin the Common Core—the kind of thinking skills that you want kids to develop to be able to succeed under the Common Core.”
What was the best Super Bowl ad? That’s not really the point, if you ask afterschool teens who participate in The LAMP’s (Learning About Multimedia Project) media literacy program. They might ask back what those ads reveal about us and our culture, and how ads might be manipulating viewers.
At the Break the Super Bowl event last Sunday night, teens from the McBurney YMCA remixed and deconstructed Super Bowl commercials as they aired, ultimately creating original works of video criticism. The “broken ad” pieces were created with a budget of $0, on a regular laptop computer, in less time than half a football game. Yet they raised important questions about the marketing techniques we are exposed to every day.
Does your afterschool program inspire youth to live healthfully?
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a nonprofit organization founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, is searching for young people excited to share their commitment to healthful living and inspire their friends, families, schools and communities to take action and help stop childhood obesity.
Applications are now being accepted for the Alliance’s Youth Advisory Board (for 2014-2015). Board members serve as ambassadors for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, share feedback on Alliance programs and activities, and promote health and wellness in their communities.
Following up on the release of our first issue brief of the year, we hosted our first webinar of the year featuring three afterschool programs highlighted in the Common Core issue brief: Bridge the Gap College Prep in Marin City, California, Baltimore Urban Debate League (BUDL) in Baltimore, Maryland, and Raising Expectations in Atlanta, Georgia. The issue brief was only able to broadly discuss the unique and interesting ways these programs are supporting learning around the Common Core, and the webinar served as a platform for the programs to expand on their work and share with the field in greater detail about how they’ve tailored their programs to be more intentional about connecting to the Common Core.