Herb Jones is the vice president of external affairs at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Herb oversees NCMEC’s community outreach and prevention education programs as well as its branch offices in New York, Florida and Texas. Under Herb’s leadership, the organization has reached thousands of communities and millions of children with safety messages from awareness campaigns and programs like NetSmartz Workshop, Take 25 and the Campaign Against Sexual Exploitation.
Childhood is full of rewards and potential risks. As babies become toddlers, they are more prone to bumps, bruises, falls and distractions. As children become increasingly more independent, the hours before and after school can be some of the most dangerous, with the hours between 2 and 7 p.m. being the most critical.
Fortunately, the potential risks children face can be lessened when adults discuss important safety concepts. Afterschool programs are a great tool to help keep children safer by preventing risky behaviors and teaching them safety skills. Just minutes of prevention can make a huge impact in the life of a child. To help educate communities on these risks and ways to better protect the children in their lives, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) created the Take 25 campaign.
Take 25 is a grassroots safety initiative created in honor of National Missing Children’s Day. Annually honored on May 25, this day serves as a reminder to the nation to make child safety a national priority. The Take 25 Campaign encourages child care providers, social service agencies, law enforcement, educators, parents and other trusted adults to take 25 minutes out of the day to talk to children about ways to be safer. With a focus on prevention, Take 25 provides FREE bilingual resources including conversation starters, child ID kits, safety tips and lessons that inspire an ongoing dialogue with children about safety.
Molly Newman is the Senior Project Manager for Healthy Kids Out of School, an initiative of ChildObesity180, working with some of the country’s leading out-of-school-time organizations to promote healthy habits through their HealthyKidsHub website.
Each of you works or volunteers in out-of-school-time programs for different reasons, but we all share the common goal of wanting to make a positive contribution to kids’ lives so they are equipped with the skills and confidence to become happy and productive adults. Out-of-school-time (OST) organizations can play a key role in promoting health and wellness programs that can impact not only the children, but leaders and families as well.
- Drink Right: Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Move More: Boost movement and physical activity in all programs.
- Snack Smart: Fuel up on fruits and vegetables.
How can the Healthy Kids Hub support you? Visit www.HealthyKidsHub.org and browse through resources on your own, or complete a brief survey to get resources tailored to your specific needs. You can also join other leaders from around the country in taking the pledge to adopt the three principles. Those who take the pledge by May 8, 2013, will be entered into a random drawing to win one of 100 $50 gift cards. Learn more at www.HealthyKidsHub.org.
Christina Schock, AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer, Nevada Afterschool Network
Afterschool Alliance AmeriCorps VISTAs are making a difference across our country. They’re working on projects involved with helping programs write sustainability plans and getting afterschool meals. VISTAs have been placed all across the country including Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, California, Ohio, New Mexico and many more. Along the way, while working directly with programs and networks, we have learned how to overcome many of the issues they face in today’s political and economic reality. Having worked with a gamut of different programs including rural, urban, elementary education programs, secondary education programs, resource rich programs and non-resource rich programs, we are looking to share those experiences and pass them along to programs outside of our reach.
We are introducing a new webinar series to pass along the tools, resources, experiences and lessons learned along the way. Each webinar will address an issue all programs face when looking at long term sustainability, such as grant writing, finding/retaining volunteers, building partnerships, diverse funding, marketing, core messaging, fundraising and events. Guest speakers and experts from the field will also be available to offer their advice and answer questions. Participants can register to participate in upcoming webinars or view/download past webinars for free at www.NevadaAfterschoolNetwork.org. We recommend passing along the webinars to programs that might benefit from them. This series is free thanks to the Afterschool Alliance, Nevada Afterschool Network and the many VISTAs working in the field. For more information and to register for an upcoming webinar you can visit the Nevada Afterschool Network's website.
Jeff Cole is the associate vice president of school-community partnerships for the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and Network Lead for the Nebraska Community Learning Center Network.
As a first time participant in the Afterschool for All Challenge, I really didn’t know what to expect as we were filing into the Russell Senate Office Building. Having nominated Kristin Williams, Director of Community Initiatives at Omaha’s Sherwood Foundation, as Nebraska’s Afterschool Champion (a MUCH deserved recognition for all her work promoting afterschool programs in high poverty schools in Omaha and across the state), I knew state level advocates would be recognized for their work. I didn’t realize that a bipartisan group of senators and representatives would be joined by other national advocates and young people from nearby programs at the “Breakfast of Champions” to make such a strong case for why afterschool programs are so important for our nation’s future before heading to meetings on Capitol Hill.
I was especially hearted by Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) comments in support of S. 326, which strengthens the crucial federal 21st CCLC grant program, highlighting how important afterschool programs are for residents of her largely rural state. I was honored to have the opportunity to chat with and share my enthusiasm for rural afterschool programs with Sen. Murkowski as she was leaving the ornate and historic Kennedy Caucus Room.
I carried this enthusiasm for the importance of rural afterschool programs over into the meetings that I had with 4 of Nebraska’s 5 Congressional delegations after the “Breakfast of Champions.” Retiring Sen. Mike Johanns met with our group and reflected on his understanding of the importance of afterschool programs that he gained while serving as Nebraska’s governor.
Nora Hall is a fellow at the U.S. Soccer Foundation. The U.S. Soccer Foundation is a recognized leader in sports-based youth development programs for children in underserved, urban communities. Proven to deliver positive health and social outcomes, the Foundation’s affordable initiatives offer safe environments in which both boys and girls thrive.
Sports have long played an important role in the world of afterschool programming, and with good reason—sports can provide unique opportunities for physical activity, mentorship and continued learning. Research shows that children who participate in organized sports are more likely to do well in school and less likely to be overweight or depressed. Unfortunately, many kids are excluded from afterschool sports programming due to cost and limited access to playing facilities. As a sports-based youth development organization, the U.S. Soccer Foundation is using soccer as a vehicle for social change and is working to create these opportunities for kids who would otherwise be excluded.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. In 1980, 7 percent of children aged 6-11 and 5 percent of children aged 12-19 were considered obese. By 2008, nearly 20 percent of children in both age categories were considered obese, with a large number of these children coming from urban, under-resourced communities.
Soccer for Success, the Foundation’s free soccer-based afterschool program, is working to reverse this trend by providing kids with a fun and engaging curriculum that blends physical activity with nutrition education. We partner with community-based organizations across the country to operate program sites at local schools and youth centers. By the end of the 2012-2013 program year, the Foundation will serve approximately 16,000 children in 20 different cities by providing afterschool programming three days a week.
Regular followers of the Afterschool Alliance will have heard about our recent report, “Defining Youth Outcomes for STEM Learning in Afterschool,” which asked experienced afterschool providers and supporters to identify appropriate and feasible outcomes for afterschool STEM learning. The report also provides a framework to map how afterschool programs contribute to larger STEM education goals. Read our blog post for a quick overview of the report.
The Museum of Science in Boston also recently released a report describing the evaluation process of Engineering Adventures, a research-based engineering curriculum for third through fifth graders especially designed for out-of-school-time environments. Jonathan Hertel, Research and Evaluation Associate for Engineering is Elementary, writes about the learning outcomes they observed during the curriculum evaluation and the research team’s efforts to develop an assessment tool to capture those outcomes.
Engineering Adventures (EA) is an engineering curriculum created especially for out-of-school-time (OST) programs. In EA, children are introduced to the engineering design process as they ask questions, imagine, plan, create and improve solutions to real-world problems. More than a decade ago, the Engineering is Elementary team at the Museum of Science, Boston, began creating engineering curricula for use in elementary school classrooms. Recognizing that OST provides a different, but important and compelling opportunity to present engineering challenges, the team began development of the EA program in 2010.
This past weekend, the question “Can the Arts save students?” was front and center on the cover of the Washington Post Magazine. The Latino Arts Strings and Mariachi Juvenil program in Milwaukee, WI—one of the recipients of the 2012 MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Awards and a program featured in our MetLife Foundation issue brief, “Arts Enrichment in Afterschool”—is a prime example of an arts program that can make a positive impact in students’ lives. The program contributed the below guest blog to share the Lights On Afterschool event in October they hosted to celebrate their award.
With more than 200 people in the audience, students, parents and representatives from the MetLife Foundation and the Afterschool Alliance spoke from their hearts about what afterschool programs mean to them. I was especially proud of our students, Mariana Tellez and Manuel Landin. Mariana shared with the crowd that the strings program has given her a voice: “Not a speaking voice, metaphorically the music I play has a voice. I would not have discovered this way of expressing myself without my violin.” She stated that without the Strings Program, she would never have had the opportunity of playing an instrument. And Manuel explained to the audience that before he began at the program, he was very shy and nervous about speaking before large groups. After participating in the program, he has more confidence in himself, a direct result of learning to perform in front of an audience. He is no longer shy to speak in public. One of our parents, Blanca Rodriguez, also spoke about why the strings program is important to her family. She shared that she is grateful for a safe, caring place for her children to go after school. If it weren’t for the strings program, her children would not have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument.
The program ended with our strings program performing several traditional mariachi songs. After the award ceremony, there was food and a dance for all who came.
Our students are truly amazing, and I am so happy that we could shine a spotlight on their talents through Lights On Afterschool! Our students prove to us daily that music has the ability to transform lives. Afterschool programs like ours are just one way to make certain all of our youth are able to benefit from all music has to offer.
Jon W. Dudas is president of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a not-for-profit organization that inspires an appreciation of science and technology in young people. FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. With support from three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and nearly $16 million available in college scholarships, FIRST hosts four robotics programs for students K – 12 and the annual FIRST Championship. For more information, visit www.usfirst.org.
I can remember when afterschool activities meant meeting the neighborhood kids for a game of kick ball in the street or at the local playground. Most of us stayed outside until our parents called us in for dinner. However, in today’s fast-paced society with many parents working outside the home—and even more negative influences preying upon our children—kickball and playgrounds no longer suffice. Parents are looking for more structure to keep their kids safe, to inspire learning, and to ignite new passions and interests. Parents want to get (and keep) their kids on the right path, and they need structured and engaging afterschool programs to achieve this. Unfortunately, the need for such solutions outpaces the supply. In communities nationwide, 15 million children are alone or unsupervised after school.