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August Congressional recess is great time for site visits

By Jen Rinehart

Amanda Colecio, 13, shows off a robot that she helped build through the SHINE program. (AMY MILLER/TIMES NEWS Copyright, Zubek-Miller Photography.)

Every August, the Afterschool Alliance encourages afterschool providers to think about inviting Members of Congress, who are back in their home districts for much of the month, to come visit programs. The Afterschool Alliance offers tools to help plan a site visit, case studies of past site visits, and Q & A blogs with providers who have successfully hosted visits to make it easy to host a policy maker at a program.

Last week, I joined Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA-11) along with his chief of staff, a staff member from Senator Casey’s office, numerous state legislators and legislative staff and local superintendents for a visit to the SHINE Afterschool Program in Jim Thorpe, PA. The SHINE Afterschool Program, funded in part by a grant from 21st Century Community Learning Centers, started in three centers that served 90 students across two counties. This year, it will serve 1,200 students from 16 centers in Carbon, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties.

Creativity and flexibility are key to a successful site visit

SHINE is no stranger to organizing site visits, but they faced a unique challenge that other providers might also face in mid-late August:  no students. SHINE offers summer programming, but it had ended by last week. In August, SHINE's model shifts to focus on home visits as they gear up for a new school year. So, SHINE did what they always do; they innovated. They invited a group of guests to Carbon Career & Technical Institute and arranged for staff, students and parents to give the invited guests a sample of what SHINE has to offer to students and families.

During the visit, we heard about the philosophy and quality principles behind SHINE, we experienced a home visit with one of the SHINE home visit teachers, we observed students engaging in activities similar to the opportunities they have during the school year, and we heard from a grandmother who is raising her grandchildren and values what SHINE has offered her grandkids over the years.

Policy makers praise the benefits of afterschool

Reflecting on his first visit to SHINE in 2011, Rep. Barletta said, “This program is exactly what we need to change the direction and lives of our children… Changing the direction and lives of our children is the best thing we can do for America.”  Rep. Barletta views SHINE as not only a model program for Pennsylvania, but for our country. State Senator Yudichak talked about meeting children and parents who talked about how much SHINE empowered them and how impressed he was by the evidence based, data-driven program that has a success record spanning more than a decade. In his words, “SHINE is improving lives in the classroom, after school and in the community.”

After seeing students using computer design software to design and build cars, program robots and test out engineering skills by building bridges, it became clear why Barletta and Yudichak are such champions. In the end, it was a grandmother who stole the show, by revealing her heartfelt appreciation for SHINE and the help and safety it provides her grandchildren despite lots of challenges.

Congratulations to Rachel Strucko, Director of SHINE and the Pennsylvania Afterschool Network, PSAYDN, for getting state and federal policy makers and local media to see what SHINE is all about, and why state and federal investments in afterschool are so important.  



Guest blog: Spoken word gives youth a voice

By Robert Abare

Written by Chanelle Ignant, Youth Participation Coordinator at KQED, and Rachel Roberson, who leads the Letters to the Next President project for KQED. Also check out the Celebrate Youth Voices event idea for Lights On Afterschool 2016.

Sign up for the upcoming Lights On Afterschool webinar "Engaging Youth Voice & Letters to the Next President" next Thursday, August 25 at 1 PM ET.

Youth tap a deep vein of self-expression with spoken word performance. Whether they are speaking out against injustice or asserting an opinion, spoken word helps young people make their voices heard. 

With the election fast approaching, spoken word is one of many ways youth can express their views on issues that mean most to them. Teens can then publish their views on national platforms like Letters to the Next President 2.0, which launched in August.

But it takes time, patience and an open mind on the part of a mentor to help make spoken word happen.

“You can’t start with your own assumptions or preconceptions about what young people are interested in, what they’re into, what their cultural orientation is based on their appearance or on any demographic data that you have,” says M.C. K~Swift, a senior poet mentor with Youth Speaks Bay Area.  “You have to start really with who they are, and find out who they are from them not from anyone else.”

Once mentors discover what youth are interested in, it’s time to write. And write. And write some more. M.C. K~Swift recommends building trust by asking questions and keeping an open mind.

“When I’m talking to young people I find myself saying, “I don’t know about that, can you tell me more,” M.C. K~Swift says.

Mentors who are writers themselves can provide guidance. But it’s hard to teach what you don’t know.

“If you don’t love writing you can’t convince anyone else to. So be honest with yourself. If you don’t practice writing then you can’t be a guide in that practice,” M.C. K~Swift says. He recommends bringing in a writing instructor, creative artist or expert within your organization, if needed. 

M.C. K~Swift recently led a spoken word workshop at The Mix, San Francisco Public Library’s innovative teen space. The month-long series drew group of 12 young people interested in exploring the spoken word format.



Your community could win $25K through the Culture of Health Prize

By Robert Abare

Every year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) honors U.S. communities that are making strides and setting an example in the effort to lead more people to healthy lifestyles through the Culture of Health Prize. In 2017, up to 10 winners will receive a $25,000 prize, along with the opportunity to share their strategies and accomplishments with the nation through RWJF.

The Culture of Health prize recognizes and celebrates communities where businesses, nonprofits or civic organizations—including afterschool programs—law enforcement and schools have joined forces to improve the community's health and overall wellbeing. The deadline to apply for the 2017 Culture of Health Prize is November 2, 2016.

What are the judges looking for?

There are many ways a community can build a Culture of Health, including:  encouraging healthy behaviors, establishing clinical care, researching social and economic factors, and improving the physical environment. Judges will look to see that applicant communities are taking action across these areas. Judges will also look to see how a community responds to the unique needs of its citizens, and are particularly interested in seeing effective changes in education, employment/income, family and social support, and community safety.

Who is eligible to apply?

As the Culture of Health Prize is intended to honor U.S. communities at large, submissions representing the work of a single organization will not be considered. However, afterschool programs are doing their part to improve the health of kids, families and communities across the country. Your program could play a key role in the application process, and could stand to benefit if your community wins the Culture of Health Prize.

Applications to the Culture of Health Prize may represent any of the following:

  • City, town, village, borough, and other local incorporated places.
  • County or parish.
  • Federally-recognized tribe.
  • Native Hawaiian organization serving and representing the interests of Native Hawaiians in Hawaii.
  • Region (such as contiguous towns, cities, or counties). 
  • Neighborhoods, states and unincorporated local communities are not eligible to apply. 


Registration is open for Lights On Afterschool 2016!

By Robert Abare

The new look of Lights On Afterschool

Registration is now open for the nation’s only celebration of afterschool programs! Mark your calendars for Lights On Afterschool: October 20, 2016, and then start preparing for your event by registering today.

Last year’s Lights On Afterschool saw more than 1 million Americans celebrate at 8,200 events across the country. This year, we’re launching a redesigned logo and website along with updated resources to make Lights On Afterschool bigger and brighter than ever.

Top reasons to register today

  • If you register before August 18, you’ll be entered to win a Lights On Afterschool gift pack full of fun swag to hand out to kids and visitors at your event.
  • Receive 10 free copies of this year’s poster to help spread the word about your event. (Stay tuned to the Afterschool Snack learn this year’s winner of the poster design contest!)
  • Get priority registration for our Lights On Afterschool webinar series.
  • Place your event on our national map of Lights On Afterschool events.
  • Start receiving Lights On Afterschool emails that walk you through our redesigned resources, this year’s top event themes and ideas, and more.

More things to check out on the new Lights On Afterschool website

Start getting the word out today! Share your plans for this year's #LightsOnAfterschool on social media and you could get highlighted by the official Afterschool Alliance accounts on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram



Weekly Media Roundup: August 10, 2016

By Luci Manning

Police Mentorship Program Pairs Officers with City Youth (Jersey Journal, New Jersey)

Students at the Bayonne Youth Center are being given the chance to build self-confidence thanks to a new partnership with the Bayonne Police Department. Several police officers volunteered to mentor the youths for a year, participating in community service opportunities, field trips and educational lectures. “The officers and children have face to face interactions within the community a minimum of one hour per week and act as role models, friends and a support system for them,” Police Lt. Juan Carlos Betancourth told Jersey Journal.

Students Tackle Prejudice in Va. Leadership Retreat (Daily Press, Virginia)

A five-day leadership retreat has armed some 60 students with the knowledge needed to implement new initiatives to support diversity and inclusiveness in their schools this fall. The Emerging Student Leaders Institute program helps students to confront ingrained stereotypes and prejudices. Upon completing the program, the students built action plans to create clubs, workshops, assemblies and awareness campaigns to foster diversity appreciation among their classmates. “When we experience the cycle of prejudice, most times we don’t realize it’s there,” 17-year-old Chanel Rodriguez told the Daily Press. “But when we break down the word and examples, you notice that it happens in everyday life, so it can be definitely implemented into our school system to make safe and open places for people to be themselves.”

Allentown Students Meet Geek Squad (Morning Call, Pennsylvania)

Best Buy employees spent two days teaching middle and high school students how to compose and produce their own music, create digital films and develop designs for 3-D printing at the Geek Squad Academy summer computer camp. The camp received a special visit last week from U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, who praised the program, telling the Morning Call that it’s good to see “young people are taking time out of their summer holiday to learn, to develop skills that will serve them well in life.” Best Buy runs 30 such camps around the country, aiming to connect with low-income students especially.

Police, Vets Get Thank-You Bags (Norwich Bulletin, Connecticut)

About 30 Norwich middle school students gave special gifts showing their appreciation to the city’s police officers and veterans last week. The youths assembled brown paper bags filled with sweet treats for the officers as part of the Acts of Kindness Project, a six-week summer learning camp focused on service learning projects. According to the Norwich Bulletin, camper Zarya Neal presented the “survival kits” to the officers at a special assembly, describing what was in each bag—candies like Life Savers, “to remind you of the many times you’ve been a life-saver,” Paydays, “because you are not doing it for the money” and Tootsie Rolls, “to help you roll with the punches.” 



Register for National Voter Registration Day on September 27!

By Elizabeth Tish

photo by Amanda Nelson

In 2008, 6 million Americans didn’t vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn’t know how to register. In 2016, National Voter Registration Day is aiming to make sure more Americans are ready to vote on Election Day this November, and Nonprofit Vote is asking America’s nonprofit organizations to play a part. A coalition of organizations, community leaders and celebrities have already pledged to get out and register voters who might otherwise not have the opportunity to do so when National Voter Registration Day starts on September 27, 2016.

Sign up to become a partner today! When you sign up, you’ll receive a packet of posters, stickers, and a toolkit explaining how you can participate in more detail.

If you’re unsure of how to get involved with the election as a nonprofit, check out the Afterschool Alliance's Campaign for Afterschool Toolkit. It offers information about what an organization can and cannot do as a 501(c)(3), as well as advice about how to make the case for afterschool funding and support to candidates for public office at all levels of government.

After registering for National Voter Registration Day, consider sharing with your networks to get even more people involved:

Sample Tweets:

Celebrate our democracy on Sept 27 by signing up now for National Voter Registration Day at #CelebrateNVRD

Sample Facebook or Google+ Post:

National Voter Registration Day 2016 is around the corner! Just It's never too early to start thinking about how your nonprofit will participate. Sign up now and NVRD will mail you posters, stickers, and a toolkit explaining how to participate. Use this link to sign up: #CelebrateNVRD #BeReady2016 #NPVotesCount #VoterRegistrationDay

You can also share the National Voter Registration Day Facebook event.

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learn more about: Advocacy Election Community Partners


The Next Generation Science Standards: what do they mean for afterschool?

By Robert Abare

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) offer a powerful new vision for American science education for the 21st century. NGSS brings long-needed reforms to national and state K-12 science education standards, incorporating decades of new research on how students best learn science—by actively investigating topics and solving real-world problems, just like real scientists and engineers do!

So far, NGSS has been adopted by 16 states and the District of Columbia, as well as several individual schools and districts. If it hasn’t already, NGSS will soon be influencing how your students are expected to learn STEM. To help program providers understand how afterschool fits in to the NGSS, the Afterschool Alliance has developed a new guide, Getting Started with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Key components of our new NGSS guide

  • An explanation and history of how NGSS was developed and who the key collaborators were.
  • The underlying philosophy of the NGSS, which encourages kids to learn science by doing.
  • An overview of the standards themselves.
  • How afterschool providers can work with partner schools and use NGSS as a way to improve their practice.

Back in April, we hosted a webinar that digs into the research behind the standards, and offers a couple examples of how afterschool programs are thinking about NGSS. Watch the recording, and stay tuned for our next NGSS-related webinar in September.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy Getting Started with the Next Generation Science Standards, and share it with other educators who might find this resource useful!

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learn more about: Issue Briefs School Improvement Science


Weekly Media Roundup: August 3, 2016

By Luci Manning

Teens Get Hooked on Surfing, Environment (Marin Independent Journal, California)

Two Marin high schoolers are building a love for the environment in younger students through a surfing summer camp. The free program targets underprivileged preteens who may not know much about environmental stewardship. Students receive more than just surfing lessons at the camp—they also learn about warming ocean temperatures and ocean life. Scott Tye, chairman of the Marin chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, told the Marin Independent Journal, “The goal is to preserve and maintain our beaches and teach about it in a positive way.” The program operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation.

Summer Programs Close the Gap (Rutland Herald, Vermont)

Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe makes the case for summer learning programs in the Rutland Herald: “Summer doesn’t always promise the same opportunities for all of Vermont’s students, especially those students who live in poverty…. It doesn’t have to be this way. We know that access to good nutrition, health care, responsive adults and safe and supportive environments can help even the most challenged child thrive and learn. If we don’t provide these conditions, we are essentially manufacturing inequity at the level of the brain…. High-quality summer learning programs and strong after-school programs, coupled with food programs, will go a long way towards narrowing our opportunity and achievement gaps.”

The Boston Summer School Students Reach by Ferry – Not Bus (Christian Science Monitor)

Boston Afterschool and Beyond partnered with Outward Bound, Boston Public Schools and the National Parks Service to put together a top-notch, free summer learning program for low-income students in Boston. The program, hosted on Thompson Island, uses the surrounding natural environment to engage some 70 students in hands-on science lessons. Instructors try to take a holistic approach to their teaching, giving students the skills to reason and analyze and apply the lessons to their everyday lives, rather than just drill them with facts from a book. “If a student isn’t excelling in one kind of environment September through June, why would go and stick them back in that same environment for the whole summer?” Boston Afterschool and Beyond summer learning program director David McAuley told the Christian Science Monitor.

The Young Hustlers Prove Anyone Can Be an Entrepreneur (San Francisco Chronicle, California)

Statistics show that 87 percent of venture capital-backed startup founders are white—but this doesn’t faze the Young Hustlers, a group of minority preteens who started their own business making music and selling branded clothing. The business grew out of the 15 Seeds afterschool program, which provides underprivileged students a space to explore what they’re passionate about. The program gives youngsters, most of whom live in public housing, a chance to make money without resorting to gangs, drugs or violence. “When people hear where you live, where you’re from, they think they know you,” group hip-hop artist Dominique told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But they don’t know…. We’re making a difference. We’re entrepreneurs.”