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JUN
19
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: How one rural town is investing in Alaska's future workforce

By Guest Blogger

By Thomas Azzarella, director of the Alaska Afterschool Network. This blog was originally published on the Alaska Afterschool Blog on June 6.

Photo courtesy of Eric Filradi

Nearly two-thirds of Alaska’s cities, towns, and villages are accessible only by plane or boat, which makes having a strong aviation workforce critical to having a strong state economy. Qualified and experienced employees in the aviation industry are in high demand throughout the state, especially in rural communities.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) in Nenana is addressing this demand by preparing youth living in rural Alaska for this crucial industry.

Nenana is a small rural town of approximately 400 residents. Nenana City School District is comprised of one K-12 grade school that serves nearly 200 students. Approximately 100 of these students are enrolled in the school’s boarding facility, the Student Living Center, for grades 9-12. These students come from villages and towns all over the state, many of which attend school in Nenana because of the limited educational offerings in their home village. 

Nenana’s Community Learning Centers program expands the school’s educational offerings after school by providing tutoring, career-tech programs, and opportunities for building self-confidence and leadership skills. Among these offerings is the school’s Aviation Mechanics program, which is preparing high school students for high-paying jobs in Alaska’s aviation industry.

JUN
2
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Libraries can build college and career readiness in rural and tribal communities

By Guest Blogger

By Hannah Buckland, librarian at Bezhigoogahbow Library on the Leech Lake Nation in northern Minnesota.

Libraries can be dynamic partners in afterschool programming, especially in rural and tribal communities where poverty rates are often higher and children have fewer options for afterschool activities. As rural communities work toward strong futures, libraries are well poised to provide afterschool College and Career Readiness (CCR) services that support youth in exploring career pathways in a fun, informal community setting.

However, rural librarians may not have easy access to the training or tools needed to implement these programs. In partnership with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL), the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) addresses this need through Future Ready with the Library, a project funnded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and launched in January 2017.

MAY
24
2017

IN THE FIELD
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In coal country, afterschool's a lifeline for working families

By Charlotte Steinecke

Photo courtesy of Monongalia County Schools Extended Day in Morgantown.

While some areas have started to recover from the Great Recession, some of the hardest-hit states continue to struggle with sluggish wage growth and limited employment opportunities. One of those states is West Virginia, where 1 in 4 children are growing up in poverty and well-paying union jobs, especially in the coal industry, are becoming rare.

Last month we had the opportunity to hear from parents in West Virginia. Tommy G. is a single father of three hit by the downturn of the coal industry. In a nearby county, Chastity and Brennan took on longer hours and a second job after their incomes were cut. And in Fairmont, a family of eight juggles the many of demands of work and kids. What do these parents have in common? They rely on afterschool programs—and say losing afterschool would result in financial hardship and put their ability to work in jeopardy.

West Virginia’s strong demand for quality, affordable afterschool options is made clear by America After 3PM, which found that the rate of participation in West Virginia’s afterschool programs more than tripled between 2004 and 2014. Hardworking parents, many of whom make ends meet with two or more jobs, find support for their affordable childcare needs in the form of aftercare, free and reduced-price food, homework and academic assistance, and more.

MAY
3
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: May 3, 2017

By Luci Manning

Council Bluffs Schools to Expand Grant-Funded Before-, After-School Clubs After Seeing Benefits (Daily Nonpareil, Iowa)

A study by the Iowa Department of Education showed that participation in afterschool programs leads to increased attendance, better behavior and improved academic performance for students. Thanks to the favorable review, the Council Bluffs Community School District will receive additional funding to expand its afterschool and summer programming this year. “I’m amazed and thrilled because the data we’re getting is right in line with what people are seeing, which is increased achievement and attendance and decreased behavior,” 21st Century Grant Program Director Sandra Day told the Daily Nonpareil.

After-School Programs Help Nebraska Thrive (North Platte Telegraph, Nebraska)

In the North Platte Telegraph Nebraska State Board of Education member Molly O’Holleran and Beyond School Bells network lead Jeff Cole discuss that afterschool programs like Kids Klub in North Platte benefit not just students, but also parents and businesses: “Over half of the elementary school students in North Platte Public Schools are registered in KIDS Klub. These families depend on KIDS Klub to bridge the gap between the end of the school day and the end of the workday. The parents and guardians of these registered students are employed by over 350 local businesses. These Lincoln County businesses depend on KIDS Klub so their employees can come to work with the peace of mind they need to focus on their jobs. The evidence is clear and demonstrable: After-school programming benefits all Nebraskans, urban and rural alike.”

All-Girls Group at D.C. High School Aims to Build Confidence (Washington Post, District of Columbia)

At Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School, 13 girls meet once a week after school to discuss how they’re feeling, how their schoolwork is coming along, and how things are going at home as part of the H.E.R. Story afterschool club. H.E.R. Story, which stands for Helping Empower Regalness, is a space for girls to come together to support one another in the hopes of boosting their confidence and their academic achievement, according to the Washington Post. D.C. Public Schools is planning to implement similar support groups for girls of color in schools across the city this summer.

Students Plant, Give Marigolds to Older Residents (Sunbury Daily Item, Pennsylvania)

A group of children in an afterschool program planted marigold flowers to give to residents of the Maria Joseph Manor nursing home last month, according to the Sunbury Daily Item. The program, Heeter’s Little Hearts, leads students on community service projects to develop compassion and caring for others. 

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learn more about: Budget Rural Community Partners
JUL
27
2016

POLICY
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Congressional staff learn how to support rural afterschool programs

By Erik Peterson

The benefits provided by afterschool programs can be integral to the fabric of a rural community—including STEM learning experiences, community connections, caring mentors, and healthy snacks and meals. On July 26th, a Senate Afterschool Caucus briefing on “Afterschool in Rural America” highlighted research and experiences from providers that demonstrates how rural parents not only view afterschool programs as a support system for children’s academic growth, social development, and overall health and wellness, but how they also regard programs as a critical resource for working families.

An audience of Congressional staffers and representatives from national organizations heard from an expert panel about why the demand for afterschool programs in rural America is even greater than the overall national demand:

Nikki Yamashiro, director of research for the Afterschool Alliance, spoke on data gathered from parents and rural afterschool providers and featured in the 2016 America After 3PM Special Report: The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities, sponsored by John Deere. Nikki reported on statistics about the demand for afterschool, including the finding that 3.1 million rural children who aren’t in an afterschool program would be enrolled in a program if one were available. She also noted how parents say that afterschool supports children and families, and that rural support for public investment in afterschool is strong. She also touched on the challenges faced by rural providers, including those challenges around providing quality STEM learning opportunities.

Liz Nusken, technical advisor for the YMCA of the USA, spoke about rural afterschool from the perspective of a national afterschool program provider. She painted a clear picture of what a rural YMCA program looks like, and the ways that YMCAs and schools work together in rural communities with key academic and behavioral outcomes. In particular, her presentation spoke to the work of the YMCA Achievement Gap Initiative in rural communities.   

Tammy Shay, director of programs, policy and communications for the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network, talked through rural afterschool from a state perspective covering three key areas:

  • Assets of rural providers. Strong partnerships are key to success for afterschool in general—but absolutely essential in rural communities, where everyone wears many hats and can speak about a variety of issues. Schools are "community schools" in rural areas by default, and afterschool programs can be the bridge between schools and other services in area.
  • Transportation challenges. The distances involved and high costs of transportation for rural afterschool program providers form a large hurdle for rural providers to overcome.
  • The supports that rural programs need. The briefing emphasized the importance of 21st CCLC funding, which helps to provide a backbone for programs that includes supporting core staffing that is needed to loop in other partners, managing day to day operations, and finding and retaining staff.

Tammy also detailed the Maryland STEM ambassador program as an example of how statewide afterschool networks create a bridge and make essential connections between community assets in rural areas across the state. 

This briefing covered an important topic for the afterschool field. America After 3PM research found that for every one rural child in an afterschool program, there are three more rural children who are missing out on the amazing opportunities that afterschool programs have to offer. Afterschool supporters and providers can learn more about rural afterschool programs through the 2016 America After 3PM Special Report: The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities and the rural afterschool data dashboard.

MAY
4
2016

RESEARCH
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Webinar recap: Afterschool in rural communities

By Erin Murphy

Afterschool programs are an integral partner for rural communities: keeping kids safe, inspiring learning and supporting working families. The Afterschool Alliance recently explored the current state of afterschool in rural communities in our America After 3PM special report, The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural CommunitiesLast week, we followed up on this issue in our audience-centric webinar, Afterschool in rural communities: what you need to know.

Afterschool participation in rural communities has increased over the last five years to 13 percent, or 1.2 million children. However, unmet demand for afterschool in rural communities is high; for every one child in a program, there are three more who are waiting to get in. Based on an online survey of individuals registering for this webinar, the three guest speakers—Marcia Dvorak, director of the Kansas Enrichment Network; Steph Shepard, director of Altoona Campus Kids Klub and Dan Brown, director of Abilene’s Before and After School Program—were asked to speak about topics that were of most interest to survey respondents. These topics were funding and sustainability, transportation, partnerships, parent engagement and recruiting and retaining program staff.

As director of the Kansas Enrichment Network, Marcia provides support to many rural afterschool programs, and she shared a few tips on creating high-quality rural afterschool opportunities.

  • Utilize your state network! Networks are a great resource for providers with information on funding opportunities, curriculum, professional development and more.
  • Messaging is key. Speak to the needs of your community, highlight how afterschool can meet these needs and emphasize the cost effectiveness of programs.
  • Support advocacy with research. Use good data sources to make the case for afterschool programs.
  • Consider diverse funding sources. Funding is always one of the biggest challenges to afterschool programs. Consider 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), national corporations, NSF, NASA, and community businesses and foundations.
  • Quality is key. High-quality programs are more effective and gain community support. Adhere to state and federal guidelines, considering issues such as dosage, professional development and programming offered.
  • Professional development. Many organizations provide free webinars online that act as great learning opportunities for staff at little-to-no cost for the program.
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learn more about: Equity Rural School Improvement
APR
18
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Webinar wrap-up: Creating year-round opportunities for literacy

By Erin Murphy

Reading, writing and critical thinking are important skills for success, yet less than 40 percent of students leave high school with proficiency in these skills. Two programs, Redhound Enrichment and Simpson Street Free Press, featured in a newly released issue brief joined us on a webinar last week to talk about their work keeping their students engaged in literacy during the school year and into the summer months.

Karen West, executive director of Redhound Enrichment, spoke on behalf of her program, which was also this year’s recipient of the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award. Since 1991, Redhound Enrichment has served a rural community in Kentucky through the Corbin Independent School District. Throughout the school year and summer months, the program serves 1,000 students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, across five sites. A typical day at Redhound Enrichment includes an “energy release” period and snack, homework help or tutoring and two enrichment activity periods, with literacy embedded throughout these activities. Karen attributed their program’s success to four best practices:

  • Individualized support: Redhound Enrichment is committed to providing students with individualized support, which includes keeping up-to-date on students’ homework and grades and working with students one-on-one and in small group sessions.
  • School day linkages: Building partnerships and supporting school time learning, while not replicating what happens in school, is an important part of the program. Redhound Enrichment staff meet regularly with teachers to identify students’ needs and build rapport with teachers.
  • Integrated instruction: Literacy is integrated into a variety of enrichment activities offered at Redhound Enrichment. Using a project-based learning approach, programming does not mimic the school day set-up and allows students to learn important skills in new and fun ways.
  • Community connections: Partnerships with the school district, public library, universities, and other stakeholders provide important resources for the program. Redhound Enrichment invests a lot of effort into developing strong relationships with these groups, who in turn can help with funding, curricula, volunteers and more.
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learn more about: Rural Literacy
APR
11
2016

RESEARCH
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Upcoming research webinars: Year-round literacy opportunities and rural afterschool

By Nikki Yamashiro

In addition to rain showers, April also brings two exciting new webinars to build on the most recent Afterschool Alliance research materials. We hope that you will tune in for one, or both!  

The first webinar, Creating Year-Round Opportunities for Literacy, will occur on Wednesday, April 13 at 2:00 p.m. EST, and feature two programs included in the newly released issue brief, Taking a Year-Round Approach to Literacy—one of which is the 2016 Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award Winner. If you are interested in learning more about the variety of ways programs are helping to build students’ reading, writing and critical thinking skills during the school year and summer months, this webinar is for you. Redhound Enrichment, an afterschool program located in Corbin, Kentucky, and Simpson Street Free Press, located in sites across Dane County, Wisconsin, will discuss their approach to integrate literacy into their programming, how they develop their students’ literacy skills, and the ways in which they create meaningful connections to literacy among their students.

The second webinar, Afterschool in Rural Communities: What You Need to Know, on Thursday, April 28 at 1:00 p.m. EST, follows the release of the Afterschool Alliance’s America After 3PM special report, The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities. In addition to sharing key findings from the report on the state of afterschool in rural America, guest speakers on this webinar will share systems of support in place at the state level, promising practices and key strategies to address the challenges unique to afterschool programs in rural communities.

We also want to hear from you! If you have two minutes to spare, fill out this short, two question survey to let the speakers on this webinar know what topics would be most helpful. Help us tailor this webinar to fit your needs.

Additionally, check out our webinars page! Our webinar calendar for the month of April is jam-packed with great subject matter—covering our upcoming Afterschool for All Challenge and the Framework for K-12 Science Education, developed by the National Academies of Sciences.