Youth are always encouraged to speak up out about what’s important to them. That’s why during this year’s Afterschool for All Challenge in Washington, D.C. we asked young adults to share their afterschool experiences with Members of Congress by sharing personal stories of how afterschool has helped to make some of their dreams a reality. “I Am a Youth Advocate for Afterschool,” a handout created by Afterschool Alliance staff members Trevor Sparks and Shaun Gray, turned out to be an incredible tool for delivering the message to Congressional members of how effective afterschool programs are in rural and low-income communities. During the Afterschool for All Challenge, while the adults were away, the children played—and learned what happens on Capitol Hill and how social media sites such as Twitter can be an effective tool when advocating for afterschool.
“Dear #Congress, #AfterschoolWorks to inspire learning and create unity in students” tweets 16-year-old Samantha
A spunky 12-year-old named Cabrilla from Duluth, MN, writes a message to Congress on her handout: “To my Congressmen and women I say to RAISE FUNDING because afterschool RULES and lots of kids DEPEND [sic] on afterschool programs...”
Twenty-four afterschool participants wrote handwritten letters, tweets and stories about how their afterschool program has helped to instill new skills or learn better eating habits and the benefits of physical fitness. Vanessa
, an ambitious 16-year-old and aspiring chef, wouldn’t have had exposure to the kitchen or learn new culinary skills without participating in the Advanced Culinary Program at After School Matters in Chicago, IL. Others touched on how passionate they have become about community service and helping their peers. A shy 14-year-old named Aracely
sends her personal note: “…I have trouble with science and algebra 1” and LIU 21st
CCLC Program “helps me out with that.” Still others testified that due to their afterschool program they’ve become more globally competent through their international afterschool club.
Armed with stories and experiences of youth from afterschool programs far and near, the afterschool advocates stormed Congressional offices on May 9 with their voices in support of afterschool and their handouts to leave behind with Members after their meetings. Their handouts will have a lasting effect on Congressional members, staff and with the youth themselves, who learned that they are advocates every day that they speak in support of their program.
Patricia tweets “#Congress. Help keep kids safe. Support afterschool programs across the nation.” I hope Congress is reading.