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Guest blog: Afterschool gave me hope of a future I'd never known

By Guest Blogger

By Aaron Short, assistant head of staff at 21st Cranston Community Learning Center Bain +2/Kidventure Afterschool Program. Aaron attended the Youth Session of the 2017 Afterschool for All Challenge and spoke to his members of Congress about the impact of afterschool on his life.

From the start of my life, I was taught a few things from living in the ghetto of Cranston, Rhode Island: I didn’t have a chance in life outside there; it was okay to join a gang when your family loses everything; and the ghetto will be my life no matter how hard I try. If you asked me where these ideas were picked up, I couldn’t tell you, but it was inescapable.  By the time I was eight, my ex-friends were talking about how much they’ve stolen from grocery stores. Although I didn’t know it at the time, in the fifth grade I saw future gang members starting their careers at the tender age of 10.

My mother worked her hardest to give me a better life, but the mounting costs of daycare and the needs of my newly-born sister kept moving us lower and lower towards poverty. I still remember a point when we were being threatened with eviction because we couldn’t afford to live in our small apartment. My school’s schedule didn’t help the situation, as my mother having to take her lunch break to drop me off at school and had to leave in the middle of the work day to pick me up. And anyone who starts a job with few credentials and leaves halfway through the year can’t hold that job for very long. The choice was simple: I could be safe after school, or we could have dinner.

Then I got the flyer for Kidventure Afterschool Program.

The after school program at my school was affordable—much more affordable than daycare. It fit my mother’s work schedule perfectly. It gave me and my family the opportunity to make a life for ourselves, one that didn’t include gangs, poverty, and jail. Extra care for me and my sister meant that my mother had opportunity to make a career out of her job, and as I’m writing this we’re celebrating her 18th work anniversary.

The Kidventure Afterschool Program has given me chances I thought were reserved for the rich. I’ve met with NASA engineers, visited important cities, gone to my state house, and met congressmen and senators. Most importantly, I was given hope of a future I never thought I’d had. To me, afterschool means a safe place to go, one where gangs, predators, and poverty disappear. My program is place where your opinion matters, where you’re heard and valued. Afterschool, for me, is home.

I am now working at my program and we’re looking ahead to the first day of summer camp. Working as assistant head of staff at Kidventure is hopefully just the beginning for me. I hope to continue to help kids who were once in the dark place of the ghetto to see that there is another way.