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Meeting the moment: How afterschool programs kept the lights on through the COVID crisis

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Meeting the moment: How afterschool programs kept the lights on through the COVID crisis

By Mark Cowsert, Associate Director of Policy and Partnerships for the Missouri AfterSchool Network. This article was originally published on Kids Win Missouri on October 21, 2020. The blog is reposted with the author's permission.

 

Mid-March, 2020 seemed like any other late winter, early spring time of year, but as we all know now, things shifted drastically in school buildings and community-based organizations across the state (and the nation). As COVID-19 caused schools to close and working parents to stay home, before-and afterschool/out-of-school-time programs across the state went into overdrive to make sure that school-age children were safe, fed, and on course academically.

Life shifted drastically, and afterschool professionals sought ways to serve essential workers as well as support the virtual education efforts of schools when the great move happened that begins with the letter “p.” Pivot! As much as I used this word early in what I now call Covid-interruptus, I have joked that I never want to use the word “pivot” again; yet it so describes the work and resiliency of the thousands of amazing professionals that care for over 135,000 school age children in grades K-12 in nearly 1,100 before-and afterschool programs across the Show Me State.

 Prior to my current role on the Missouri AfterSchool Network (MASN) team, I was the program director of a 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) program, and I was never prouder of my friends and colleagues as I was from mid-March until now. As Zooms became a way of life several times a day, the stories of “pivoting” to serve families gripped my heart. Staff delivered meals everyday to children who lived several miles out of town or just a few blocks away so they could see that their students were safe and taken care of. Facebook Live, Zoom and Google Hangouts replaced the warmth of in-person care, and afterschool professionals still found a way to provide a broad array of activities, a warm voice of encouragement and the assurance that their students were not forgotten.

Thursday, October 22, 2020 is Lights On Afterschool Day. Established 21 years ago by the Afterschool Alliance, this special celebration event shines a bright light on the important role that afterschool plays in the development of and care for school age children. Afterschool provides a vitally important safe place for school age children whose parents must clock into a mid-Missouri factory at 7:00 a.m. or the children whose parents can’t leave their downtown St. Louis or Kansas City office until 5:00 in evening. Beyond providing a safe place while parents begin and finish their workday, afterschool programs provide quality educational opportunities for academic enrichment that supports the success of students, encourages students to dream big dreams through career awareness and entrepreneurship initiatives, and builds confidence for students through mentorship. If ever there was a time to shine a big spotlight on afterschool, it is now. Working families need this critical care and students need the safety and support of a consistent mentor. Missouri has the most amazing programs, from deep in the bootheel to the other three corners of the state and all points in between.

This week, seek out the staff of an afterschool program and tell them “thank you” for the dedication to serve families and care for the students of your community. This year, we honored some wonderful afterschool champions, heard from students whose lives have been changed forever, honored the lifetime achievement of a dedicated professional, and reminded the afterschool community that all those “pivots” have been and will continue to be worth it for Missouri’s kids!

Enter the 2020 Lights On Afterschool Poster Contest: $500 grand prize!

We’re bringing back the Lights On Afterschool poster contest! Grab your markers and sketchbooks, your digital art pads and pens: the afterschool artist who creates the winning masterpiece will take home $500 for their afterschool program! As always, the winning artwork will be printed on...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      02/07/20

From New York to San Francisco, America’s landmarks shined for Lights On Afterschool

Hernando De Soto Gateway to Memphis Bridge in Memphis, TN. Courtesy of Mary Graham. Last Thursday, as America celebrated Lights On Afterschool for the 20th consecutive year, landmarks across the country lit up in yellow and blue to support the afterschool programs that keep kids safe, inspire...

BY: Magen Eissenstat      10/28/19

20th Lights On Afterschool: 1 million people, 10,000 events, 1,000s of lightings and billboards

For the 20th Lights On Afterschool, afterschool programs, supporters, and youth took the nation’s only rally for afterschool to new heights. More than 1 million students, parents, educators, business and faith leaders, policy makers, community members, and more gathered at schools, parks,...

BY: Ursula Helminski      10/25/19

It's finally here: The bright, brilliant, record-breaking 20th Lights On Afterschool!

The lights will be on for afterschool programs today as students, parents, educators, business and faith leaders, policy makers, community members and others come to schools, parks, campuses, state capitols, city halls, museums, malls, and other venues to show their support for afterschool...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      10/24/19

Lights On Afterschool events showcase healthy eating, stress management & active lifestyles

Afterschool programs are key players in ensuring children’s well-being, addressing challenges such as hunger and food insecurity, managing stress, encouraging physical activity, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. Many Lights On Afterschool events this year are showcasing how afterschool programs...

BY: Lisa Lederer      10/22/19

New sample materials for Lights On Afterschool

There are just three more days until the 20th Lights On Afterschool, and we've got a few final updates for your celebration!  We've updated our news release, detailing some of the amazing events happening this year and the new report from Fight Crime: Invest In...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      10/21/19

10 bright ideas for a fun, easy Lights On event

The 20th Lights On Afterschool is only a few days away! There's still time to plan an amazing event, or to add another dimension to your plans for October 24. Visit our Last-Minute Ideas page to find easy, fun ways to celebrate. Here are a few examples to spark your...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      10/18/19

Reach out now to generate coverage of your Lights On Afterschool event!

For most afterschool programs, and for the afterschool field overall, Lights On Afterschool is the most visible time of the year. It’s a time when we use social and mainstream media to share the wonderful, fun, educational activities afterschool programs offer and the many ways they support...

BY: Lisa Lederer      10/15/19

City leaders & education advocates light up billboards nationwide for the 20th Lights On Afterschool

Adapted from a recent press release. Big, bright news for the 20th Lights On Afterschool! In partnership with the Afterschool Alliance, the National League of Cities, and the National Summer Learning Association—a coalition of afterschool supporters—joined with Clear Channel Outdoor...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      10/14/19

We challenge you: Raise your arms for afterschool!

We're just two weeks away from the 20th Lights On Afterschool. Join us in celebrating afterschool and summer learning programs that make a huge difference in the lives of our kids with the 3rd annual Lightbulb Challenge! Every year, we challenge friends of afterschool across the country to...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      10/10/19

From New York to San Francisco, America’s landmarks shined for Lights On Afterschool

Hernando De Soto Gateway to Memphis Bridge in Memphis, TN. Courtesy of Mary Graham. Last Thursday, as America celebrated Lights On Afterschool for the 20th consecutive year, landmarks across the country lit up in yellow and blue to support the afterschool programs that keep kids safe, inspire...

BY: Magen Eissenstat      10/28/19

City leaders & education advocates light up billboards nationwide for the 20th Lights On Afterschool

Adapted from a recent press release. Big, bright news for the 20th Lights On Afterschool! In partnership with the Afterschool Alliance, the National League of Cities, and the National Summer Learning Association—a coalition of afterschool supporters—joined with Clear Channel Outdoor...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      10/14/19

Join the Light Up A Landmark Challenge: Light up the night sky across all 50 states!

This October 24 marks our 20th Lights On Afterschool, and one of our brightest partners is back: for the 13th year in a row, the iconic Empire State Building will light up the New York City skyline in support of Lights On Afterschool! The national landmark will light the sky in blue and...

BY: Ursula Helminski      07/18/19

20 weeks to the 20th Lights On Afterschool!

We can’t believe it either—this October 24 will be our 20th Lights On Afterschool celebration! We’ve got exciting plans in the works – so many that we will be unveiling something new each week up until October 24, 2019. We’re asking you to join us and starting...

BY: Ursula Helminski      06/06/19

Landmarks aglow across the country for Lights On Afterschool 2018

Lights On Afterschool 2018 was marked by communities flipping the light switches of gyms, clubhouses, classrooms, and parks across America in an effort to provide a safe, supportive learning environment for children. Similarly, recognizable landmarks coast to coast recognized the valuable...

BY: Faith Savaiano      11/08/18

The biggest and brightest Lights On Afterschool yet

We celebrated by coding, dancing, cooking, drawing, reading, making music, sharing. We had book giveaways. Canned food drives. Hackerspaces and maker faires. Puzzle pieces that, together, form over-sized lightbulbs that fill gymnasium floors. Inflatable planetariums for students to explore....

BY: Ursula Helminski      10/26/18

3 quick ideas for a healthy, happy Lights On Afterschool

Afterschool programs play many important roles in their communities, but one of the most powerful is the positive impact out-of-school time programs can have on the health of their students. From providing healthy meals and safe places to play outside, to supporting students’ mental and...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      09/05/19

Host a sizzling Lights On event: A pitch contest

By Liz Nusken,Young Entrepreneur Pitch program lead at the Ohio Afterschool Network. Lights On Afterschool presents afterschool programs with an opportunity to showcase their fun, hands-on learning experiences to partners and members of the larger community. A Lights On live pitch...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/29/19

4-H is seeking Game Changers this October

By Kittrina Thompson, digital marketing manager, National 4-H Council, 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD) is an annual initiative inspiring kids everywhere to take an active interest in STEM topics through hands-on learning. Celebrations begin October 1, with participation across the country...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/22/19

KIND to celebrate Lights On Afterschool

By Daniel Lubetzky, CEO of Kind LLC. KIND is helping programs celebrate the 20th Lights On Afterschool this October 24. KIND will be on hand at about a dozen Lights On Afterschool events AND they’re donating 150 KIND products to Lights On Afterschool sites nationwide,...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/25/19

Guest blog: Partner with your local library for Lights On Afterschool!

By Megan Burton, STEM and Learning Supervisor at the Kitsap Regional Library in Washington State. “It is a real collaboration,” said Nicole Rawlinson, Teen Services Librarian at the Sylvan Way branch of the Kitsap Regional Library describing her work with the local Boys and Girls...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/30/18