National Town Hall recap: Afterschool and Summer Programs Support Learning and Recovery


National Town Hall recap: Afterschool and Summer Programs Support Learning and Recovery

On May 28, the Afterschool Alliance hosted our first-ever National Town Hall, culminating a week of activity focused on celebrating programs’ efforts to support youth and families, and the critical role of afterschool and summer programs for recovery. We were proud to partner with leaders across the OST field for the week’s activities, including After-School All-Stars, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Every Hour Counts, Girls Inc., MENTOR, National League of Cities, National Summer Learning Association, the Y, and more.

These are tough times, personally and professionally. Yet afterschool programs have risen to the moment, providing meals, virtual programming, and staying connected with families to make sure their needs are met.

At the same time, we are worried -- about hunger, paying bills, access to health and mental health care. We are worried that programs will close. We are despondent about losing talented staff. Most of all, we fear for the health and safety of the children and families we serve. In the words of my Town Hall cohost, Laveta Wills-Hale Director of the Arkansas Out of School Network, "COVID-19 has laid out some of the deep, deep needs that have always been there but are now being laid bare."

As principal and afterschool leader Michael Wilson commented, "What good is having all our content online it if families don't have access? This crisis has opened a whole new opportunity to make things happen for students. It puts the needs of our students out there. We need to try and meet those needs."

Our families, our communities and our country need us more than ever – and we need a seat at the table to re-imagine what afterschool can be, especially as schools consider staggered schedules and limiting the number of students in classes. We need to be alert to concerns about extended social isolation for our kids. We need to think big, bold and completely outside the box about a comprehensive learning day. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke about the important role afterschool will need to play as schools re-open. And National League of Cities Presidents and Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino shared a video message highlighting the power of afterschool and summer learning programs as lockdowns lift. "These programs will prove vital to a strong recovery for all our communities."

With all the challenges before us, pushing for a seat at the table and for the resources needed to support youth is daunting work. But this is our call to act. The words of youth like Mila Flowers, one of our Town Hall panelists, keep me going: "My afterschool program has given me a place to belong to, to be myself. I have done things I never knew I was capable of. I cannot imagine my high school experience without it.”

What can you do?

  1. Tell Congress to provide more funding for afterschool
  2. Complete our survey so we can represent your needs to policymakers
  3. Reach out to your school districts and school leaders about plans for re-opening and the supportive role you can play

Many thanks to our outstanding Town Hall speakers:

  • Mila Flowers, Afterschool Youth Ambassador, 21st Century Community Learning Center, Walla Walla, WA
  • Dr. Deb Moroney, Managing Director, American Institutes for Research
  • Michael Wilson, PhD, Principal, Magic City Acceptance Academy, Former Principal, Glen Iris Elementary School, Birmingham, Alabama
  • Rico X, Vice President of School Age Services, YMCA of Middle TN
  • Tony Smith, CEO and Founder of Whyspeople and the Former State Superintendent of Education for Illinois