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Not The Onion: Horses, surfboards, and cyberattacks in afterschool

By Jodi Grant

Photo by Pete Markham

Despite a wealth of research showing the importance of afterschool and widespread popularity with parents, students, teachers and community leaders, programs have never been more threatened. This week the president decided to double down on his call to eliminate afterschool funding in his 2018 budget proposal, leaving 1.6 million kids’ with no where to go after school. It’s a serious matter with implications for Americans across the country.  The cut has caught the attention of major national media, local media across the country, and late night comedians and Saturday Night Live.  

The Afterschool Alliance isn’t exempt from the heightened publicity. On Monday, we had our first mention in The Onion, which wrote a satirical piece on the Secretary of Education’s new plan to replace 21st Century Community Learning Centers with afterschool polo programs across the country.

I was flattered to be mentioned, but as in all great satire, the piece contained a lot of truth. If the Secretary of Education did call me, I’d be thrilled to tell her about pretty amazing afterschool programs. I haven’t heard of afterschool polo yet, but given the creativity and ingenuity local communities across the nation have developed, I would not be surprised. Afterschool programs keep kids safe, boost student success, and help working families – and quite often, they also blow your mind.

Here’s just a few of many programs expanding the worlds of kids in communities across the country:

  • Ebony Horsewomen’s equestrian program is taking a running leap into the youth development field, with a special focus on equine-assisted therapy, horsemanship training, and academic programming for low-income urban kids in Connecticut
  • Stoked teaches inner-city kids in New York to surf off the coast of Coney Island and offers opportunities for kids to develop their own skateboard brands, which are then reviewed by industry executives
  • Created by the Air Force Association, Cyber Patriots helps kids across the nation develop cyber security skills as they face off at national competitions, fending off simulated cyberattacks and developing skills that are vital to keeping our country safe
  • In rural central Missouri, Camdenton HS 4-H FIRST LASER 3284 Robotics coaches students to compete in robotics competitions across the nation and inspires many of its graduates to pursue STEM careers with the skills they’ve learned
  • Digital Harbor in Baltimore helps youth entrepreneurs learn 3-D printing, product design, web design, app development, and the business applications for the activities they enjoy at their program
  • Youth Leadership Initiative in St. Paul brings young people together in a year-long program to encourage appreciation for the cultures of others, cross-cultural leadership, and meaningful engagement in the issues that communities face
  • The University of Southern Indiana recently hosted a competition for the Indiana chapter of SeaPerch, a program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research that equips youth and program leaders with resources to build an unmanned underwater vehicle
  • San Diego’s Fern Street Circus combines physical activity skills like balance, tumbling, and gymnastics with health and wellness initiatives like “Eat a Rainbow,” performance opportunities, and an apprentice program that focuses act creation and development

Afterschool presents a locally-driven solution to close the opportunity gap between children from low- and high-income families – that’s why it’s so important to preserve federal funding for afterschool. When students participate in quality afterschool programs, they attend school more often, perform better in class, and are more likely to graduate. Fun, engaging, hands-on activities excite kids about learning and cultivate the problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills essential to succeed, whether they are learning to code, manning an underwater vehicle or even playing polo.