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President's final State of the Union sets agenda for the future

By Jillian Luchner

President Obama’ final State of the Union address appealed to the commonalities among us as a nation and posed 4 major questions:

  • How do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity in this economy?
  • How do we make technology work for us and not against us?
  • How do we make the world safe without becoming the world’s police?
  • How can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us and not what’s worst?

In the afterschool field, there is much we can do—and are already doing—to help propel the vision the president sees for “the next five years, ten years, and beyond."

Afterschool programs provide daily access to the academic enrichment skills, interpersonal skills, mentors, and career introduction that young people need to be successful in life. Afterschool plays a key role in nurturing equal opportunity in the new economy.

Clubs like FIRST Robotics and other programs that teach coding give students from all backgrounds a chance to engage new technology in their favor.

International connections are established in programs specifically designed to help new arrivals and their families, or programs that allow students to communicate with international volunteers all over the globe. These global connections and budding understandings provide a foundation for the complexity and empathy needed to forge new paths in foreign relations.

And while afterschool programs don’t involve students politically, they often lead them toward meaningful civic engagement, which helps build more informed and involved communities. Students volunteer at service projects, participate in community meetings, help with voter engagement, join debate clubs where ideas can be considered, and establish safe spaces to interact with people from multiple mindsets and different worldviews.

The president has set out a big vision for us over the coming decade and beyond. The afterschool environment provides a flexible, innovative, integrated space for our youth to confront these challenges and prepare for these opportunities, and to build a better future for our nation and our world.

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