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The future of learning

Photo: Courtesy of YMCA of Honolulu at Herton Branch

By Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. This article originally was published as a Mott Perspectives piece on the Foundation’s website. It has been reposted here with permission.

This is a watershed moment in American education.

Since the pandemic first emerged in the U.S. in 2020, families, teachers and afterschool educators have been on a full court press to keep young people safe and connected to learning. And many students themselves took up service projects to help their peers and communities cope and recover. Still, the pandemic has taken an enormous toll, not only in terms of test scores and academic outcomes, but also on the well-being of young people.

As we transition from this period, it’s tempting to think that, if schools are fully and continuously open for in-person learning, the challenges will fall away. That’s sadly, but simply, untrue. The pandemic did more than disrupt students’ educational progress. It also exposed and exacerbated longstanding inequities and injustices that must be tackled head on. It made clear, if there was still any question, that the old way of doing things is not good enough.

We need to find reinvention in recovery.

Fortunately, new ways forward — a bolder vision for education and equity, more authentic partnerships to achieve results, and more consistent efforts to listen to young people — are afoot, and momentum is growing. Much of this is happening through collaboration with the out-of-school-time field.

I’m proud that so many organizations the Mott Foundation supports are working with state and school district leaders to assure that recovery funds for afterschool and summer learning reach communities with the greatest needs.

At Deep Center in Georgia, for instance, young people have the opportunity to take part in Savannah Stories, a free afterschool literacy, creative writing and leadership program, thanks to a new grant program run by the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network for the Georgia Department of Education. In all, $27 million in American Rescue Plan funds were awarded to 106 state and local organizations in Georgia to expand and enhance afterschool and summer programming for students impacted most by the pandemic.

Through a bipartisan effort in Vermont, young people spent the summer exploring, learning and growing with support from a grant program run by Vermont Afterschool in partnership with Gov. Phil Scott and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Ninety-three summer programs offered nearly 13,000 young people opportunities to design projects in makerspaces, write graphic novels and much more. And now the Vermont network is leading a statewide effort to build a sustainable, fully funded universal afterschool and summer system so every Vermont youth who wants to participate will have the opportunity.

Afterschool networks in 17 states are expanding youth entrepreneurship education to help students cultivate the entrepreneurial skills and mindsets that prepare them for any college and career path. The Mizzen by Mott app is supporting their efforts by bringing this high-quality content — along with learning experiences from content partners like NASA, PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, the Pulitzer Center, Foundations, Inc. and Jazz at Lincoln Center — to afterschool programs in all settings.

And the American Association of School Administrators is working with a cohort of school districts and the 50 State Afterschool Network to develop tools and models of practice that support district and community partnerships in using recovery funds to meet students’ needs.

These initiatives show us how to break down silos and bring together diverse partners to change the odds for young people. That’s exactly what’s needed — a broad, bipartisan effort to make the most of federal and state recovery resources and to assure the full range of educational experiences, programs and supports are in place beyond recovery to sustain and build on the gains students realize.

This is crucial. With students spending 80 percent of their time outside of the classroom, afterschool and summer programs should be an essential part of every child’s educational experience — not a frill.

But, if we are to assure that these approaches become the national norm, we need to tackle one of the biggest issues facing the field: staffing — from recruiting and retaining staff to assuring fair pay and advancement. A recent survey by the Afterschool Alliance found that nearly 90 percent of program providers report concerns about staffing shortages and the ability to meet the needs of the children and families they serve. Meanwhile, unmet demand for afterschool programs is at an all-time high. Nearly 25 million more kids would participate in an afterschool program if one were available, affordable and accessible to them.

The good news is that, when state and local education agencies invest relief funding in afterschool and summer learning, programs can attract and retain the staff they need to expand high-quality programming. It’s a sound investment.

Decades of research show both that consistent participation in high-quality afterschool programs accelerates learning — and that those benefits last. When young people have the chance to explore robotics, launch a small business or grow a community garden, they not only gain skills, but also build a stronger sense of belonging. They find mentors, peers and internships, and they hone social and emotional skills to navigate uncertain times. In the face of a growing mental health crisis for kids, these experiences and supports are more crucial than ever.

With more than $30 billion in federal recovery funds that can be used for comprehensive afterschool and summer programs, including $22 billion in state set-asides for local education agencies, there is an extraordinary chance to help young people recover, heal and accelerate learning. We applaud the U.S. Department of Education’s recognition of the role of afterschool and summer programming in youth recovery and accelerated learning and are pleased to collaborate on its April 27 summit, From Recovery to Thriving: How the American Rescue Plan is Supporting America’s Students.

We have worked alongside the Department of Education since 1998, with grantmaking that includes pilot, expansion and ongoing support for the flagship federal afterschool initiative, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. In all, the Mott Foundation has granted more than $350 million to support afterschool in the U.S., including in our home community of Flint. We believe every effort should be made to enhance access to the innovative learning, academic enrichment and social-emotional supports provided by quality afterschool programs.

It’s encouraging that governors in a growing number of states are proposing new afterschool and summer initiatives to meet kids’ needs. I served as a member of Gov. Whitmer’s Return to School Advisory Council in Michigan, which recognized the critical role of afterschool — not only in helping students recover from learning loss, but also in creating lasting change to serve all kids better.

Past and present education secretaries from both Republican and Democratic administrations underscore the need for change in this critical moment.

In an article for The Wall Street Journal, former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings wrote, “As the nation contemplates its post-pandemic future, our schools and students represent common ground and a shared focus. It is vital that Americans come together at the local, state and national levels to reform and rebuild the education system, to address the lessons of COVID-19 and to set a stronger foundation for the future — the children’s and ours.”

In January, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said, “We must level up our entire system of education, from pre-kindergarten through adult education. It is our moment to finally make education the great equalizer.”

I couldn’t agree more.

A hard-earned lesson from the pandemic is that we are at our best when schools, communities, businesses, families, students, and the private and public sectors — all of us — come together to ensure kids have what they need. The Mott Foundation is grateful to the nonprofit organizations we support that are leading the way, and we implore other organizations across all sectors to join the effort.

The time is now. Our kids deserve no less.

Understanding “comprehensive afterschool” in the American Rescue Plan

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BY: Charlotte Steinecke      01/21/22

2021: A momentous, challenging, inspiring year for afterschool and summer learning

As 2021 comes to a close, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude for the incredible people working in and supporting the afterschool and summer learning field. In another year marked by the pandemic and recovery efforts, our field has worked tirelessly to ensure that programs have the...

BY: Jodi Grant      12/23/21

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BY: Matt Freeman      12/17/21

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BY: Matt Freeman      12/16/21

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BY: Guest Blogger      12/14/21

Afterschool programs can help young people access vaccines

With the COVID-19 vaccine recommended by the CDC for everyone aged 5 and older, afterschool programs are positioned to help their communities’ young people access vaccines. The U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, has traveled to various schools, including afterschool programs, to...

BY: Nicole Pettenati      12/06/21

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Photo by CDC on Unsplash The approval of COVID-19 vaccinations for children age 12 and older has provided a ray of hope to families and schools nationwide as way to help ensure students’ health and safety as they return to the in-person classroom. In August, the Biden administration...

BY: Nicole Pettenati      10/15/21

Looking back, looking ahead: Back-to-Afterschool 2021

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BY: Jodi Grant      09/28/21

Highlights from American Rescue Plan Twitter Chat: Maximizing ARP's impact on youth

Last week, the Afterschool Alliance hosted a tweetchat to highlight resources and strategies for programs and education leaders to support youth recovery and maximize the impact of American Rescue Plan (ARP) relief funds, ESSER funds, and child care funds by expanding out-of-school time learning...

BY: Maria Rizo      07/29/21

New resources to help you access ARP funding

More information about American Rescue Plan implementation has been released, so we’re sharing new timelines, toolkits, and implementation examples to help programs make the most of this historic investment in afterschool and summer learning. Visit our American Rescue Plan page to brush up on...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      06/14/21

Announcing winners of the afterschool staff gratitude campaign

As 2021 came to a close, the Afterschool Alliance launched a gratitude campaign across social media to encourage the field to recognize the amazing work of afterschool professionals. From teaching critical life skills outside of the classroom to “shaping the next generation of leaders,”...

BY: Maria Rizo      02/01/22

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Photo by Josh Sorenson on Unsplash The impact of afterschool and summer programs last well beyond a student’s formative years. The relationships that afterschool youth build with the adults in their programs often lead to academic success and future leadership opportunities. Mentored youth...

BY: Tierra Easter      01/25/22

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By Sam Piha, founder and co-director of Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation, both organizations dedicated to promoting the learning and healthy development of youth. Our national teacher shortage predated COVID-19, however there is growing evidence that suggests that the...

BY: Guest Blogger      01/20/22

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By Holly Morehouse, Executive Director, Vermont Afterschool. Across the country, afterschool programs have been chronically underfunded for decades, and the unmet demand among families has reached an all-time high. In Vermont, more than 26,000 youth are waiting for an available program. This...

BY: Guest Blogger      01/11/22

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BY: Matt Freeman      12/16/21

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BY: Tierra Easter      12/10/21

This Giving Tuesday, we're giving thanks for the afterschool staff who have risen to the moment!

This holiday season, we are celebrating the people who make afterschool great! Join our gratitude campaign and thank afterschool staff who are making a difference in the lives of youth and families, or share the “why” driving your own commitment to afterschool. Afterschool programs...

BY: Maria Rizo      11/30/21

Looking back, looking ahead: Back-to-Afterschool 2021

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BY: Jodi Grant      09/28/21

An interview with The Wooden Floor, a New York Life Foundation Aim High grantee

As the pandemic changed the learning landscape in and out of school, afterschool programs had to adapt. We spoke with Dawn S. Reese, Chief Executive Officer at The Wooden Floor, to discuss how her organization has pivoted to support students and families, and to hear more about what they undertook...

BY: Maria Rizo      09/24/21

Mentorship "show[ed] me my self-worth... the value that I have as a human."

Photo by Josh Sorenson on Unsplash The impact of afterschool and summer programs last well beyond a student’s formative years. The relationships that afterschool youth build with the adults in their programs often lead to academic success and future leadership opportunities. Mentored youth...

BY: Tierra Easter      01/25/22

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This article was originally published on The Wallace Foundation blog on January 19, 2022. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, educators around the country are seeing an increasing need to support young people who may be struggling with anxiety, depression, fear, trauma, food insecurity or...

BY: Guest Blogger      01/24/22

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BY: Shaun Gray      01/18/22

Celebrate afterschool and summer learning mentors this January

January is National Mentoring Month! Mentorships provide a multitude of benefits for both mentor and mentee—fostering communications skills, interpersonal relationships, and support. This January, join us as we celebrate the power of mentorships. In the afterschool setting, mentors help young...

BY: Tierra Easter      01/07/22

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BY: Guest Blogger      01/06/22

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BY: Matt Freeman      12/17/21

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As part of our campaign this holiday season to show our gratitude for afterschool professionals, we are sharing some of the extraordinary efforts undertaken by our Afterschool Ambassadors and their programs to support kids and families throughout the pandemic. We thank them, and the many...

BY: Matt Freeman      12/16/21

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BY: Guest Blogger      12/14/21

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BY: Tierra Easter      12/10/21

Why afterschool programs need social and emotional learning now

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BY: Guest Blogger      01/24/22

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BY: Shaun Gray      01/18/22

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BY: Guest Blogger      01/11/22

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By team members from The Kentucky Student Voice Team and from the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, co-authors of a new report titled The Co-Creation Generation: The Story of the Kentucky Student Voice Team & Guide to Intergenerational Impact. There are many lessons to learn from a new...

BY: Guest Blogger      11/24/21

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BY: Maria Rizo      11/16/21

An interview with The Wooden Floor, a New York Life Foundation Aim High grantee

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BY: Maria Rizo      09/24/21

Policy recommendations to promote youth employment in afterschool programs

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BY: Guest Blogger      09/13/21

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Are you ready to get kids active and playing sports this year? Our partner Coaching Corps is ready to help with free tools and resources from coaching tips based on youth development principles, to operating safely and supporting social-emotional well-being. Read on to sample some of their top...

BY: Ursula Helminski      09/03/21

A city-wide approach: Leveraging afterschool to support a new school year

By Bela Spooner, Program Director with the Education and Expanded Learning team at the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, and Gislene Tasayco, Senior Specialist with the Education and Expanded Learning team at the National League of Cities’...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/31/21

An Apology in Action

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BY: Guest Blogger      07/27/21

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BY: Charlotte Steinecke      01/04/22

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BY: Guest Blogger      12/14/21

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BY: Nicole Pettenati      12/06/21

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BY: Guest Blogger      10/29/21

Policy recommendations to promote youth employment in afterschool programs

Source: YMCA of Greater Long Beach By Sam Piha, founder and co-director of Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation, both organizations dedicated to promoting the learning and healthy development of youth. Involving older youth as workers within afterschool programs makes a great...

BY: Guest Blogger      09/13/21

My hometown is fighting a hidden opioid epidemic, and so is my family

Art by Aidan Ventimiglia/VOX ATL By Kalliope Samaltanos, high school junior and student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on August 25, 2021 and is republished with their permission. We are sharing this opinion piece as part of our...

BY: Guest Blogger      09/07/21

Tips for safe, positive sports in your afterschool program

Are you ready to get kids active and playing sports this year? Our partner Coaching Corps is ready to help with free tools and resources from coaching tips based on youth development principles, to operating safely and supporting social-emotional well-being. Read on to sample some of their top...

BY: Ursula Helminski      09/03/21

How the pandemic sparked my passion to help people who are homeless

By Genesis Strother. Genesis, 15, attends North Atlanta High School and wrote this article as part of her work as a student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on July 21, 2021 and is republished with their...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/17/21

IRS: Monthly Child Tax Credit payments began July 15

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BY: Guest Blogger      08/09/21

Critical Race Theory: A dangerous ideology? [Opinion]

By Asia Rodney-Collins, 13. Asia is a student at Emma Willard School and wrote this article as part of her work as a student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on June 24, 2021 and is republished the article with their...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/02/21

👏 Supporting learning: Afterschool leaders rise to the challenge

As part of our campaign this holiday season to show our gratitude for afterschool professionals, we are sharing some of the extraordinary efforts undertaken by our Afterschool Ambassadors and their programs to support kids and families throughout the pandemic. We thank them, and the many...

BY: Matt Freeman      12/17/21

Afterschool programs can help young people access vaccines

With the COVID-19 vaccine recommended by the CDC for everyone aged 5 and older, afterschool programs are positioned to help their communities’ young people access vaccines. The U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, has traveled to various schools, including afterschool programs, to...

BY: Nicole Pettenati      12/06/21

Prioritizing youth voice in COVID-19 recovery strategies: An interview with Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation

We spoke with Summer Haran, Chief Developmental Strategist of Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation to discuss how her organization adapted to meet youth needs throughout the pandemic, what aspects were most important when thinking about the future, and how Snider Hockey was able to expand critical...

BY: Maria Rizo      11/16/21

Afterschool programs help boost vaccination efforts

Photo by CDC on Unsplash The approval of COVID-19 vaccinations for children age 12 and older has provided a ray of hope to families and schools nationwide as way to help ensure students’ health and safety as they return to the in-person classroom. In August, the Biden administration...

BY: Nicole Pettenati      10/15/21

My hometown is fighting a hidden opioid epidemic, and so is my family

Art by Aidan Ventimiglia/VOX ATL By Kalliope Samaltanos, high school junior and student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on August 25, 2021 and is republished with their permission. We are sharing this opinion piece as part of our...

BY: Guest Blogger      09/07/21

Tips for safe, positive sports in your afterschool program

Are you ready to get kids active and playing sports this year? Our partner Coaching Corps is ready to help with free tools and resources from coaching tips based on youth development principles, to operating safely and supporting social-emotional well-being. Read on to sample some of their top...

BY: Ursula Helminski      09/03/21

Learning ecosystems are essential threads in our nation's fabric

By Gregg Behr, executive director of The Grable Foundation and co-chair of Remake Learning, and Ryan Rydzewski, science and education reporter.  It started in Pittsburgh like it started everyplace else: A one-off school closing, just for a day or two. Then a district-wide closure —...

BY: Guest Blogger      05/06/21

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BY: Guest Blogger      03/22/21

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: What is the role of the afterschool field?

By the end of February, the United States had given at least one vaccination shot to approximately 14 percent of its population. While vaccination rates around the country have varied and each state has implemented its own rollout plan, many states have begun opening appointments to essential...

BY: Erin Hegarty      02/26/21

Community Learning Hubs: Coming together to support students during the pandemic

A guide to how Hubs work & examples in place  As schools began shutting their doors and moving to virtual classrooms last spring, afterschool programs and youth development organizations stepped up to help students and families with access to the internet, learning support, meals, and...

BY: Alexis Steines      01/28/21

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BY: Shaun Gray      01/18/22

Highlights from #AA3PM Rural Tweet chat

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BY: Tierra Easter      01/10/22

Racial equity: Learning for justice

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Sieb and nappy.co. By Dr. Jackie Thomspon. This blog post was originally published on the Utah Afterschool Network's blog on March 11, 2021. Langston Hughes, a great poet from the Harlem Renaissance, is one of my favorite poets. When I think about racial...

BY: Guest Blogger      01/06/22

👏 Supporting learning: Afterschool leaders rise to the challenge

As part of our campaign this holiday season to show our gratitude for afterschool professionals, we are sharing some of the extraordinary efforts undertaken by our Afterschool Ambassadors and their programs to support kids and families throughout the pandemic. We thank them, and the many...

BY: Matt Freeman      12/17/21

Ohio Afterschool Network is unleashing student creativity, and fostering pandemic recovery, through entrepreneurship

At RISE Afterschool, which is expanding entrepreneurial education with help from the Ohio Afterschool Network and YEI, students are cultivating entrepreneurial skills as they create a garden business with raised beds. Photo: CBI Middletown, Inc. By Laurie Posner. Laurie Posner is a...

BY: Guest Blogger      12/14/21

Civic engagement and activism in afterschool programs: An interview with a youth development researcher

By Sam Piha, founder and co-director of Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation, both organizations dedicated to promoting the learning and healthy development of youth.   According to the Afterschool Alliance, “The afterschool field is an essential...

BY: Guest Blogger      11/15/21

Culturally responsive programming resources from WHUT for afterschool educators

If you’re an afterschool program director looking for educational resources that relate to culturally responsive programming, WHUT - Howard University Television may be a great source to check out. WHUT is the first and only public broadcast television station, owned and licensed to...

BY: Shaun Gray      11/08/21

Critical Race Theory: A dangerous ideology? [Opinion]

By Asia Rodney-Collins, 13. Asia is a student at Emma Willard School and wrote this article as part of her work as a student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on June 24, 2021 and is republished the article with their...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/02/21

New guide for programs serving youth in out-of-school time: Indiana Afterschool Network's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tool

By Maria Rizo and Bri Gaston-Bell. In this Q&A with the Afterschool Alliance, Bri Gaston-Bell of the Indiana Afterschool Network, talks about how Afterschool Standards are outlining the path to drive high-quality and equitable OST programs for youth state-wide. What are the Indiana...

BY: Maria Rizo      07/19/21

There is still time to apply to be a 2021 Afterschool Alliance Youth Ambassador!

By Leah Silverberg, STEM Projects and Field Outreach Associate at the Afterschool Alliance, and Juliana Montell, a student at The Boys & Girls Club of Kennebec Valley.  Applications close June 30 to become one of the next Afterschool Alliance Youth Ambassadors. Each year, we...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/23/21