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Webinar recap: Celebrating afterschool programs and staff

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Webinar recap: Celebrating afterschool programs and staff

Lights On Afterschool is five weeks away, and it has never been more important to celebrate the impact of afterschool programs. Nationwide, programs are gearing up for the 22nd Lights On Afterschool celebration. On September 9, the Afterschool Alliance’s Tiyana Glenn hosted “Lights On Afterschool: Celebrating Afterschool and Staff” featuring panelists Charlotte Steinecke, Afterschool Alliance; Mark Cowsert, Missouri AfterSchool Network; Johanna L. Friedel, Afterschool Center of Education at Greenville ISD; and Erin Malone, Mission: St. Louis.

Tiyana opened up the presentation by giving a brief overview of why advocating for afterschool programs is so important this year and outlining the basics of planning an effective and meaningful Lights On Afterschool event. “Lights On Afterschool is the chance to celebrate afterschool programs and make the case to their community and their policymakers that these programs are essential to the youth and families they serve.”

In a typical year, one million Americans come together at more than 8,000 events nationwide to celebrate Lights On Afterschool, with plentiful media coverage and policymaker attendance. But this year celebration’s might look a little different, and it is important that programs host events that work best for their communities and their programs, she noted.

Tiyana built on the reasons for celebrating Lights On Afterschool. Afterschool programs can call attention to their  work and staff, show community leaders students in action, highlight the need for more resources, educate elected officials, nurture new partnerships and funders, build awareness in the community, and give the community something to celebrate!

She closed with the three tips to help programs plan a successful Lights On event:

  1. Register your event and receive 10 free posters, communications tools, and expert planning tips!
  2. Plan your event with weekly themes, virtual event ideas, and toolkits to engage policymakers and help you light up a landmark in your community. Programs can also submit sample language to have their governor declare October 28 “Lights On Afterschool Day.”
  3. Celebrate! Lights On Afterschool is a time to reflect on and celebrate the impact of afterschool.

Johanna L. Friedel spoke of her experience hosting a Lights On Afterschool event in Greenville, Texas. In her community, she recounted that Lights On Afterschool is a time to showcase student progress and what her afterschool program brings to the community. As a multi-year celebrant, Johanna outlined the evolution of her program’s events. Starting from an open house for families in year one, year two expanded the open house to include a theme or contest. In year three the event involved political figures, community members, and incorporated student-led events and demonstrations; and year five expanded to include multi-day celebrations.

Before closing, Johanna declared her tips for making a Lights On event special and effective. She prompted programs to start small, present data to demonstrate the positive outcomes of programming, involve community members, and to think outside of the box!

As a former director of a 21st Century Community Learn Centers (CCLC), Mark Cowsert shared his experience celebrating Lights On Afterschool in Missouri. Mark suggested starting small and recognizing a community partner like a city manager or mayor in order to foster the connection between afterschool and local policymakers and showcasing the community members that make each program possible. Mark also advised programs to incorporate media coverage as much as possible. His program was able to livestream their event on local radio and record interviews with policymakers, families, and youth in attendance. Social media live streams are also effective in spreading the message and can provide an opportunity for organizations to let youth take charge and lead interviews of their staff, superintendents, and fellow peers.

Next, Erin Malone shared her tips on planning a fun and inclusive Lights On event, urging programs to think through barriers to participation and introduce creative ways of alleviating these barriers for families and community members. Erin’s program created a Lights On Afterschool take-home challenge for students and families to work on. Students completed a daily activity at home and submitted their work for the chance to win prizes. Family members and staff were also encouraged to submit a video showing their support for the afterschool program in order to be entered in a raffle.

Charlotte Steinecke wrapped up the webinar with all resources and messaging available for programs to leverage social media and spread the message of Lights On Afterschool. With a focus on afterschool staff appreciation, programs are encouraged to recognize all that their staff do to keep kids safe and engaged by sharing photos, stories, and videos! Social media is also a great place to spotlight current projects and activities that youth are working on. The Lightbulb Challenge is another campaign that programs can participate in to show their support for afterschool. Lastly, Charlotte shared the social media language and graphics readily available to be shared on social media, emails, and blogs.

The webinar concluded with a Q&A with panelists fielding questions about event ideas, tips for lighting up landmarks in the community, and advice for first-time Lights On participants.

The full webinar can be viewed here. All presentation materials and Lights On resources mentioned in the webinar can be viewed here.

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