Q&A: How I pulled off a successful site visit at my afterschool program

by Robert Abare

Kim Templeman is an Afterschool Ambassador and principal of Crooked Oak Elementary in Oklahoma City, OK, and director of the Success Through Responsive Enrichment and Mentoring (STREAM), a 21st CCLC afterschool program. Last month, the program hosted a visit by United States Congressman Tom Cole, who represents Oklahoma’s 4th district.

Q: How did you lay the groundwork for Congressman Cole’s visit to your program?

A: I contacted the Congressman’s office through standard means:  through the contact information provided on his website. I first called his office and left a message, and then followed up with a few emails. I also reached out to our other representatives at the state and national level, but I found Congressman’s Cole’s office was most receptive.

Initially, we hosted an visit with Congressman Cole’s field representative Will McPherson from his regional office in Norman, OK. After his visit, Will said he would try his best to arrange a visit with the Congressman.

Q: How did you kick off your site visit with Congressman Cole?

A: I started the site visit by providing the Congressman with some information about the state of afterschool programming in Oklahoma, which I found through the Afterschool Alliance website. I explained to him how we rely on a grant from 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and how we use these funds to provide a number of services to our students, parents and community four days per week, like hands-on academic enrichment that supplements the school day.

Q: How did the students respond to Congressman Cole’s visit?

A: I explained to the students how lucky they were to receive a visit from a United States Congressman (I certainly never had an experience like this when I was their age!) During Congressman Cole’s visit I also quizzed the students on their recent lessons regarding the legislative branch and Congress, which was a great way for the Congressman to see the students’ learning in action, and also for the students to see their lessons come to life.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to invite leaders or legislators to visit your afterschool program?

A: Congressman Cole asked a number of questions during his visit, like how many students we serve and how often we operate, and he learned how we put our public funding into use. By interacting with our students he also witnessed how much kids love our program and the many benefits our program provides to them.

Q: What’s some advice you would give to an afterschool program seeking to set up a site visit?

A: Be persistent. Don’t feel like you are imposing on the official’s time—they are there to represent you, and their job is to understand and get involved in what you do.

Also, if you set up a site visit, be prepared to talk specifics. Don’t just say “we still need your funding.” Explain to the official how you budget your program, and show the official what funds support different activities. That way, the official can understand the reality of an afterschool program’s needs, and what your program needs most.

© 2013 Afterschool Alliance