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Snacks by Robert Abare
AUG
18
2016

IN THE FIELD
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US Senator praises Afterschool Ambassador named 2016 Champion for Kids

By Robert Abare

From L to R, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) with Afterschool Ambassador Julie Wild-Curry at the 2016 Afterschool for All Challenge in Washington, D.C.

Current chair of the Alaska Afterschool Network and Afterschool Ambassador Julie Wild-Curry has been recognized for her advocacy for Alaska's youth and out-of-school time programming by being named a 2016 Champion for Kids by the Alaska Children’s Trust. Wild-Curry is the Director of Afterschool Programs for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and a White-Riley-Peterson Fellow.

Throughout her 25 year career, Wild-Curry has advocated for increased out-of-school time opportunities for children and working families, both in Alaska and across the country. Her work helped create a strong out-of-school time network in Fairbanks, AK, which has ensured families have the support they need, and that more children have access to safe and enriching environments during the after school hours.

A letter from Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was read at a reception celebrating Wild-Curry’s receipt of the Champion for Kids award on Wednesday, August 17. “What many people here this evening may not know about you is that, in addition to being an outstanding program director and mentor, you are a national leader for after school programs,” said the Senator of Wild-Curry.

The Senator went on to praise Wild-Curry’s work, in partnership with the Afterschool Alliance, in drafting and advocating for the Afterschool for America’s Children Act, which sought to strengthen the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative (21st CCLC). “The bill reflected your many years of experience and your commitment to ensuring that children have the most enriching, safest after school and summer experiences possible,” she said.

Senator Murkowski added, “I was proud to sponsor that bill because I know that whatever you recommend is worth supporting. That bill became law with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act this past December.”

Indeed, the Every Student Succeeds Act preserved and strengthened 21st CCLC despite significant challenges, an accomplishment that would not have been possible without the support of champions in Congress like Senator Murkowski and advocates like Wild-Curry.

Through the Champion for Kids award, the Alaska Children’s Trust annually recognizes an individual that has demonstrated dedication and commitment in working toward eliminating child abuse and neglect by ensuring that children are living in safe, supportive, and nurturing communities. 

AUG
12
2016

FUNDING
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Your community could win $25K through the Culture of Health Prize

By Robert Abare

Every year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) honors U.S. communities that are making strides and setting an example in the effort to lead more people to healthy lifestyles through the Culture of Health Prize. In 2017, up to 10 winners will receive a $25,000 prize, along with the opportunity to share their strategies and accomplishments with the nation through RWJF.

The Culture of Health prize recognizes and celebrates communities where businesses, nonprofits or civic organizations—including afterschool programs—law enforcement and schools have joined forces to improve the community's health and overall wellbeing. The deadline to apply for the 2017 Culture of Health Prize is November 2, 2016.

What are the judges looking for?

There are many ways a community can build a Culture of Health, including:  encouraging healthy behaviors, establishing clinical care, researching social and economic factors, and improving the physical environment. Judges will look to see that applicant communities are taking action across these areas. Judges will also look to see how a community responds to the unique needs of its citizens, and are particularly interested in seeing effective changes in education, employment/income, family and social support, and community safety.

Who is eligible to apply?

As the Culture of Health Prize is intended to honor U.S. communities at large, submissions representing the work of a single organization will not be considered. However, afterschool programs are doing their part to improve the health of kids, families and communities across the country. Your program could play a key role in the application process, and could stand to benefit if your community wins the Culture of Health Prize.

Applications to the Culture of Health Prize may represent any of the following:

  • City, town, village, borough, and other local incorporated places.
  • County or parish.
  • Federally-recognized tribe.
  • Native Hawaiian organization serving and representing the interests of Native Hawaiians in Hawaii.
  • Region (such as contiguous towns, cities, or counties). 
  • Neighborhoods, states and unincorporated local communities are not eligible to apply. 
AUG
11
2016

LIGHTS ON
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Registration is open for Lights On Afterschool 2016!

By Robert Abare

The new look of Lights On Afterschool

Registration is now open for the nation’s only celebration of afterschool programs! Mark your calendars for Lights On Afterschool: October 20, 2016, and then start preparing for your event by registering today.

Last year’s Lights On Afterschool saw more than 1 million Americans celebrate at 8,200 events across the country. This year, we’re launching a redesigned logo and website along with updated resources to make Lights On Afterschool bigger and brighter than ever.

Top reasons to register today

  • If you register before August 18, you’ll be entered to win a Lights On Afterschool gift pack full of fun swag to hand out to kids and visitors at your event.
  • Receive 10 free copies of this year’s poster to help spread the word about your event. (Stay tuned to the Afterschool Snack learn this year’s winner of the poster design contest!)
  • Get priority registration for our Lights On Afterschool webinar series.
  • Place your event on our national map of Lights On Afterschool events.
  • Start receiving Lights On Afterschool emails that walk you through our redesigned resources, this year’s top event themes and ideas, and more.

More things to check out on the new Lights On Afterschool website

Start getting the word out today! Share your plans for this year's #LightsOnAfterschool on social media and you could get highlighted by the official Afterschool Alliance accounts on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram

AUG
4
2016

STEM
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The Next Generation Science Standards: what do they mean for afterschool?

By Robert Abare

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) offer a powerful new vision for American science education for the 21st century. NGSS brings long-needed reforms to national and state K-12 science education standards, incorporating decades of new research on how students best learn science—by actively investigating topics and solving real-world problems, just like real scientists and engineers do!

So far, NGSS has been adopted by 16 states and the District of Columbia, as well as several individual schools and districts. If it hasn’t already, NGSS will soon be influencing how your students are expected to learn STEM. To help program providers understand how afterschool fits in to the NGSS, the Afterschool Alliance has developed a new guide, Getting Started with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Key components of our new NGSS guide

  • An explanation and history of how NGSS was developed and who the key collaborators were.
  • The underlying philosophy of the NGSS, which encourages kids to learn science by doing.
  • An overview of the standards themselves.
  • How afterschool providers can work with partner schools and use NGSS as a way to improve their practice.

Back in April, we hosted a webinar that digs into the research behind the standards, and offers a couple examples of how afterschool programs are thinking about NGSS. Watch the recording, and stay tuned for our next NGSS-related webinar in September.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy Getting Started with the Next Generation Science Standards, and share it with other educators who might find this resource useful!

share this link: http://bit.ly/2alw9Ah
learn more about: Issue Briefs School Improvement Science
AUG
1
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Teens become health mentors through Health Ambassadors Program

By Robert Abare

When Jason Smith first arrived at Hiram Johnson High School to help turn the struggling school around, he expected to find a community overrun by gangs and violence. “That’s not what I found,” he said. “I found kids with lots of potential, who wanted to do something in their community and make it a better place.”

Smith, who is currently the Director of Health and Wellness for the Sacramento Chinese Community Service Center, quickly identified the school’s health and physical activity environment as a key area for improvement. “Many of the sports teams were having trouble finding recruits, and the cafeteria wasn’t serving healthy foods,” he said. “The kids were not leading healthy lifestyles.”

To help turn this trend around, Smith spearheaded the creation of the Health Ambassadors Program at Hiram Johnson and Luther Burbank High Schools. The Health Ambassadors Program is an out-of-school time collaboration between the Sacramento Chinese Community Service Center and the Sacramento City Unified School District. The program trains high school students to become champions for change in their communities by mentoring elementary and middle school students through nutrition and health education workshops.

The Health Ambassadors Program provides critical academic support, community service experiences and work force development for disadvantaged Sacramento area high school students. “The Health Ambassadors get the opportunity to work in an organization that is deeply involved in the local community, and they gain experience that colleges are looking for,” said Smith.

The first three months of Health Ambassadors’ training consist of educational activities, guest speakers, and a field trip. The next month is focused on guiding the students to create an outreach plan for younger youth who attend elementary and middle schools that feed into Hiram Johnson and Luther Burbank High Schools. Smith explained that the Ambassadors’ training program and outreach plans are influenced by and consistent with the Healthy Eating and Physical Eating (HEPA) standards.

JUL
28
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Duluth YMCA finds 'intentionality' in HEPA standards

By Robert Abare

Kids from the Duluth YMCA visit a local farm. Photo courtesy of Duluth YMCA.

Written by Matt Freeman

When it comes to food choices, children at the YMCA in Duluth, Minnesota, are probably a lot like kids everywhere. “The truth,” says Tracie Clanaugh of the Duluth Y, “is that we’re kind of swimming upstream. Kids want sugary snacks, and many aren’t used to eating vegetables. So we’re not just providing them with nutritious snacks and meals; we’re trying to teach them good habits.”

At the Duluth Y’s afterschool programs, that effort got a big boost from implementation of the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards, making good on a commitment by national YMCA leadership to implement the standards at more than 2,700 Ys across the nation.

“In all the work we’ve done,” Clanaugh explains, “HEPA has raised our intentionality around health, nutrition and physical activity. Ys have always been healthy places; it’s who we are. And we moved toward achieving HEPA standards even before there were HEPA standards! But we’ve really appreciated that the new standards have provided that level of intentionality – giving us new tools and helping us think through the goals and the specifics for achieving them.”

At 13 sites across Duluth, Clanaugh’s Y branch operates afterschool programs in partnership with the local school systems. HEPA standards in hand, she and her team met with a district food service manager to work through an afternoon menu, and she says the standards allowed them to dig into the specifics. “In the past, that conversation might have resulted in granola bars and playground time,” she laments – snacks that were too sugary and physical activity time that was too unstructured. “The reality is that we want them to have protein, fruits, vegetables and a balanced snack.” She goes on to explain that HEPA standards have helped the Y find a balance between time on the playground for free play, and more active games that get children running around.

The Y programs also use the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) curriculum to help drive home the importance of healthy eating habits and regular physical exercise. It provides lesson plans, goal-setting and the context for one-on-one conversations with children about the importance of nutrition and physical activity.

JUL
11
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool Spotlight: New York City Police Athletic League

By Robert Abare

This post is presented as part of the Afterschool Spotlight blog series, which tells the stories of the parents, participants and providers of afterschool programs. This post is also an installment in our new Afterschool & Law Enforcement series, which explores the ways afterschool programs are partnering with police to keep communities safe and growing strong. Last week's installment of the Afterschool & Law Enforcement series focused on motivations for partnerships.

Written by Matt Freeman

Since its founding on the eve of World War I, New York City’s Police Athletic League (PAL) has been a daily presence in the lives of New York City youth. Today, it serves upwards of 40,000 children a year at 24 sites that span all five of the city’s boroughs, providing afterschool and summer programming that includes healthy meals and snacks, as well as ample opportunity for exercise and sports.

What began decades ago as an effort to provide children with a safe place to play now provides tools and opportunities designed to set youth on a path to a healthy lifestyle.

“Sports have always been a core area for us,” says Marcel Braithwaite, director of center operations at PAL. “And we make a concerted effort with sports, not just for the kids who rise to the top and are candidates for high school sports, but for all kids. We make sports accessible to everyone, with a curriculum designed around teaching fundamentals—sportsmanship, how to play the game right, problem-solving, teamwork—things people don’t always associate with sports.”

In 2010, PAL’s health and fitness program took on an even more deliberate focus when the organization partnered with a local public school in Harlem to create the PAL Physical Education Program (PEP). Supported by a grant from the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program, PAL PEP began carefully measuring students’ progress toward specific fitness goals. PAL staffers led students through what amounted to a fitness pre-test at the beginning of the year, gauging individual participants’ fitness across a series of measures, including body mass index, cardio-vascular capacity, foot speed and other measures from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education standards. Subsequent measurements throughout the year allow PAL to track participants’ progress.

We make sports accessible to everyone, with a curriculum designed around teaching fundamentals

Over the four-year life of the grant, students regularly exceeded the state-recommended 150 weekly minutes of physical education, doubling the time they had spent in PE before the program began. “While other students around the city continued to struggle with obesity and youth fitness issues,” Braithwaite says, “in 2012-2013, 77 percent of our participants were either in the Healthy Fitness Zone for cardiovascular health, or had increased their laps run by 15 percent.” The program’s health and nutrition components also led to an 18.5 percent increase in the number of participants who reported eating fruit two or more times per day, and vegetables three or more times.

JUL
5
2016

RESEARCH
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5 statistics that inspire optimism in the future of America's youth

By Robert Abare

A new study has found that “Generation Z,” or the cohort of youth born after 1995 that follows millennials, are healthier and have higher rates of high school completion, despite significant challenges posed by the economy and education costs. The 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, compares national and state data on youth and their well-being collected between 2008 and 2014.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book provides substantial reasons to be optimistic about the future of Generation Z and all of America’s youth, especially when considering youth’s strides in teenage pregnancy, high school graduation and their persistence despite an unfavorable economic environment.

Here are five reasons to be optimistic about (and proud of) America’s youth:

  1. The percentage of teens not graduating high school on time has dropped 28 percent nationwide.
  2. The percentage of teens abusing drugs and alcohol has dropped 38 percent nationwide.
  3. The percentage of teens not graduating high school on time has dropped 28 percent nationwide.
  4. The rate of teenage pregnancy has decreased 40 percent nationwide.
  5. Youth are making strides despite strong economic headwinds. Currently, 22 percent of children live in poverty—the same rate as 2013.

“This generation of teenagers and young adults are coming of age in in the wake of the worst economic climate in nearly 80 years, and yet they are achieving key milestones that are critical for future success,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“With more young people making smarter decisions, we must fulfill our part of the bargain..."

McCarthy noted the importance of continued investments in systems that support and protect youth, like afterschool programs. “With more young people making smarter decisions, we must fulfill our part of the bargain, by providing them with the educational and economic opportunity that youth deserve,” he said. “We urge candidates in state and national campaigns to describe in depth their proposals to help these determined young people realize their full potential.”

The KIDS COUNT Data Book also offers a number of recommendations to policy makers as to how to best support America’s youth, based on the core values of opportunity, responsibility and security.