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Afterschool Snack, the afterschool blog. The latest research, resources, funding and policy on expanding quality afterschool and summer learning programs for children and youth. An Afterschool Alliance resource.
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Snacks by Robert Abare
APR
19
2016

CHALLENGE
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Take the Virtual Challenge, gain powerful allies for your program

By Robert Abare

Participants of 2014's Afterschool for All Challenge meet with Senator Dean Heller of Nevada

On Tuesday, May 24, more than 250 afterschool advocates will arrive in Washington, D.C. for the Afterschool for All Challenge, meeting with their representatives in Congress to show them why afterschool programs deserve their support. This year, you too can cultivate powerful afterschool allies closer to home by taking the Afterschool for All Virtual Challenge.

The most powerful way to participate is to invite a local policy maker and their staff to visit your afterschool program. Site visits can reveal to policy makers the many benefits your program provides to the community—and can convince them to help protect and strengthen your program in the face of obstacles to funding and resources.

You can start planning your site visit today with these tips for a successful visit. Our Virtual Challenge hub offers all the resources you need to plan a successful visit, from do’s and don’ts to a sample invitation.

If you’re ready to attract valuable attention to your upcoming site visit, or if you simply want to build community support for your program, engaging the media is another great way to join the Virtual Challenge. Proven messages about the power of afterschool programs can raise awareness about your program’s impact and even attract funders or other community allies, and our resources make it easy to deploy them.

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learn more about: Advocacy Congress Events and Briefings
APR
14
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Q&A: An afterschool program enjoys a rewarding visit from Congress

By Robert Abare

Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance Jodi Grant (third from left) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (fifth from left) with the participants of J-Z AMP in New Haven, CT.

Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance Jodi Grant recently visited New Haven, Connecticut for a tour of the Jones-Zimmermann Academic Mentoring Program (J-Z AMP), along with local Afterschool Ambassador Mark Fopeano. Mark Fopeano is currently the Program Manager for Dwight Hall at Yale, the Center for Public Service and Social Justice on Yale University’s campus. The two were joined on their visit to J-Z AMP by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who represents Connecticut’s 3rd district.

Q: What is the J-Z AMP program?

Mark: J-Z AMP program is a mentoring program that builds beneficial relationships between Yale students and inner-city middle school students of New Haven. Yale students are recruited at the end of their freshman year for a three-year commitment to the program. This ambitious length of time allows the program to foster uniquely strong bonds between mentors and mentees. By the time Yale students reach graduation, their mentees are graduating 8th grade, resulting in a great kinship through mutual growth and shared experiences. J-Z AMP also operates at sites with other partner universities in Bridgeport, Conn. and Hartford, Conn.

Q: How did the younger participants of J-Z AMP respond to the visit by Congresswoman DeLauro?

Jodi: Congresswoman DeLauro spoke with the kids about the role of representative government and why they should care about voting, elections, and the work of their representatives. Her message really seemed to “click” when she discussed making a decision on whether or not to vote to send the United States to war, and put the lives of our military at risk. Suddenly, the kids got very quiet, and I could tell they really took to heart the significance of her role.

Q: How did the mentors react while watching the Congresswoman interact with their mentees?

Mark: It was great to watch the Yale students step back and feel proud of their mentees as they asked questions of Congresswoman DeLauro. These students sit and talk with their mentees every week, and to see them using their voices with such a unique and influential audience really gave a special feeling to the event. 

Q: What did Congresswoman DeLauro gain from her visit to J-Z AMP?

Jodi: Congresswoman DeLauro has been a champion for afterschool since the inception of the Afterschool Alliance, and she was an afterschool teacher herself, so she personally understands the need for these programs. She’s also a sophisticated policy maker who’s adept at reaching across the aisle to get things done—an important lesson for all the participants of J-Z AMP. When she concluded her visit, Congresswoman DeLauro told me how impressed she was with the program, and expressed her interest in duplicating the program’s model to more sites.

Mark: After her visit to J-Z AMP, Congresswoman DeLauro—or Rosa, as everyone addressed her during her visit—is able to return to Washington and share with her colleagues real stories about the power of afterschool, and how afterschool programs can benefit their districts, too. Similarly, it has been my privilege as an Afterschool Ambassador to collect and spread the unique stories of afterschool programs, which can only be found there, with those people.

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learn more about: Advocacy Congress Community Partners
APR
11
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool Spotlight: Greenvale Park Community School

By Robert Abare

The Afterschool Alliance is excited to present our first Afterschool Spotlight, a series featuring the stories of children, parents and providers of summer and afterschool programs. Have a story to share? Email Robert Abare at rabare@afterschoolalliance.org.

When Vicky Agapito-Rosas moved to her home of Northfield, Minnesota, 15 years ago, she was confronted by something every native Minnesotan had already learned to accept: a cold winter spent (mostly) indoors. But Vicky was troubled by the lack of activities and resources available to her third-grade daughter, Dalilah, during the cold winter months. 

“Other communities have malls or neighborhood centers where kids can gather after school,” Vicky explained, “but Northfield had nothing like that.”

Vicky Agapito-Rosas and her daughter, Delilah

Vicky decided to take action. She and a group of neighborhood parents who faced similar circumstances came together and approached the leaders of the Northfield Public Schools to find ways to keep kids engaged, learning, and active beyond standard school time hours. The group’s enthusiasm was met with equal interest by the public school leadership, and plans took shape for the Greenvale Park Community School, an initiative at Greenvale Park Elementary that offers a wide range of out-of-school time programming for students, parents, their families and the entire community.

Finally, a grant from 21st Century Community Learning Centers in August 2014 turned the Greenvale Park Community School into a reality.

Now, Dalilah rides a complimentary bus to and from the Community School on weekday mornings, afternoons and evenings. A world of activities are now available for her to explore, including cooking classes, creative craft projects, tutoring for her homework, photography, and much more. “If there weren’t a Community School, I would just be home watching TV,” Dalilah said.

The Greenvale Park Community School has earned praise from a number of people involved with the project, including Superintendent of Northfield Public Schools Dr. Chris Richardson. “I am so impressed with the efforts of Greenvale Park and Community Services staff to collaborate with individuals and community groups to design and provide the broad range of programs and services for the students, siblings and parents of the Greenvale Park Community School,” he said.

MAR
31
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Share your insights to keep kids healthy for years to come

By Robert Abare

The Afterschool Alliance is conducting a survey on afterschool meals to better understand the challenges facing the field—and the health of our nation’s children.

It’s difficult to face the facts about childhood obesity in the United States. Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents, according to the CDC, and more than 1 in 3 kids are currently overweight or obese. Furthermore, close to 16 million children live in households that are considered “food-insecure,” meaning they lack consistent access to food.

While obesity leads to a number of health problems, from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, food insecurity creates systemic obstacles for families and communities by leading children to choose foods that are less nutritious and binge eat when food becomes available.

Afterschool programs play a major role in promoting healthy lifestyles for our children. Many afterschool and summer learning programs offer physical activities, serve healthy snacks and meals, and lead kids through hands-on lessons in nutrition.

Your input leads to better practices

To better understand the obstacles that face programs providing healthy food to their participants, the Afterschool Alliance is partnering with Share Our Strength to survey afterschool providers about the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Meals.

Click here to take the survey—a few minutes of your time could benefit the health of children for years to come. The survey should take no more than 15 to 20 minutes of your time, and your answers will not be attributed to you or your organization.

The Afterschool Alliance's efforts to increase afterschool and summer meal participation are made possible in part by the generous support of the Food Research and Action Center and the ConAgra Foods Foundation.

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learn more about: Health and Wellness
MAR
9
2016

IN THE FIELD
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All the ways you can celebrate National Reading Awareness Month this March

By Robert Abare

This March is National Reading Awareness Month, a time to celebrate and accelerate children’s interest in reading, writing and literacy. There are many ways to get involved! For parents or leaders of afterschool programs, you can start by reading aloud to your young readers 15 minutes each day.

Why read aloud?

Reading aloud is the single most important activity adults can do to prepare their children for reading and learning. Research shows that, by age 3, gaps in brain development appear between children whose parents read to them and those whose parents do not. Yet only 48 percent of young children in America are read aloud to each day.

The national Read Aloud 15 Minutes campaign aims to reverse this statistic by encouraging parents and educators everywhere to read aloud to children for 15 minutes every day throughought March, in the hopes of forming habits that last for years.

Need something to read?

Last month, First Lady Michelle Obama announced a new app called Open eBooks, which offers millions of students unprecedented access to thousands of digital books. A partnership between Digital Public Library of America, The New York Public Library, and First Book, with content support from digital books distributor Baker & Taylor, Open eBooks offers thousands of popular and award-winning titles free of charge for children of families in need.

MAR
2
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool state network leader honored by White House

By Robert Abare

Every day, afterschool leaders build relationships with students and families to make communities stronger and safer. It's not every day, however, that an afterschool leader is recognized for his or her important work with an invitation to the White House.

Last Friday morning, Feb. 26, the director of Oregon's afterschool network (OregonASK) Beth Unverzagt was one of nine people to be honored by the White House as a Champion of Change for Summer Opportunity. This distinction recognizes change-makers who have led programs that connect young people with learning experiences, healthy life choices, violence-prevention strategies and job opportunities during the summer. You can watch a recording of the award ceremony on the White House YouTube channel.

OregonASK has flourished under Unverzagt's 10 year leadership. The network supports out-of-school time activities for Oregon's students through 65 public and private partnerships. OregonASK also created the first database of afterschool programs in Oregon, developed quality standards, measured competencies and outcomes, provided support to Oregon's 21st Century Learning Centers (21st CCLC) programs, and compiled reports to better understand the state of afterschool programming in Oregon.

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MAR
1
2016

RESEARCH
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See how local partnerships are overcoming national gridlock

By Robert Abare

A new report released today reveals the ways local collaborations between varied organizations, government offices, and nonprofit institutions are yielding improved education outcomes for children in cities across the country. The report, Collective Impact and the New Generation of Cross-Sector Collaborations for Education, was conducted by researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University and commissioned by The Wallace Foundation.

Why is local collaboration taking flight? The answer may come as little surprise: dysfunction in Washington. Congressional gridlock has increasingly impeded the availability of federal funding opportunities, and the top-down school improvement strategies brought by No Child Left Behind have left many education advocates dissatisfied with national initiatives. To overcome these hurdles, local governments and organizations have been forging relationships in order to find alternative ways of improving education results. This process is often referred to as "collective impact," but was renamed "cross-sector collaboration" by the authors of this new report.

Intriguingly, the report does not attempt to determine if these collaborations are successful. Rather, it chronicles intriguing patterns in the current generation of collaborations, which suggest a new level of attention being given to the political, operational, and educational dynamics that can make or break these initiatives. In order to provide children with critical support as soon as possible, these collaborations have side-stepped an age-old argument in Washington: do disadvantaged students require the support of schools alone, or a range of societal initiatives and aids?

FEB
23
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Do a good deed for this month's HALO Effect Challenge

By Robert Abare

In case you missed last month’s premiere installmentThe HALO Effect is a new show from Nickelodeon that tells the story of extraordinary teens who are working to make their communities and our world a better place. Every month the show features a new teen “Champion” who is Helping And Leading Others to make a positive difference. Young viewers and their families who tune in are encouraged to participate in the Champion’s cause.

This month’s episode, which aired yesterday, Feb. 22, told the story of 14-year-old Jaylen Arnold of Lakeland, FL, who is fighting against bullying. Jaylen was born with Tourette syndrome, and he was so severely bullied because of the tics caused by his condition that he was forced to take a three month leave of absence from school at just eight years old.

When Jaylen returned to school, he pledged to help other kids who fall prey to bullies by creating the Jaylen’s Challenge Foundation. The organization combats bullying through awareness, education, and community service. Jaylen currently travels the country to speak about his experience and help schools set up “Jaylen’s Challenge Ambassador Clubs” to anchor his anti-bullying message permanently in the community.

Since its inception, the Jaylen’s Challenge Foundation has taught more than 130,000 children the value of accepting others for who they are. Nickelodeon will recognize this tremendous achievement with a $10,000 grant to the Jaylen’s Challenge Foundation.

How can I participate?