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Meet Elizabeth Tish, our new Special Assistant to the Executive Director

By Elizabeth Tish

Hi, my name is Elizabeth Tish and I’m the new Special Assistant to the Executive Director here at the Afterschool Alliance. My first experience with afterschool occurred in high school, when I participated in a summer learning program focused on college access and success. The program taught me how to succeed as a first generation college student—lessons I’m thankful for to this day. I’m excited to be here at the Afterschool Alliance, where I can work toward the goal of more students having a transformational experience in an afterschool program like I did!

I graduated from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with my BA in Public Policy this past December, and have completed two internships here in Washington, D.C. focusing on access to higher education and college affordability. While completing my degree, I had the opportunity to return to my summer program and complete research on what it means to enter college as an underserved student, as well as share my experiences in college with high school students who would soon start that process themselves.  

As Special Assistant, I will provide administrative and program support to the Executive Director, as well as work on special projects. I’m looking forward to learning more about the management of a national nonprofit like the Afterschool Alliance. I also hope to study and share the ways that afterschool programs can offer career and college readiness programming for their participants, especially programs that serve communities with many potential first generation college students like mine.  

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learn more about: Inside the Afterschool Alliance


Guest Blog: 10 ways to engage youth in the election

By Robert Abare

Written by Rachel Roberson, who leads the Letters to the Next President project for KQED

With the 2016 election prominent in the minds of voting-age Americans, one might wonder how young people can participate in the conversation about our country’s political future. Even if they are not old enough to cast their votes in November, youth have an undeniable stake in the outcome of this year’s presidential election. So how do we engage them in a meaningful way?

Letters to the Next President is a project that invites young people ages 13 to 18 to make their voices heard by writing letters or creating multimedia projects about election issues that matter to them. The initiative, organized by the National Writing Project, KQED Public Media and a coalition of partners including the Afterschool Alliance, has assembled a robust collection of resources for educators to help youth create letters.

Here are ten resources to help you engage youth this election year:

  1. Election Central 2016 from PBS LearningMedia
    At Election Central 2016, teachers will find tools, resources and creative solutions to educate students on the various facets of the political process. With content about the process and history of elections, these tools help turn news coverage into learning opportunities.
  2. Election Collection from NYTimes Learning Network
    Election news will dominate the headlines all summer long. Here are a few ways students can keep up with the candidates, campaigns, conventions and controversies — and make their own opinions heard.
  3. Letters to the Next President 2.0 Kick-off Webinar
    In this hangout educators described the power of participating in the previous iteration of L2P and highlighted the growing set of opportunities and resources available to educators supporting youth engagement for the 2016 Presidential Election.
  4. A Teacher’s Perspective from Edutopia
    Ellen Shelton, Site Director at the University of Mississippi Writing Project and former high school teacher in Tupelo, Mississippi, explains why she believes supporting this kind of political discussion in the classroom can have a deep impact on students now and in the future.
  5. Teaching the Art of Civil Dialogue
    Educator Chris Sloan reflects on using resources from Do Now, a weekly activity for students to engage and respond to current issues using social media tools.
  6. Developing and Discussing Political Views In the Classroom
    Educator Janelle Bence discusses some of her strategies for supporting students in discussing a wide range of political opinions in the classroom.
  7. Election Activities Outside the Classroom
    This blog post provides educators with a guide for developing L2P 2.0 letter-writing into a focused, whole-class civic action effort.
  8. NWP’s College-Ready Writers Program
    The goal of this mini-unit is to support students as they explore the purpose and format of Letters to the Next President 2.0, choose an issue worth writing about, gather information from multiple sources, develop a claim and write a complete argument draft.
  9. Argumentative Writing from Teaching Channel
    This video contains an in-depth conversation on lesson planning for reading and writing, identifying main ideas and developing arguments.
  10. Dear Next President from PBS NewsHour Extra
    Encourage youth to talk about election issues that matter to them by producing a video letter to our next president.  Find key steps to creating a video for Letters to the Next President along with examples and tutorials to help young media makers get started.

To explore this initiative in more detail, we encourage you to check out the youth letters from the first iteration of Letters to the Next President in 2008. You can also find more resources at, and sign up to receive monthly bulletins about new ways to participate.



Afterschool leaders selected as 2016 White-Riley-Peterson Fellows

By Elizabeth Tish

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley

Earlier this month, sixteen advocates for afterschool and expanded learning leaders from across the country were chosen as the 2016-2017 cohort of White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellows.

Throughout the White-Riley-Peterson Fellowship, a partnership between the Riley Institute at Furman University and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, fellows will study policy-making for afterschool and expanded learning through real world case studies. During the 10-month program, fellows will also design and implement a state-level policy project with the support of their Statewide Afterschool Network and the Afterschool Alliance.

The White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellowship is named for William S. White, President and CEO of the C.S. Mott Foundation; Richard W. Riley, former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education under President Clinton; and Dr. Terry Peterson, National Board Chair with the Afterschool Alliance, Director, Afterschool and Community Learning Network, and senior fellow at the Riley Institute.

The 2016-2017 White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellows are:

  • Billie Jo Bakeberg, Steering Committee Chair, South Dakota Afterschool Network (Spearfish, S.D.)
  • Suzanne Birdsall, State Director, 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), Department of Education (Silver Lake, N.H.)
  • David Carroll, Chief Program Officer, Neighborhood Houses (St. Louis, Mo.)
  • Lisa Caruthers, Director, Center for Afterschool, Summer and Expanded Learning, Harris County Department of Education (Houston, Texas)
  • Leslie Garvin, Executive Director, North Carolina Campus Compact (Elon, N.C.)
  • Nichelle Harris, Network Lead, Ohio Afterschool Network (Columbus, Ohio)
  • Jessica Hay, Program Director, California Afterschool Network (Sacramento, Calif.)
  • Stephanie Lennon, Policy & Advocacy Coordinator, School’s Out Washington (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Amber May, Organizer – Program Director, Mississippi Statewide Afterschool Partnership Network — Operation Shoestring, Inc. (Jackson, Miss.)
  • Shallie Pitman, Youth Development Associate, ACT Now (Chicago, Ill.)
  • Kelly Riding, Network Lead, Utah Afterschool Network (Salt Lake City, Utah)
  • Laura Saccente, Director, Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) (Camp Hill, Penn.)
  • Megan Stanek, Network Director, Oklahoma Partnership for Expanded Learning (OPEL) (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
  • Patrick Stanton, Creative Research Director, Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership (Boston, Mass.)
  • Kelly Malone Sturgis, Executive Director, New York State Network for Youth Success (Albany, N.Y.)
  • Courtney Sullivan, Executive Director, Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence (Tempe, Ariz.)

You can find more information about all 75 fellows who have participated in the program since its creation in 2012 through the Riley Institute.



How afterschool can help communities in face of division

By Jodi Grant

Children are often more in touch with the world around them than adults—they constantly ask questions about things they see and hear. Today, this awareness may lead to especially difficult questions, as recent tragedies in Orlando, Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas are still fresh in the hearts of Americans, and heated conversations on racism and prejudice grip the nation.

Thankfully, afterschool programs provide safe, supportive settings for children amid difficult circumstances, and often become one of the first places youth feel comfortable asking questions, sharing views and expressing emotions that spring from tough issues. For some kids, program staff are even like extended family.

That said, helping youth address violence, fear, grief and racism presents a considerable and challenging responsibility. I encourage educators to explore a valuable list of resources provided by the Partnership for After School Education (PASE), which offers guidance on navigating challenging topics and circumstances with children.

As an additional resource, the Afterschool Alliance and the out-of-school time field recently welcomed the advice of Dr. David J. Schonfeld, Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, in a webinar on how to support grieving children. In the webinar recording, youth services professionals can learn coping strategies to minimize children’s distress and behavioral difficulties that may arise from feelings of loss, confusion and anger.

Beyond providing welcoming environments for delicate conversations, afterschool programs serve as a glue that bonds various community partners in a united effort to support youth. Law enforcement agencies have often become those partners, and they are an increasingly vital one. When police and youth get to know each other in a fun, informal setting, they build positive personal relationships. Those bridges can help break down stereotypes, provide youth with new trusted mentors and build bonds that strengthen communities.

Aaron Dworkin, the President of After-School All-Stars, provided an inspiring example of the afterschool field rising to the challenge of building cooperative, peaceful communities. “We believe our programs and staff play an important and powerful role in many communities being affected by violence,” he said in a statement to stakeholders. “Many of us are in a unique position to help facilitate important conversations led by professionally trained counselors and to offer support and assistance to students, families, staff and schools working to reduce violence and cope with the trauma of its aftermath.”

This determined effort to promote harmony and encourage meaningful discussion has the potential to impact more than 70,000 youth who participate in After-School All-Stars programs at 326 schools across the country. These inspiring actions by the afterschool field may not generate bold national headlines, but they inspire the next generation of Americans to work together in peace, respect and mutual understanding.



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.



Afterschool & Law Enforcement: Motivations for partnerships

By Erin Murphy

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the second installment of the new Afterschool & Law Enforcement blog series. Through interviews with police officers and public service officials, this post focuses on the motivations that lead afterschool programs and law enforcement agencies to work together.

The New York State Sheriff Association's Sheriffs' Camp summer program

Across the nation, law enforcement and afterschool programs are partnering up to keep children safe and support working families. Juvenile interaction with law enforcement and victimization peak between 3 and 6 p.m., the hours after school before parents get home from work. Finding care for children during this time can be challenging for families, especially for working single parents.

Officer Kenney Aguilar of the Santa Ana Police Department described how many law enforcement departments recognize afterschool programs as the perfect partner in keeping communities safe. “Afterschool programs provide a safe haven for children to focus on academics,” he said. “These programs also keep kids off of the streets and away from the gangs that plague the neighborhoods.”

Rene Fiechter, Assistant District Attorney of Nassau County (NY), noted the role of afterschool in a community initiative to help single moms. “Affordable afterschool became a large necessity to achieve the goals of that initiative,” he said.

Additionally, working with afterschool programs provides an opportunity for law enforcement departments to build relationships, trust and understanding with community youth. Besides giving kids a safe place to learn in the summer, The Sheriffs' Institute in New York hopes to “encourage kids to see law enforcement as a friend and not an enemy,” said Chris O’Brien, executive director of the institute.

Darren Grimshaw, a major at the Burlington (IA) Police Department, has similarly seen his department’s partnership with an afterschool program transform the relationship of law enforcement and the local community. Participants in the program frequently say hello to officers and share their positive experiences with friends and family.

These partnerships between afterschool and law enforcement vary dramatically depending on the needs of the community and the capacity of the police department. Some departments provide funding for afterschool programs, while others run their own afterschool programs and camps.



New study: Afterschool physical activity standards are widely adopted

By Robert Abare

By 2020, at least 5 million children will attend afterschool or summer learning programs that have committed to implementing new physical activity standards, according to the Partnership for a Healthier America.

This promising trend is occurring largely thanks to the National AfterSchool Association’s (NAA) creation and promotion of new Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards, according to a new study released by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time and RTI International. The NAA’s HEPA standards were designed to help out-of-school time programs work to prevent childhood obesity and keep kids nourished, healthy and active.

The study, Monitoring the Uptake of National Afterschool Association Physical Activity Standards, compares findings from previous reports and surveys to analyze the rate of out-of-school time providers adopting the NAA physical activity standards into their programming. The report notes research by the Afterschool Alliance showing that more than 10 million U.S. children participate in afterschool programs—almost half of which come from low-income households—which makes these programs a valuable setting for promoting healthy habits among America’s kids.

The report also notes that "large national organizations including Y USA, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, National Recreation and Park Association, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America have integrated the [NAA’s HEPA] standards (in whole or in part) into sizable programmatic initiatives.”

The report continues, “In addition, states have considered regulations that include adaptations of the standards, with legislation enacted in California in 2014 and efforts underway in other states including Florida, South Carolina and Texas.”

These initiatives to implement the NAA’s HEPA standards at the programmatic and state level are helping to create broad, uniform improvements in the health of our nation’s children.

You can download the full report through Active Living Research. You can also join a network of youth service professionals seeking to curb America’s rising rates of childhood obesity by becoming a Leader on

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learn more about: Health and Wellness


Afterschool & Law Enforcement: Partners in keeping kids and communities safe

By Erin Murphy

The Afterschool Alliance is excited to announce a new blog series focusing on law enforcement and afterschool partnerships. As juvenile justice reform gains more attention from the afterschool field, the Afterschool & Law Enforcement series highlights how the out-of-school time field is partnering with police to keep kids out of jail and strengthen communities. Throughout the rest of the year, we will be sharing themed blogs that highlight many aspects of these partnerships, such as motivations for partnering, building relationships, highlights from city-systems, outcomes and recommendations for getting started. Additionally, we will share stories from some of our favorite partnerships as part of the Afterschool Spotlight series

In this first blog of the series, we will go deep on one component of many afterschool programs: mentoring. While common in many programs, mentoring seems to be especially prevalent in programs that focus on fostering stronger police & youth relations. Last week, the U.S. Senate law enforcement caucus recognized the importance of mentoring by hosting a Congressional briefing on youth mentoring. The goal was to discuss the role law enforcement can play in mentoring youth and share examples of law enforcement initiatives that have led to successful youth mentoring programs in their communities.

Three individuals with on-the-ground experience in developing these programs shared their knowledge and insight:

Chief Jim BueermannPresidentPolice Foundation. While working at the Redlands Police Department, Chief Bueermann developed a mentoring program that supported high schoolers in exploring law enforcement careers and becoming officers.

Donald NorthcrossFounderOK Program. Northcross developed the OK Program in 1990 while working as a Deputy Sheriff at the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. This is a mentoring and leadership program where law enforcement officers partner with African-American men to support African-American boys.

Orrin WhiteAssistant Director of Community Engagement, United Way of DelawareInspired by challenges African-American youth faced throughout Delaware, White initiated We are the Why. This program allowed youth to work with officers to learn about law enforcement, discuss issues in their communities, and develop ways to improve law enforcement-community relations.

These speakers shared their knowledge and experiences related to program development and gaining community support. and the amazing outcomes these programs provide students, officers and their community. They also highlighted outcomes of their partnerships and provided recommendations for building and maintaining strong partnerships. 

"These programs helped destroy prejudices youth held against cops and cops held against youth."


  • The most significant outcome of these programs was the development of relationships between participating youth and law enforcement. These programs helped destroy prejudices youth held against cops and cops held against youth. Northcross shared how relationships transformed through the OK Program. “At the beginning there is tension in the room when officers enter, but by the end youth are high-fiving and hugging officers.”
  • Both youth and officers gained new insight on how to interact in the community to reduce misunderstanding and distrust. White emphasized this, stating, “it’s important that officers are able to see how they are perceived by the community and learn from this.”
  • In established programs, youth participants are graduating high school and giving back to their communities directly—with many youth even becoming officers themselves.
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learn more about: Working Families Community Partners