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In the Field Snacks
JUL
24
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Introducing Stephanie Rodriguez, the new Director of STEM Policy

By Stephanie Rodriguez

Hi! Stephanie Rodriguez here, the new Director of STEM Policy at the Afterschool Alliance. I’m incredibly excited to advocate for the importance of out-of-school time STEM learning and its role in encouraging students to engage in and pursue activities and careers in STEM fields. My personal, lived experience with informal STEM learning experiences fuels my passion for afterschool STEM and brought me to the Afterschool Alliance, where I will work to impact policies that support opportunities for all youth to engage with STEM learning.

I join the Afterschool Alliance fresh off my tenure as an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation, where I worked on efforts to broaden participation in computer science and other STEM fields. Prior to the fellowship, I completed my PhD in immunology at Washington University in St. Louis where I studied the T-cell development process and devised innovative strategies to watch this phenomenon in live animals in real time using advanced microscopy techniques. While at WashU I also directed the Young Scientist Program, a 25-year-old program that engages St. Louis public school teachers and students in hands-on STEM experiences while providing critical resources to a community in need.

My own path to becoming a scientist was 100% paved by STEM experiences external to the classroom. In high school, I was part of an authentic research experience working at a Ball State University biochemistry lab through a program aimed at getting girls and underrepresented groups into STEM fields. The experience got me hooked on STEM, built my resume, connected me with mentors, and expanded my human capital and network. If not for that invaluable experience, I would not have been exposed to the STEM research enterprise nor had the confidence and interest to consider a career in a STEM field.

Afterschool STEM engagement is an opportunity all students should have access to and I am eager to jump into my new role and support policies that will make that happen!

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learn more about: Inside the Afterschool Alliance
JUL
21
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Recap: The Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition’s letter to Congress

By Julie Keller

In late June, the Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition sent a letter to the House and Senate Labor Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittees signed by 130 coalition members calling on the Subcommittee leadership to maintain or increase federal funding that promotes healthy childhood weight through support of before and after school, and summer learning programs focused on healthy eating and physical activity.

The letter highlighted the contradiction of the Trump administration’s claim that their FY2018 budget proposal would “prioritize the security and well-being of Americans” while simultaneously substantially decreasing or eliminating federal funding for out-of-school time programs that promote the health of our nation’s children.

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learn more about: Health and Wellness
JUL
19
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Closing the achievement gap for Latino kids

By Guest Blogger

By Diego Uriburu, co-founder and executive director of Identity.

By age 16, Elam had been out of school for two years. Although he’d dropped out of school the first time, he knew he needed to turn his life around and that the best way to do that was to complete his education. Going back to school was extremely difficult, but that’s where Elam found Identity, an organization that provides afterschool programs for low-income Latino students in Montgomery County, Maryland.

“I enrolled in school and worked hard, but my passion and my escape was soccer,” Elam says. “That’s how I first met Coach Efrain Viana, who came to school to recruit for the Identity league. What I liked immediately was that everyone got a chance and was treated like family. I wasn’t alone anymore. Identity pushed me to work hard in school as well as on the field, and to take every opportunity presented. Opportunities like college — Coach Efrain connected me with coaches at Washington Adventist University. I started last fall with a full scholarship.”

Elam’s story is just one of the examples of afterschool making a difference to the youth who need it most. But the futures of young people like Elam have been put in jeopardy as the administration moves to eliminate funding for afterschool programs.

JUL
18
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Meet Julie Keller, our Health and Wellness Intern

By Julie Keller

Hey, y’all! I’m Julie Keller, the new Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Policy Intern at the Afterschool Alliance.

Within my role as the HEPA Policy Intern, I will be working with the director of health and wellness initiatives to advance state-level public policy and incorporate healthy eating and physical activity standards into out-of-school time programs. My past experience as a City Year AmeriCorps member and a Girls Inc. afterschool instructor gives me a unique perspective as I work on behalf of the out-of-school time community. I look forward to learning from the Afterschool Alliance team on the many ways to effectively support our youth at the national, state, and local level!

Throughout my childhood, I struggled with my health and lacked the education, resources, and opportunities to best take care of my mind and body. That experience cultivated my passion for the health promotion of youth and drove my college career at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In addition to receiving my B.A. in Psychology, I pursued a certificate in Health and Wellness, developed and implemented weekly life and health skills trainings for the Health and Wellness Department volunteers, facilitated alcohol and drug safety seminars for incoming freshman, and managed data collection and analysis for the university’s wellness collaborative of more than 20 departments.  Although these roles afforded me practical skills and training within the public health sector, my dedication to advancing equitable out-of-school health and wellness opportunities is motivated by experiences with my students during my time as a City Year Corps member.

As I transition from direct service to advocacy, my students’ resilience and ambition will keep me grounded and committed to advocating for an increase of access to quality afterschool programming. I am ready to support out-of-school time and early childhood providers and organizations through the advancement of healthy eating and physical activity policy!

JUL
17
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Texas celebrates win for afterschool & summer programming

By Guest Blogger

By Alison Reis-Khanna is the Executive Director of the Texas Partnership for Out of School Time (TXPOST) located in Austin, TX. As the leader of TXPOST, she is constantly advocating for all things afterschool including funding, data gathering, and improved quality. This is a blog on the legislation that passed during the 85th session in Texas on increased data collection of afterschool and summer programming.

The 85th Texas Legislative Session began with the release of a proposed budget that called for across the board cuts in general revenue spending. Substantial cuts were expected due to waning oil and gas prices and significant tax cuts passed during the 84th Legislative Session. Between the proposed budget cuts and the lack of bipartisan support, Texas politicos expected minimal legislation to be signed into law, and they were right.

The session ended with the lowest number of bills and resolutions passed during the previous 10 legislative sessions. Additionally, Governor Abbott was quick to use his veto power, vetoing 50 of the bills sent to his desk. This is the greatest use of veto power since 2007 in the state. From multiple perspectives, this session of the Texas legislature was unique and extremely challenging for many organizations and advocates.

JUL
13
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Meet our Communications Intern, Marco Ornelas

By Marco Ornelas

Hello! My name is Marco Ornelas and I am the communications intern for the summer here at the Afterschool Alliance. I am a senior at the University of California, Riverside where I major in Political Science with hopes of attending law school after completing my undergraduate education. I am also currently vice president of Delta Chi, a fraternity at my school, and a senator in UC Riverside’s student government, which represents the 11,000 students of the college of humanities.

I work as a classroom assistant at UC Riverside’s Early Childhood Services and recently worked on the 2016 presidential campaigns. My involvement in advocacy has allowed me to see firsthand the importance of ensuring every child gets a quality education. I am excited to work for Afterschool Alliance because I understand that children across the country depend on afterschool programs to compensate for the achievement gaps created during regular school hours. 

As the communications intern, I will work under the special assistant to the executive director and provide support to the communications team to advance our mission of increasing investments for quality afterschool education. I hope to help schools and organizations find the resources they need to fund afterschool programs in their communities. In addition, I look forward to informing the public of the benefits of afterschool programs and the dangers of defunding education.

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learn more about: Inside the Afterschool Alliance
JUL
12
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Stop cuts to summer learning

By Guest Blogger

By Rachel Gwaltney, Director of Policy and Partnerships at the National Summer Learning Association. Rachel leads development and implementation of services, projects and partnerships that strengthen summer learning policy and build capacity of state and national leaders and organizations.

Ann Arbor Rec & Ed celebrating National Summer Learning Day 2016

"Summer learning is a well-documented solution to supporting the academic and social growth of all students, yet, it remains an under-resourced strategy for closing the achievement gap in our country."

-NSLA's Founder and CEO, Matthew Boulay, Ph.D.

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) and a network of youth advocates recently came together to raise awareness about the importance of summer learning experiences, advocating for greater resources for local summer programming on Capitol Hill.

26 meetings with staff from offices representing ten states marked a productive Hill Day. Congressional staff from offices on both sides of the aisle reaffirmed the value of summer and afterschool programs and said they would work to maintain funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21CCLC) program.

Tomorrow is National Summer Learning Day and we’re counting on you to lift your voices to keep kids learning, safe and healthy! Here are three ways you can help:

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learn more about: Guest Blog Summer Learning Take Action
JUL
11
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Afterschool gave me hope of a future I'd never known

By Guest Blogger

By Aaron Short, assistant head of staff at 21st Cranston Community Learning Center Bain +2/Kidventure Afterschool Program. Aaron attended the Youth Session of the 2017 Afterschool for All Challenge and spoke to his members of Congress about the impact of afterschool on his life.

From the start of my life, I was taught a few things from living in the ghetto of Cranston, Rhode Island: I didn’t have a chance in life outside there; it was okay to join a gang when your family loses everything; and the ghetto will be my life no matter how hard I try. If you asked me where these ideas were picked up, I couldn’t tell you, but it was inescapable.  By the time I was eight, my ex-friends were talking about how much they’ve stolen from grocery stores. Although I didn’t know it at the time, in the fifth grade I saw future gang members starting their careers at the tender age of 10.

My mother worked her hardest to give me a better life, but the mounting costs of daycare and the needs of my newly-born sister kept moving us lower and lower towards poverty. I still remember a point when we were being threatened with eviction because we couldn’t afford to live in our small apartment. My school’s schedule didn’t help the situation, as my mother having to take her lunch break to drop me off at school and had to leave in the middle of the work day to pick me up. And anyone who starts a job with few credentials and leaves halfway through the year can’t hold that job for very long. The choice was simple: I could be safe after school, or we could have dinner.