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MAY
24
2017

IN THE FIELD
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In coal country, afterschool's a lifeline for working families

By Charlotte Steinecke

Photo courtesy of Monongalia County Schools Extended Day in Morgantown.

While some areas have started to recover from the Great Recession, some of the hardest-hit states continue to struggle with sluggish wage growth and limited employment opportunities. One of those states is West Virginia, where 1 in 4 children are growing up in poverty and well-paying union jobs, especially in the coal industry, are becoming rare.

Last month we had the opportunity to hear from parents in West Virginia. Tommy G. is a single father of three hit by the downturn of the coal industry. In a nearby county, Chastity and Brennan took on longer hours and a second job after their incomes were cut. And in Fairmont, a family of eight juggles the many of demands of work and kids. What do these parents have in common? They rely on afterschool programs—and say losing afterschool would result in financial hardship and put their ability to work in jeopardy.

West Virginia’s strong demand for quality, affordable afterschool options is made clear by America After 3PM, which found that the rate of participation in West Virginia’s afterschool programs more than tripled between 2004 and 2014. Hardworking parents, many of whom make ends meet with two or more jobs, find support for their affordable childcare needs in the form of aftercare, free and reduced-price food, homework and academic assistance, and more.

MAY
19
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Afterschool set me on the path to success

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Ashley Castillo, an alumna of After-School All-Stars in Orlando, Fla. Ashley shared her story on Capitol Hill on April 21, at a panel of expert speakers sharing their stories and experiences in defense of 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding.

As one of the thousands of students my afterschool program has helped, I would like to share a little bit about myself and tell you how much this program has meant to me and my family.

Like thousands of kids across the nation, growing up during these times has been very hard. For as long as I can remember, my family always struggled to get by. Both of my parents are deaf, and as of recently, my mother has had problems with her vision. It has always been difficult for them to hold steady jobs and provide for me, my brother, and my sister. We had to move constantly and often lived in places that were so bad that no one else should ever have to live there. These struggles caused many fights and issues between my parents and they eventually got a divorce.

I don’t think people realize how these kinds of problems affecting adults can turn around and affect kids. In my case, I became very shy and did not talk a lot in elementary school. I kept a lot of my feelings inside and did not participate in many activities. I did not feel safe in my neighborhood and my parents could never afford to put me in an afterschool or summer program.

MAY
9
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Join the Popsicle Project this weekend and celebrate afterschool!

By Charlotte Steinecke

  

Show your community what your garden grows by participating in the Popsicle Project from May 12 to 14. Created by Greenville ISD ACE as a springtime celebration of afterschool, the project encourages participants to plant paper flowers attached to popsicle sticks in an outdoor location to illustrate how many children are impacted by their afterschool programs.

Interested? All you need is a plot of earth, a few craft supplies, and a social media presence! Here’s how to join:

  1. Gather enough supplies for every child in your program: “OST Grows People” front and back flower templates, large popsicle or craft sticks, school bus yellow cardstock, and packing tape.
  2. Print your flowers and the description of the Popsicle Project double-sided on your yellow cardstock.
  3. Cut out the flowers and adhere them to the popsicle sticks. 
  4. Plant the popsicle sticks, one per child, in a spot where students, parents, and your community can view them. Be sure to get permission from the landowner before your plant your sticks!
  5. Take pictures and share them on your social media! Be sure to use the hashtags #PopsicleProjectOST and #AfterschoolWorks.
  6. Remove the flowers by May 15.

This Mother’s Day, grow some support for afterschool and let your community see how many students benefit from afterschool programs!

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learn more about: Afterschool Voices Arts
APR
27
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Keys to program success from afterschool professionals

By Charlotte Steinecke

This Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week, we’re celebrating you: the educators who dedicate your careers to teaching and supporting youth during the out-of-school hours. To highlight the expertise of a few leading professionals in our field, and foster widespread sharing of best practices, we asked four afterschool leaders from across the country to share their keys to success and sustainability.

Have your own pro-tip to share? We want to hear it!

Find ways to serve many needs at once.

“I teach sophisticated language, because it’s a key part of the success we’re having and a reason the engagement we have is so broad-based: people want to be empowered by words. You have to pull kids up—our program is based on research that low-income children have a 30-million-word deficit in oral communication by the time they’re four years old. And when we combine that with gardening, we’re connecting to so many family histories and cultural heritages, and at the same time we’re teaching biology, botany, chemistry, vocabulary, and community service.

“By connecting our work that way, by empowering kids with this rich oral vocabulary, we’re increasing literacy significantly. For a school like mine, which is underachieving, that gets you some buy-in!

“Parents say ‘Oh, wow! They’re doing better in reading math! I’m going to encourage my kids to go to your summer program and afterschool program.’ But if we were to distance ourselves completely from the academics, they would say, ‘We need you to help meet the school needs, not just babysit the kids after school!’ So we need to give them the academic boost they need.

“Be independent of the curriculum, but honor the need for the literacy and math, and tie it into what the kids love. Give kids choice about how they use their time, in physical activity or gardening or service as teachers to younger kids.”  

– MaryAnn Bash, director of Each One Tech One: No More Gap in Colorado

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learn more about: Afterschool Voices Community Partners
APR
24
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Celebrating the professionals at the heart of afterschool

By Charlotte Steinecke

From April 24 to 28, it's Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week! Sponsored by the National Afterschool Association, the week "is a joint effort of community partners, afterschool programs, youth and child care workers, and individuals who have committed to declaring the last full week of April each year as a time to recognize and appreciate those who work with youth during out-of-school hours." It's the ideal opportunity to thank and celebrate the nation’s roughly 850,000 dedicated and passionate afterschool professionals who work with our youth during out-of-school time.

Head over to the website to learn more about the week, spread the word, and join the celebration

From the Afterschool Alliance, thank you to the afterschool professionals who enrich the lives of their students and communities every day!

APR
17
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool Spotlight: Denise Sellers, Director of Haddonfield Child Care

By Charlotte Steinecke

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. The most recent Afterschool Spotlight illustrated how an Iowa afterschool program built a valuable partnership with local law enforcement.

Photo courtesy of the Haddonfield Sun

After three decades of serving as the director of Haddonfield Child Care, Denise Sellers finds herself thinking about one crucial concept: perspective.  

“As I start to make the transition out of this role,” Denise says, “I find myself thinking more and more about new viewpoints. In 1986 I was the right person to hire because I understood the plight of the parents, but there might be something I’m missing as I become part of another generation. Fresher perspective is something that will help the program remain responsive and relevant in the future.”

But that’s not to say that the program isn’t responsive and relevant now. The community of Haddonfield, N.J. has benefited from the exemplary childcare provided by Denise and her team for more than 30 years. This year marks two celebratory occasions for the program: first, an alumnus has enrolled his own child in Haddonfield Child Care, giving the program its first second-generation student.

Second, Denise has been honored as a recipient of a New Jersey Women of Achievement Award. The Haddonfield Sun's recent profile on Denise describes the award as celebrating women who take leadership roles in improving their communities and dedicate their personal and professional lives to creating a positive and lasting impact on others. It’s a description that fits Denise to a T.

Denise describes Haddonfield as small and close-knit, with a vibrant spirit of volunteerism and plenty of overlapping attendance across community groups. It’s a recipe for high buy-in; when members of the Garden Club are also members of the Women’s Club, there’s an opportunity to make connections across the community and encourage reciprocity.

“Because they know me from other community groups, I was able to go to the Women’s Club as an afterschool professional and ask them to support funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers,” Denise says. “Haddonfield Child Care isn’t eligible for it, but we know how important it is for other communities in New Jersey. I was able to advocate on the part of other afterschool programs because my connections to other community groups were already there.”

APR
12
2017

IN THE FIELD
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10 best moments from the National Afterschool Summit

By Elizabeth Tish

On April 5, leaders in education, business, media, government, sports, and more gathered at the University of Southern California for the 2017 National Afterschool Summit, “Ready to Work,” co-hosted by the Afterschool Alliance, USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute, and After-School All-Stars. High-wattage speakers brought their diverse backgrounds and perspectives to a series of engaging discussions about how afterschool prepares students to succeed at work and in life.

With so many powerful insights shared by an impressive roster of experts, it was hard to narrow the list of highlights, but here are ten of our favorite moments from the event:

  1. The Bell Gardens Intermediate and Generation Dance Team kicked off the event, led by their teacher and mayor, Jose Mendoza. Taking the stage after the performance, Extra’s Mario Lopez said he was an afterschool kid like the dancers, who come from a low-income community: “That was me... I’m living proof of what afterschool can do.”
  2. Matt Iseman, host of American Ninja Warrior and winner of The New Celebrity Apprentice, called us “Afterschool Ninja Warriors” and cheered on our efforts to battle President Trump’s proposed budget cut. Iseman commented, “Working parents are more productive at work when they know their kids are in a safe, productive environment.”
  3. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger set the tone for the event, reminding us that more than 20 million kids are waiting for an afterschool program.
  4. NFL star JJ Watt, whose foundation provides afterschool opportunities to middle schoolers, shared that afterschool programs teach skills like teamwork and how to work hard. As Watt pointed out, these skills are not only important in school, but also in work and life.
  5. Michael Beckerman, president of the Internet Association, discussed the reason afterschool and work are connected—and why employers should care about afterschool: "We want a diverse, educated workforce domestically. Afterschool can have a huge impact on that."
  6. Senate Afterschool Caucus co-chair Senator Lisa Murkowski stopped by via video message to encourage us all to reach out to our representatives in Congress and share the message that #AfterschoolWorks.
  7. Oregon Superintendent of the Year Heidi Sipe said, “Afterschool helps students dream new dreams… see a different future… Afterschool is a magical time. It is nonnegotiable.”
  8. “Afterschool makes a difference in the economic mobility of families and kids,” said Charlotte (N.C.) Mayor Jennifer Roberts.
  9. American Enterprise Institute Resident Fellow Gerard Robinson noted that afterschool helps kids “build minds, bodies, and spirits,” and the social capital skills kids need to succeed. 
  10. Eloy Oakley, Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, touched on the reason for the event, saying, "Afterschool programs aren't just for academic preparation, but life preparation."

These are just a few highlights from the event. Relive the event by watching the full recording of the Summit, or check out what people said about the event on Twitter. Share your favorite moments with us using the hashtag #AfterschoolWorks! 

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learn more about: Afterschool Voices Budget Celebrities
MAR
31
2017

IN THE FIELD
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We want to hear from you: share your afterschool story

By Charlotte Steinecke

 

Facts and figures are crucial in demonstrating the successful outcomes of afterschool programs, but to fully illustrate why and how afterschool works, it’s essential to shine a spotlight on stories and testimonials from kids, parents, educators, and other community members.

As we work to save afterschool funding over the months to come, we want to share stories from as many people as we can to show once and for all that afterschool programs work for people of all backgrounds in every corner of the United States. What’s your story? Tell us.

Not sure where to begin? Check out the Digital Action Toolkit for storytelling strategies and suggestions. Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • Before and after. Tell a story about a transformation your afterschool program has caused in your life. How are things different—for you, for your child, or for your career—as a result of your involvement with an afterschool program?
  • Favorites. What’s your favorite part of your afterschool program? Is there a memorable project or event that has stuck with you?
  • Get some perspective. Use your unique viewpoint to talk about your observations of your afterschool program—kids, parents, program alumni, educators, and afterschool program providers all have different perspectives on afterschool.
  • Perks. Tell us about the fringe benefits! If you chose your afterschool program for academic or childcare reasons, what other bonuses have you or your family enjoyed? More friendships or closer relationships with teachers and administrators? A stronger connection to your school or community? Fun memories of shared activities with your family?
  • Share your victory! Everybody loves a success story—share your experience confronting a challenge, reaching a personal goal, or otherwise scoring a big win with your afterschool program.
  • Illustrate your story. Have a great photo (or photos!) showcasing your afterschool experience? You can upload them alongside your written story.

We want to hear about the positive impact the program has had on kids, parents, schools, and the community overall. Every program has a story to tell—we can’t wait to read yours!

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learn more about: Afterschool Voices