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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
13
2016

STEM
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New AmeriCorps VISTA members will strengthen STEM Ecosystems

By Alexis Steines

The Afterschool Alliance is partnering with the STEM Funders Network (SFN) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to coordinate, train and supervise a new cohort of AmeriCorps VISTA members who will improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) “ecosystems” across America.

AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is one of several national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). For more than 50 years, VISTA has been at the forefront of strengthening the capacities of communities and organizations to fight poverty.

VISTA members devote one year of their lives to challenge the root causes of poverty. They achieve this goal by mobilizing community volunteers and building connections between local resources, and by guiding individuals in low-income neighborhoods to make positive change. 

In the new STEM Ecosystem program, VISTA members will focus on building capacity to increase access to STEM education in afterschool and summer learning programs that are connected and coordinated with K-12 schools and districts. STEM Ecosystem VISTA members can achieve this mission by:

  • Creating partnerships with STEM-rich institutions or businesses;
  • Mapping the local STEM out-of-school time space;
  • Writing grant applications;
  • Creating new tools and resources that can be used to increase access to STEM learning; and more.

The Afterschool Alliance and CNCS will place up to 26 VISTA members at host sites across the country, with the members working full-time on the ground. To support and guide the work of these new VISTA members for STEM Ecosystems, the Afterschool Alliance is seeking a new Field Outreach Coordinator to join our staff in Washington, D.C. Please carefully read all available information before applying.

White House highlights project

As President Obama hosts the sixth and final White House Science fair of his Administration today, on April 13, the White House released this STEM fact sheet lauding the efforts of the Afterschool Alliance, CNCS, and SFN for the new STEM Ecosystems program. You can find the reference in the second bullet under “New Steps Being Announced by the Administration Today.”

In addition to all of the partners mentioned here, the Afterschool Alliance is appreciative of initial support for its national VISTA efforts from the Broadcom Foundation, Samueli Foundation, Schusterman Foundation, and Simons Foundation.

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learn more about: Obama Science Vista Community Partners
APR
13
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: April 13, 2016

By Luci Manning

It Feels Great to Help Young Refugees Succeed (Buffalo News, New York)

Child refugees face a lot of obstacles when they arrive in the United States, including language barriers that can keep them from succeeding in school. Thankfully, an afterschool program in Buffalo is trying to help kids overcome their English difficulties and perform at grade level. ENERGY pairs children with adult mentors three times a week to work on reading and writing comprehension, enjoy a meal and play games. According to volunteer Clark Sykes, the program gives him hope at a time when the country is politically polarized by immigration issues. “I know the reality of children who want to learn so that they can be like everyone else in their grade and make their families proud,” he said in a Buffalo News column.

Columbus High to Start Talk Show (Commercial Dispatch, Mississippi)

A group of Columbus High School students had their television debut this weekend thanks to a new talk show filmed and produced by the students themselves. The kids are producing Falcon Talk as part of an afterschool program that aims to give young people a taste of what a future in television or journalism would be like. Additionally, the program gives students an academic boost and teaches many useful skills for their future careers, like learning how to debate and act like a professional. “I’d love to be able to see them have a legitimate talk show with a live audience,” faculty sponsor Andrew Nation told the Commercial Dispatch. “It’s amazing to watch the kids have fun with it.”

A Young Entrepreneur Shows Low-Income Teens How to Launch a Business (Christian Science Monitor, Massachusetts)

Daquan Oliver didn’t have many opportunities growing up, but that never stopped his entrepreneurial spirit. By his sophomore year of college, he had formed an entrepreneurship-focused mentoring program for low-income teens just like himself. WeThrive trains college students on how to be mentors, then pairs the students with local kids using an 11-week curriculum developed by the program. Through WeThrive, students develop confidence, leadership and teamwork skills as they put together business ideas and pitch them to adult funders. “I want them to be the next generation of social-change leaders,” Oliver told the Christian Science Monitor.

Robotics Team’s Project Helps Woodford County Girl (Associated Press, Illinois)

The Metamora Area Robotics Students and Woodford Area Robotics Students, or MARS WARS, have taken on a special mission: developing customized robotic vehicles for children with disabilities. The afterschool robotics team spends its six-week regular season creating complex robots for FIRST Robotics competitions, then spends the off-season developing cars for kids like four-year-old Emily Heflin, who has a rare genetic disorder that has kept her from being able to walk or talk throughout her life. “I’m just completely blown away with how intelligent and how talented these high school kids are,” Emily’s mom Jodi told the Associated Press. “They are going to change the world someday.” The program helps students see the real-world applications of the technical skills they’re learning while programming robots.

APR
12
2016

FUNDING
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An insider's guide to funding afterschool: A new blog series

By Ed Spitzberg

Science Club, an afterschool partnership between Northwestern University and the Pedersen-McCormick Boys & Girls Club, receives a major funding boost as the winner of our 2013 STEM Impact Award.

As Vice President of Development here at the Afterschool Alliance, my role is to raise funds for our organization, so that we have the capacity to do our work as the primary voice for afterschool programs across the country. But prior to my current role, I was the Executive Director of an afterschool arts program here in Washington, D.C., and as such I know how important—and how difficult—it is to make sure an afterschool program has the support it needs to make an impact on the kids it serves every afternoon.

Ed Spitzberg is the Vice President of Development at the Afterschool Alliance

To that end, this post is the first in a series we’ll do all year to highlight important issues in fundraising, giving you tips and strategies that we hope will be helpful for you and your organizations. Throughout the year, we’ll cover different types of donors (corporate, foundation, and individual), different parts of the fundraising cycle (research, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship) and important strategies and tactics (from connecting fundraising to your mission to crafting an end-of-year appeal).

We’ll start the series in this post with a statement that most of you know either explicitly or intuitively, but deserves its spot below in big bold letters:

Leverage the resources and community you have.

Let's break that seemingly simple statement down a bit:

  1. You have a great community that already loves what you do:  Parents. Teachers. Community leaders. Board members. Existing donors. Most of these people are eager to support your program in any way possible.
  2. You have a great program, with great stories. Show and collect the stories of your program through publications, emails, social media or tours. 
  3. Have the community that loves your program introduce THEIR networks to your program and great stories you have to show.

In practice, this final point can mean asking existing donors to invite their friends for a tour, where you show them your program (or even better, a kid shows them your program) so they can see firsthand what you do. It may mean giving board members an e-mail appeal template that has a story and a photo from your program to share with their friends. It could also mean inviting local officials or personalities with large audiences to participate in a Lights On Afterschool event or year end celebration as an emcee, so they can than amplify the message of what you do.

Fundraising is primarily about building a connection to your program, and to do that you need to have a clear central story, and a natural avenue for individuals to connect to your mission. Develop them both, and use them both.

There's more to come about creating this central story for your program and connecting people to your program's mission in the next blog. But for now, look at what you already have, and determine how that can help you increase capacity for the great work you’re already doing.

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learn more about: Sustainability 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.

APR
11
2016

RESEARCH
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Upcoming research webinars: Year-round literacy opportunities and rural afterschool

By Nikki Yamashiro

In addition to rain showers, April also brings two exciting new webinars to build on the most recent Afterschool Alliance research materials. We hope that you will tune in for one, or both!  

The first webinar, Creating Year-Round Opportunities for Literacy, will occur on Wednesday, April 13 at 2:00 p.m. EST, and feature two programs included in the newly released issue brief, Taking a Year-Round Approach to Literacy—one of which is the 2016 Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award Winner. If you are interested in learning more about the variety of ways programs are helping to build students’ reading, writing and critical thinking skills during the school year and summer months, this webinar is for you. Redhound Enrichment, an afterschool program located in Corbin, Kentucky, and Simpson Street Free Press, located in sites across Dane County, Wisconsin, will discuss their approach to integrate literacy into their programming, how they develop their students’ literacy skills, and the ways in which they create meaningful connections to literacy among their students.

The second webinar, Afterschool in Rural Communities: What You Need to Know, on Thursday, April 28 at 1:00 p.m. EST, follows the release of the Afterschool Alliance’s America After 3PM special report, The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities. In addition to sharing key findings from the report on the state of afterschool in rural America, guest speakers on this webinar will share systems of support in place at the state level, promising practices and key strategies to address the challenges unique to afterschool programs in rural communities.

We also want to hear from you! If you have two minutes to spare, fill out this short, two question survey to let the speakers on this webinar know what topics would be most helpful. Help us tailor this webinar to fit your needs.

Additionally, check out our webinars page! Our webinar calendar for the month of April is jam-packed with great subject matter—covering our upcoming Afterschool for All Challenge and the Framework for K-12 Science Education, developed by the National Academies of Sciences.

APR
8
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Guest Blog: ZooCrew empowers youth to tackle conservation issues

By Erin Murphy

Written by Ryan Driscoll, Science Education Outreach Coordinator for ZooCrew. This blog post is presented as part of a series celebrating afterschool programs involved in environmental education, with more installments coming throughout April! Join the conversation about afterschool's role in environmental education on social media with #AfterschoolEE.

Conservation issues can be difficult to address with secondary students. These students have reached the age when they are ready dive into challenging topics like deforestation and poaching, but exploring the complexity of these issues can be messy. Woodland Park Zoo’s afterschool program, ZooCrew, helps students examine these complicated issues and generate solutions to address the varying concerns. Throughout this process, we are always amazed at our students’ eagerness and ability to grapple with these topics, and at the ingenuity and creativity of their solutions.

Learning through exploring

ZooCrew partners with Seattle Parks and Recreation to serve youth from four traditionally underserved middle schools, engaging around 150 students each year in weekly two-hour sessions. In groups of 10 to 20, we confront real-world conservation issues, prepare students for continued involvement in Woodland Park Zoo’s youth programs and inspire youth to consider a broad range of STEM or conservation careers.

Each term, ZooCrew students explore a conservation issue in a selected ecosystem. From the tropical rain forest to the Pacific Northwest, ZooCrew youth learn about current issues affecting these biomes like wildlife poaching, climate change, and deforestation. With help from teen volunteers from our ZooCorps program, students create projects to support ongoing conservation efforts, generate new solutions and advocate for action in their community. They also take two field trips each quarter, participating in restoration work at a local park or green space and visiting the zoo to share their projects with parents, zoo staff and fellow students.

The diverse projects that students can pursue offer room for creativity to apply what they learn. For example, this fall we focused on the complex issue of poaching in the African savanna. After learning about the savanna ecosystem, we delved into various perspectives around poaching and held a mock summit to recognize the difficulty of finding solutions that consider everyone involved. Students used this experience to create a wide variety of anti-poaching projects. Some students supported conservation programs through citizen science apps, while others designed robotic Egyptian tortoises to help stem the illegal pet trade, or created faux poached items to reduce market demand. Still others designed an educational video game to teach people about the impacts of poaching.

APR
7
2016

FUNDING
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Help your students join science competitions through a new grant opportunity!

By Melissa Ballard

Conducting authentic science research is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn the true nature of science and experience the thrill of discovery. By entering science research competitions, students gain additional skills such as learning how to present their work to peers, scientists, and the public. Unfortunately, applying to and participating in science competitions can be intimidating and challenging for many students, especially for those underrepresented in STEM fields.

To address this challenge, the Society for Science & the Public (SSP) developed the Society Advocates Grant, which provides a $3,000 stipend to an individual, such as an afterschool educator or community mentor, who will serve as an advocate for 3-5 underrepresented students, helping them transition from conducting a scientific research project to completing applications for scientific competitions. No prior experience is required for students—it can be their very first time completing a science experiment for competition!

Advocates support their students by informing them about potential competitions, prompting them on deadlines, and supporting them through the process of gathering and producing the required elements of an application. SSP will provide advocates with information on major science competitions, as well as regional and local fairs. SSP will also host a convening event to help grantees become more comfortable with the process (all expenses paid).

The grant is open to anyone who is interested in applying. Applications are due April 13th, 6 p.m. EST.

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learn more about: Funding Opportunity Science