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Looking back at 2016 in the afterschool field

By Rachel Clark

2016 was an eventful year for the United States and the world, and the changes that were set into motion this year are impacting the afterschool field just as they’ve affected communities across the country.

As we look ahead to the year to come, take a moment to bid farewell to 2016 and look back at some of the biggest moments of the year.

  1. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Election Day was easily the most consequential moment of 2016 for our country. Take a look at our early analysis of what the Trump Administration could mean for the afterschool field.
  2. A new Congress was elected. Though Donald Trump’s victory was the biggest story on Election Day, the afterschool field should pay close attention to the 115th Congress, which is set to make big moves in the next several months. Learn what afterschool advocates should look for in the first few months of 2017.
  3. New research highlighted the wide-ranging impact of America’s afterschool programs. This year, we finished up the 2014 America After 3PM series with our first-ever special reports on afterschool in rural America and afterschool in communities of concentrated poverty. New reports also highlighted the impacts of afterschool STEM and the state of computer science education in afterschool.
  4. Lights On Afterschool partnered with two NBA teams to kick off the 2016 celebration. In one of our most exciting Lights On kickoffs to date, we joined NBA Math Hoops to celebrate afterschool with a Math Hoops tournament before the Golden State Warriors faced off against the Sacramento Kings in San Jose, Calif. The tournament winners—and the beginning of the national rally for afterschool programs—were even recognized at halftime!
  5. Notable shifts occurred in state legislatures. With party control switching in seven chambers and voters in two states passing three ballot initiatives that could impact afterschool funding, November 8 was an important day at the ballot box for many states.
  6. President-elect Trump announced his nominee for education secretary. Betsy DeVos, a philanthropist and former chairwoman of the Republican Party of Michigan, is a longtime school choice advocate whose family foundation has supported local afterschool providers in the past.
  7. Diverse partnerships brightened Lights On Afterschool 2016. From the tenth annual lighting of the Empire State Building in honor of afterschool to a Senate resolution recognizing the celebration, partnerships at the local, state and national levels made this year’s rally shine.

What was the biggest moment of 2016 for you and your afterschool program? We want to hear from you! Share a photo of your favorite or most important memory on Instagram and tag @afterschool4all for a chance to be featured. 



Celebrating our AmeriCorps VISTAs' 2016 accomplishments

By Andrea Szegedy-Maszak

Members of the VISTA team gathered on the National Mall in September.

For the last five years, the Afterschool Alliance has been a proud sponsor organization for nationwide AmeriCorps VISTA projects. VISTA, which stands for “Volunteers in Service to America,” is a 50-year-old service program with the central mission of alleviating poverty through capacity building for nonprofit organizations. VISTA members are considered full-time federal volunteers during their one-year term of service.

Our VISTA program—and the scope of our VISTAs’ work to support the afterschool field—has grown significantly over the past five years. Most recently, we’ve added VISTAs dedicated to supporting the STEM Ecosystem Initiative, as well as VISTAs focusing on mentoring opportunities for young men of color. Read on to learn more about our VISTAs’ work and a few highlights from 2016.

Our VISTAs’ major highlights from 2016

Oklahoma STEM Ecosystem VISTAs Sabrina Bevins and Aleia McNaney have taken on leadership roles in the planning of a Women in STEM book club and event series surrounding the release of the film Hidden Figures, culminating with a screening of the film. Sabrina has signed on a number of female STEM professionals to mentor young girls in Tulsa over the course of the program.

Thanks to Sabrina’s successful partner outreach, Cox Media has agreed to run four radio campaigns in promotion of the program, and a local theater company has donated a screening room that seats more than 400. Aleia has been spearheading communications efforts for the Hidden Figures program, including designing promotional materials for a book drive held Tuesday, November 29 in support of the book club.

New Jersey Meals VISTA Jaimie Held has been making strides in expanding afterschool and summer meals for kids and families in Newark, N.J. Jaimie created partnerships with local food banks to host afterschool and summer meals open house events in 2017. She also scheduled an afterschool and summer meals open house in January 2017 at Newark’s Bolden Student Center to recruit new afterschool and summer meal sites.



New online resource: Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere

By Elizabeth Tish

Are you or your afterschool program concerned about preventing youth violence in your community? Then STRYVE (Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere) might be the right tool for you. STRYVE is an online space with everything practitioners and their team members need to create, edit, and save a customized youth violence prevention plan. Through STRYVE, you can access video examples from other communities working in violence prevention that provide real-life examples for the strategies discussed.

STRYVE is a national initiative led by the Division of Violence Prevention (DVP) at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), located at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The initiative provides direction at the national, state, and local levels on how to prevent youth violence with a public health approach, action that is comprehensive and driven by multiple sectors, and the use of prevention strategies that are based on the best available research evidence.

What is youth violence?

STRYVE defines youth violence as “when young people aged 10 to 24 years intentionally use physical force or power in order to threaten or cause physical or psychological harm to others.” Youth violence is a general term that includes many behaviors, such as fighting, bullying, threats with weapons, gang-related violence, and perpetrating homicide.

Why does youth violence matter?

  • Young people are dying prematurely and getting hurt at alarming rates.
  • Youth cannot grow into productive citizens and a developed workforce if they are unable to learn.
  • Youth violence and crime hurt everyone in a community—youth, adult residents, and businesses.
  • Costs of youth violence limit resources to achieve community goals.
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learn more about: Youth Development


New report underscores the high cost of child care

By Nikki Yamashiro

Affordable and accessible high-quality child care is a critical issue for working families across the U.S. Although the benefits of quality child care for both children and their parents are numerous, many families struggle to afford and find child care that meets their needs. The 10th edition of Child Care Aware of America’s report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care, reveals the ongoing challenges families have faced regarding child care over the past decade. The report also discusses the impact the high cost of child care has on the child care workforce, what some states are doing to better support the families in their community, and steps we can take as a country to make sure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care.

Below are a few highlights from the report:

Child care costs are high.

  • Examining the cost of child care in the U.S., the report found that the cost of center-based infant care was unaffordable for parents in all but one state. Although the cost of child care should not be more than 7 percent of a families’ median income (based on standards from the Department of Health and Human Services), in some states it was more than two times as high, accounting for 14 percent of a families’ median income. 
  • In 19 states, the annual average cost of center-based care for a four-year-old is higher than the cost of college tuition.
  • Another startling finding from the report is that in all 50 states, a child care worker who has two children would spend more than half of their income on child care if they wanted to enroll their children in center-based care.  In 14 states, this cost would be more than 100 percent of a child care worker’s income.

Certain communities are more heavily impacted.

  • The report found that child care deserts, or areas where families have either limited or no access to quality child care, are especially prevalent in, “low-income communities, rural communities, among families of color, and among families with irregular or nontraditional work schedules.”
  • Among low-income families, paying for child care is especially challenging, where the average cost of center-based care for an infant is between 17 and 43 percent of a families’ income.

Where do we go from here?

  • The report outlines a number of recommendations to help ease the cost burden of child care for families, including those in the child care workforce, such as increasing federal investments in child care funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant, creating public-private partnerships that will invest in child care at the local level, and prioritizing professional development and a living wage for child care workers.

To learn more, visit Child Care Aware of America’s website where you can download a copy of the full report, as well as find out what the cost of child care looks like in your state through Child Care Aware of America’s new interactive map.

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learn more about: Working Families


Weekly Media Roundup: December 21, 2016

By Luci Manning

Students Build Toys for Kids in Need (Chicago Daily Herald, Illinois)

Some 20 students in Lake Zurich Middle School South’s afterschool woodworking program used their new skills to brighten the holidays for children who have been victims of domestic violence. Over the course of four afternoons, the students sawed, sanded, finished, drilled and assembled 100 toy cars, which were then presented to the nonprofit Caring Women’s Connection as holiday presents for the children. “I know not every family has enough to give $300 minibikes or stuff like that, so it’s nice being able to make stuff for them,” seventh-grader Connor Miltz told the Chicago Daily Herald.

Bikers Give Holiday Gift of Bicycles to 40 Boys and Girls (Cheektowaga Bee, New York)

This holiday season, children in need from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo will have new opportunities to get active and explore the outdoors thanks to a gift from the American Bikers Aimed Toward Education’s Buffalo/Erie chapter. The group is donating 40 bicycles to the club, which will then distribute the bikes to students who excel academically through the organization’s “Bridging the Gap” program. “Kids come to our after-school programs on a daily basis, and many of them are really trying to improve in their academics, and that’s goal of our program,” chief program office Robert Lowery told the Cheektowaga Bee. “Our key is that if they make some improvement academically through our program, that we would provide bikes to these kids.”

Sewing Club Donates to Schools (Hillsdale Daily News, Michigan)

Hillsdale High School’s afterschool Sewing Club recently finished a special project of machine-sewn weighted rice bags to donate to early childhood special education students at the Bailey Early Childhood Center. When the young children pile the bags on their laps, it keeps them calm, improves their attention spans and makes it easier for them to stay on task. Club members made colorful designs for the bags and double stitched them to keep them strong. “It’s fun doing things for little kids,” sophomore Ella Lewis told the Hillsdale Daily News. “They are so adorable.” The club also donated ice packs to Gier Elementary School to help with students’ daily bumps and bruises.

Free Holiday Event Benefits 100 Kids (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas)

Although sisters Judy Allbritton and Debbie Abbott struggled with poverty as children, their neighbors, schoolmates and friends always stepped up to help their family by providing toys and groceries during the holiday season. Now, as adults, they’re paying it forward by hosting a Christmas celebration with nonprofit Life Source International for 100 low-income children and families from northwest Arkansas. More than 150 people attended the free Polar Express-themed party last week, which included story readings, gifts and a visit from Santa. The sisters plan to continue the event as an annual celebration. “We want this to be a magical event that they remember when they’re older,” Abbott told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette



December surprise: Congress passes America COMPETES bill

By Anita Krishnamurthi

In a surprise move, Congress sent the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (formerly called America COMPETES) to the President for his signature late last week. The legislation authorizes research investments and the STEM education investments of various science mission agencies such as NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Energy.

The Afterschool Alliance has worked for several years to ensure that language supportive of afterschool is included in this bill as we recognize the importance of building bridges between STEM professionals and the afterschool field. We are delighted to report that the final bill includes several provisions that recognize the importance of out-of-school learning for STEM. 

Of specific interest is Title III, the section on STEM education, and the following items in that title.

Section 301

In the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, there is a discussion of innovative practices in STEM teacher recruitment and retention. This includes partnering with nonprofit or professional associations to provide the fellowship’s recipients with opportunities for professional development, as well as conducting pilot programs to improve teacher service and retention.

What it means for afterschool: This may provide an opening for afterschool providers to collaborate with schools of teacher education in innovative ways, including practicum placements for student teachers in afterschool STEM programs.  

Section 303

A STEM education advisory panel is to be set up jointly by the Secretary of Education, the Director of NSF, the NASA Administrator and the Administrator of NOAA to advise the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM).

This panel is required to have at least 11 members and include individuals from academic institutions, industry, and nonprofit organizations, including in-school, out-of-school, and informal education practitioners. The group will guide CoSTEM on “various aspects of federal investment in STEM education including ways to better vertically and horizontally integrate Federal STEM education programs and activities from pre-kindergarten through graduate study and the workforce, and from in-school to out-of-school in order to improve transitions for students moving through the STEM education and workforce pipelines.” 

What it means for afterschool: This provides an opening for afterschool advocates to nominate experts in informal STEM education who understand afterschool STEM programming deeply.  This perspective would be valuable and influential on the STEM education advisory panel.



Afterschool Spotlight: PIECES After School Program & Burlington Police Department

By Elizabeth Tish

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. Our latest installment of the Afterschool & Law Enforcement series focused on Lights On Afterschool event that fostered a new connection between the NYPD and a New York City afterschool program.

A police officer out of his uniform, running a flag football club in sweatpants and a t-shirt. Detectives mentoring students in a Crime Scene Investigation club. Female police officers talking with girls about what it’s like to be a woman in law enforcement. These are just a few glimpses into the ongoing activities spurred by the collaboration between PIECES, an afterschool program in rural Iowa, and the Burlington Police Department.

The partnership began in 2013, when PIECES afterschool program director Jackie Swink approached the local police department to support her application for a 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) grant. Around the same time, Major Darren Grimshaw and the Burlington Police Department were having internal conversations about new ways to engage with the community. This confluence of events led to a strong partnership between the two organizations—ever since, officers have been present in the afterschool program, connecting with students and working to build relationships and trust to break down barriers between youth and the police.

Today, PIECES offers programs at two middle schools and an elementary school in rural Burlington, Iowa, serving about 70 students at each site. PIECES offers diverse programming for students, with an emphasis on developing community partnerships—in addition to the police department’s involvement, partners include local hospitals, grocery stores and banks. As Major Grimshaw explained, “It gives all of us an opportunity to sit down with these kids and get to know who they are.”

Major Grimshaw and officers in the department are involved with PIECES in a variety of ways and at varying levels that suit the mutual needs of the officers and the program. The school resource officer, who splits his time between the two middle schools, is a consistent presence with his daily participation. Other officers come and go, either informally stopping by or using shared interests to develop lasting bonds with the students, like the investigators who host a CSI club night to teach students the basics of fingerprinting and crime scene investigation.



8 firsthand tips to win the sustainability battle

By Jen Rinehart

Sustainability: it’s an ongoing struggle in the nonprofit world. Afterschool and summer learning programs are no strangers to writing sustainability plans and working tirelessly toward this goal. For many, sustainability is elusive. For all, it’s hard work.

In November, I had the opportunity to hear from three 21st CCLC-funded afterschool providers in Colorado who have achieved success in sustaining at least portions of their afterschool and summer programs. 

One of those project directors, Maria Ortiz, served as an Afterschool Ambassador in 2013 and manages a program in Poudre School District. Located in Fort Collins, Colo., the district is home to one of the first 21st CCLC-funded afterschool programs that I ever visited as a program officer at the U.S. Department of Education. 

I remember being impressed during that first visit back around 2001, and hearing Maria speak again recently only strengthened my initial impression. Maria has been part of the afterschool program in Fort Collins from the beginning and has done a tremendous job finding and cultivating local champions and applying for new grants to keep the program going for more than 15 years! 

Tips for sustainability success

Maria and her two counterparts, Clarice Fortunato of Englewood School District and Jovita Schiffer of Boulder Valley School District, offered many valuable insights, including these eight key sustainability tips: