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Senate Afterschool Caucus briefing highlights the impact of afterschool and summer programs

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Senate Afterschool Caucus briefing highlights the impact of afterschool and summer programs

On Wednesday, July 12, the Senate Afterschool Caucus, in partnership with the Afterschool Alliance and the National Summer Learning Association, held a briefing on how the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program is making a positive difference for youth, families, and communities through afterschool and summer programs that provide academic and wrap-around supports and enrichment opportunities. More than 70 Hill staffers and representatives of federal agencies and national and local education organizations attended.

The briefing, which coincided with National Summer Learning Week, was the first in person briefing to be held by the Senate Afterschool Caucus since 2019. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about the current state of afterschool and summer learning programs; what providers and intermediaries see as the biggest challenges and successes; how federal, state, and local governments partner with businesses and philanthropic entities; and how young people describe the importance of afterschool and summer opportunities. 

Presenters included:

  • Jodi Grant, Executive Director, Afterschool Alliance
  • Brennan Barber, the Office of Senator Tina Smith, Senate Afterschool Caucus co-chair
  • Aaron Dworkin, CEO, National Summer Learning Association
  • Lisa Lucheta, Principal, Torani/R. Torre & Co
  • Jim Quinn, President (Retired), Tiffany & Company
  • Amobi Okugo, Founder, OK U Go Foundation and A Frugal Athlete, Sacramento, California
  • Angela Mickens, Program Director, On the Road Collaborative, Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Katie Landes, Director, Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Sophia Owen, Afterschool Participant and Million Girls Moonshot 2023 Flight Crew Member, Juneau, Alaska
  • Karen McCarthy, the Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senate Afterschool Caucus co-chair

Jodi Grant provided context on how 21st CCLC (currently celebrating its 25th anniversary) supports roughly one million students from pre-K to12th grade with access to high quality afterschool, before-school, and summer learning programs in more than 10,000 communities nationwide. Local programs may be run by schools, faith-based organizations, community-based non-profits, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, park and recreation centers, charter schools, libraries, colleges and universities, museums and more. Programs are localized to reflect what communities and students want. Typical programs offer students engaging and enriching learning activities, academic support, STEM, arts, workforce development skill training, physical activity and sports, a healthy meal or snack, and so much more.

Aaron Dworkin spoke to the role of summer learning programs and highlighted the events taking place during National Summer Learning Week. This summer, nearly a third of providers offering summer programming (32 percent) say that they’re expanding their program to serve more children, and 13 percent say that they’re offering programs at more sites than they have in the past.

Lisa Lucheta, CEO and owner of Torani Syrup and Board Chair of the Afterschool Alliance, and Jim Quinn, President, retired, of Tiffany and Company, as well as Board Chair of the National Summer Learning Association, provided an overview of why employers value afterschool and summer programs. Lucheta said, "Like many in the business community, as an employer with a strong focus on company growth and team development, we care deeply about the workforce of tomorrow. We value skills of critical thinking, collaboration and working as a team to build and accomplish our strategies. These skill building attributes are a main focus in quality afterschool programs. Through collaborative projects, apprenticeships and job training programs, afterschool provides resources for students to develop career and life skills. It also provides a talent pipeline for employers."

 Amobi Okugo, Founder, OK U Go Foundation and A Frugal Athlete, and an Afterschool Alliance Board member, then introduced a panel of practitioners:  

  • Angela Mickens, Program Director, On the Road Collaborative, from Harrisonburg, Virginia spoke passionately about what her program looks like and the impact it has on students and families. She detailed the importance of 21st CCLC as well as American Rescue Plan education Covid relief funds which allowed the programs to expand to new schools and offer a summer learning program for the first time. She detailed the impact on academics as well as mental well-being for the hundreds of students participating.
     
  • Katie Landes, Director, Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network, from Atlanta, Georgia, provided the state level perspective and spoke to partnerships and the role of intermediaries in supporting youth and the programs that serve them. She explained how federal funds have been leveraged to meet the needs of rural students in communities that previously has no access to programs.  
     
  • Sophia Owen, afterschool participant and Million Girls Moonshot 2023 Flight Crew Member, from Juneau, Alaska, closed out the panel share her own personal experience with afterschool and summer programs, and how they helped her discover her passion of wanting to pursue a career as an astrophysicist.

As each panelist explained, high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs are making a difference in the lives of young people nationwide in so many different ways – but a greater investment is needed to ensure all students who want to attend a program are afforded the opportunity.

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