Event Ideas & Activities

Events come in all shapes and sizes. Celebrations might include an open house, breakfast summit for local leaders, student performance, candlelight vigil, or as simple as getting support for your petition. Pick something that works for your community and program.

Theme: General
Planning: 8 Weeks
Difficulty: Expert

Case Study: A 'Day in the Life' event forges new relationships with media and policy makers

Advice for Coordinators:

  • Keep the event on a tight timeline.  Start on time and respect bus riders’ time by ending on schedule!
  • Leave them wanting more.  Set a brisk pace to pique participants’ interest. If bus riders want more information, set up another visit—a great way to keep them engaged.
  • Send follow-up letters and thank riders for attending. 

Where: Dallas, Texas

Who: More than 150 adult participants, including city council members, state and local elected officials, staff from federal elected officials’ offices, business leaders, and representatives of local foundations.


The Dallas AfterSchool Network hosted a bus tour of north and south Dallas afterschool programs for local dignitaries and community leaders, affording them a realistic look at “a day in the afterschool life of a Dallas child.” 

As a direct result of the bus tour, the local ABC television affiliate, WFAA, committed to doing a weekly segment on afterschool, and Dallas AfterSchool Network Executive Director Tanya McDonald was able to establish relationships with federal and state representatives and schedule follow-up meetings.

The Program:

The Dallas AfterSchool Network organized two 90-minute driving routes taking participants to different afterschool programs across Dallas. Each bus stopped at three distinct afterschool sites: a school-based program, a community-based site and an afterschool program housed in a local apartment complex. The programs served a wide range of students and showcased programs of all shapes and sizes.

Each bus rider began the tour at the last stop (so that when the tour was over everyone would be back at their cars) to meet and get on their assigned bus. Buses departed promptly at 3:30 p.m. and drove to the first of three program sites. On the way, that site’s program director gave brief remarks (about seven or eight minutes) about the status of the program and what bus riders would see students doing, and then answered questions. When the bus arrived at each site, riders disembarked and headed into the classroom or recreation area to see the afterschool students at work or play. At each site, the students went about their scheduled activities as riders observed. McDonald and staff at each afterschool program served as de facto emcees, answering questions about afterschool and providing wrap-up remarks outside the last stop.

The Outcomes:

WFAA-TV Executive News Director Michael Valentine and General Manager Mike Devlin attended the south Dallas bus tour and were so moved by the conditions in the community and the work being done by the afterschool providers and staff that a few weeks after the event WFAA began airing two news stories each week on afterschool.

In addition another participant, a local fashion designer, approached McDonald about the possibility of creating an afterschool program for students interested in fashion design. 

Prior to the event, McDonald had tried to get a meeting with members of Dallas’ congressional delegation without success. But after the tour, she was able to schedule a time to meet with legislative aides to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions—a direct result of her Lights On success!

Overheard at the Event:

“I am inspired by the work of these program leaders. They are doing incredible things for the children of south Dallas.” 

“Everyone should ride the bus! What an eye-opening experience to see how so many of our children live.” 

“We need to help more students like Lola (a student at one of the sites). She deserves the opportunity for a world-class education.”

“I never knew that these issues existed so close to what many of us call home. I am stunned by what I have learned.”

Keys to Success: Keep it simple!  McDonald credits much of her success to the decision to show Lights On participants a typical afterschool day, rather than a special showcase event. Afterward, some bus riders told McDonald how authentic the event felt, because they were getting a genuine glimpse into the reality of students’ afterschool activities.

Audiences: Policy Makers, Parents, Media
Theme: Youth and Parent Voices
Planning: 6 Weeks
Difficulty: Intermediate

Students Lead US Senator on Program Tour

The Alaska Afterschool Network kicked off Lights On Afterschool nationwide on October 12th with a special event featuring U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. Senator Murkowski and other guests received a student-led tour of the Hunter Elementary School afterschool program from 4:00 to 5:00 PM to see first-hand the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities students were working on and to talk with students about what they’re learning in the program. Senator Murkowski and Grant each delivered remarks about the importance of afterschool programs, as did a number of other guest speakers: Fairbanks North Star Borough School District (FNSBSD) Superintendent Dr. Karen Gaborik, Alaska Afterschool Network Director Thomas Azzarella, FNSBSD After-School Programs Director and Afterschool Ambassador Julie Wild-Curry and a local parent. Approximately 80 students and 50 parents and community members attended the event.

Audiences: Policy Makers, Parents, Media, School/Ed Leaders