Case Study: A 'Day in the Life' event forges new relationships with media and policy makers
"Afterschool programs play a critical role in the lives of many students who need a safe and nurturing place to go after the school bell rings." - Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee
Advice for Coordinators:
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 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.
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!
“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.