A project of the Afterschool Alliance

Case Study: Creative program inspires policy maker support

"This experience has strongly reinforced for me that all children, regardless of income level or race, have the same potential for high achievement when provided appropriate opportunities. Thus, our goal must be to support the development of quality afterschool programs for all children." - Rep. Ruben Hinojosa

Keys to Success:

  • Secure a hero, like the awardee Member of Congress. “Look for someone with pull whose participation will make others in the community want to be involved. We had a detailed project plan which we could show people and it helped bring them on board.”

  • Get early buy-in from partners. Determine which afterschool programs and organizations are most likely to participate, and invest them in the plan first. A number of community-based organizations—including Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, 4-H, and Boys and Girls Scouts—were particularly eager to join in, and their early participation helped generate enthusiasm that attracted other organizations to the effort. 

Where: Austin, Texas

Who: 160 afterschool programs held events in the Austin area that involved state leaders and special recognition for a Member of Congress.


A main kick-off event with a student torch race to the state capitol. Students passed the torches on to legislators to call attention to the thousands of area children without afterschool programs. The creative event inspired a state policy maker to help find needed funding for afterschool.

Former Afterschool Ambassador Anna Land’s 2003 week-long Lights On Afterschool event in Austin, Texas, drew on a broad coalition of organizations in the community.

Land says she can see the long-term impact, citing local politicians who participated who are now stronger advocates for afterschool.“We have one county commissioner who made a particularly fiery speech about how we have to do more for our kids. So after the event, we went back to him to ask for help, and in a time of stretched budgets, they’ve put aside important funding for afterschool.”

The Program:

Festivities began on October 5—the Saturday before the Thursday, Oct. 10 celebration—with the official state kick-off event for Lights On Afterschool: a torch race to the state capitol aimed at raising awareness of the estimated 34,000 children in the greater Austin area without access to afterschool programs. Students carrying the torches were all winners of an essay contest on the importance of afterschool. Local athletes and dignitaries joined the students along the way. At the end of the run, students handed their torches to state legislators, who joined in a rally in support of afterschool. A local “Afterschool Hero”—a Member of Congress with a strong record of support for afterschool—was presented with an award.

Later that week, 160 afterschool programs held smaller Lights On Afterschool events at their facilities around the Austin area. The events included open houses, rallies, celebrations, student performances and demonstrations, and more. Land's own program, Heart House, a fixture in other communities in the state, used the occasion to celebrate the grand opening of its new Austin site.