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  • Writer's pictureTravis J. Vanden Heuvel

Afterschool Works

By Cathy Stevens and Eric Vanden Heuvel

Summer program and afterschool advocates around the country are again gearing up to rally behind the nation’s only federal funding stream for the afterschool and summer programs that keep nearly two million students safe and engaged from 3-6 p.m. and during summer break.

This funding stream, the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21CCLC) program, is a critical piece of the education pie for so many students, providing additional educational support beyond the school day while helping working families keep their kids safe while they are clocking hours.

More than ever before, we know how learning happens. The new report, From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope, released January 15 by the Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development clearly demonstrates that children learn best when they are treated as whole people, with social and emotional as well as academic needs.

At the heart of the report’s recommendations for improving schools and communities is this: access to quality summer school and afterschool programming for each young person.

We can no longer rely on only school-day hours to develop successful, workforce-ready citizens. The lines of learning time are blurring and afterschool and summer are just as important as school day. More than a decade of implementing a continuous improvement process has led 21st CCLC programs to focus on complementing -- but not duplicating -- the school day. After a highly structured and focused school day, young people need a chance to learn in a different way. These programs also help to protect young people from the risks associated with extended periods of unsupervised time afterschool, including early alcohol and drug use, early sexual activity, truancy and other problem behaviors.

As facilitator for and participant in a national fellowship focused on afterschool policy (and funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation), we are expanding our efforts and messaging to business leaders, to policy makers, and to broader community partners that now is the time for more and better investment in these beyond school hours. Even though we live thousands of miles apart, in different sized cities, in different regions, we both see the great need for affordable afterschool programs in our communities. We’ve seen firsthand that when students participate in afterschool and summer programming, they develop in-demand skills that will aid them their entire lives in school, college, and the workplace.

For example, in Green Bay, using a partnership between the school district, Boys & Girls Club, and YMCA, 13 afterschool programs are currently in operation, serving over 1,000 children daily. These sites are funded through a combination of federal 21CCLC, local, and privately raised dollars. While this partnership is currently sustainable, there is an annual fear of a loss of federal support, which would be devastating to the youth and families that are currently utilizing these programs. Additionally, there are thousands of other students who would benefit from a program, but one isn’t available to them because of limited financial resources.

Recent polling, in summer of 2018, showed that over 67% of Americans support afterschool programming. Additionally, the poll reveals continued widespread support for public investment in the afterschool field, with 2 in 3 adults saying that they want their federal, state, and local leaders to provide funding for afterschool and summer learning programs. Public support for investment in afterschool becomes more evident[CS1] when presented with the possibility of the elimination of funds for programs[JR2] . The survey found that 7 in 10 adults are opposed to eliminating federal funds for afterschool programs, with more than half of adults in strong opposition (52 percent). Among Democrats, 94 percent agree that afterschool is important to their community, and among Republicans, 86 percent agree.

We call on every state to work with their afterschool networks to align resources and leverage partners so that each young person in America has access to quality summer school and afterschool programming.

We call on our federal representatives to preserve and grow the federal 21st Century Community Learning Center program. Millions more young people would participate if given the chance.

We call on mayors and city councils to partner with programs and devote more resources toward quality and affordable afterschool and summer opportunities for students.

Together we can reshape learning and change lives in America’s classrooms, schools, and communities.

Cathy Stevens

Program Director

The Richard W. Riley Institute at Furman University

Eric Vanden Heuvel

Chief Academic Officer

Boys and Girls Club- Greater Green Bay


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