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A city-wide approach: Leveraging afterschool to support a new school year

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A city-wide approach: Leveraging afterschool to support a new school year

By Bela Spooner, Program Director with the Education and Expanded Learning team at the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, and Gislene Tasayco, Senior Specialist with the Education and Expanded Learning team at the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. This article was originally posted on August 26, 2021 on National League of Cities' website.

After a tough year and a half, a new school year is upon us. City leaders across the country are working with school districts to implement public health guidelines to prepare students and families for a safe and productive return. There’s an opportunity to leverage city-school-community relationships to collectively address the broad needs of children and youth.

Young people have suffered many disruptions throughout the pandemic. School closures were traumatic and so was the shutdown of thousands of afterschool programs. According to new data from the Afterschool Alliance, demand for programs is at its peak. For every child in an afterschool program, three are waiting to get in. Many programs were forced to close their doors or reduce their size, so it’s even harder for families to gain access to quality programs whose services and relationships serve as a lifeline to many families. 

Here are a few key resources, including evidence-based programs and strategies, to support children and youths as they return to school this fall and beyond. 

Leveraging the Learnings from City-Wide Afterschool System Building  

Communities that seemed to fare best were those that had city–wide afterschool systems in place. These systems may vary by community, but their purpose is to coordinate the efforts of government agencies, schools, community-based organizations, private funders, and others to ensure that all children and youth, particularly those most in need, have access to high quality afterschool and summer programming.  

A recent study, Stability and Change in Afterschool Systems, 2013 – 2020 by FHI360 outlines lessons learned from 67 cities that had established city-wide afterschool systems prior to 2013 and examines their status in 2020.

“Out of the 67 cities […], 57 cities (85 percent) coordinating in 2013 were still coordinating in 2020, and 10 (15 percent) were not.” 

Essential elements of a citywide afterschool system that NLC documented in its 2011 Municipal Leadership in Afterschool report that remain today include a coordinating entity, common data system, quality standards, leadership, and funding. Some highlights from the FHI360 study were:

  • The proportion of cities implementing the first three coordination components increased from 29 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2020. 
  • Cities with a common data system increased from 40 percent to 63 percent and 
  • Cities with quality standards/framework increased from 69 percent to 83 percent. 

A significant finding was the relationship between stability and change in city funding over the past five years and the number of key coordination components in the system. 

In 2020, 72 percent of cities that reported an increase in funding between 2015 and 2020 had all three coordination components compared with cities where funding remained the same or decreased over the past five years (72 percent vs 22 percent and 6 percent, respectively). 

In addition, the level of city leader commitment to afterschool coordination had a significant relationship with having a common data system.  

Eighty-three percent of cities where city leader commitment was reported as high or moderate had a common data system compared with 17 percent of cities with slight or no city leader commitment. 

These findings confirm NLC’s experience supporting cities for 20 years – mayoral leadership and city investment are critical to the success of afterschool system-building efforts.  Important to note for cities interested in better coordinating their efforts is that this study “gives us reason to believe that cities with coordinated afterschool programs will be in a better position to weather these times because of their shared vision, collective wisdom, standards of quality, and ability to collect and use data to assess needs and plan for the future.” 

Making the System Work for Your Community  

It’s important to build the system in a way that reflects the needs of the community. To do this, city leaders will need to gather and utilize data in strategic ways to make decisions about investments.  

Whether you’re a city leader concerned about creating career exploration and job training programs or interested in offering afterschool programs that keep children and young people engaged and safe – a report and guidebook by Every Hour Counts breaks down the must-knows. 

Sharing Putting Data to Work for Young People: A Framework for Measurement, Continuous Improvement, and Equitable Systems with the city’s program leaders can provide them with a helpful framework that outlines important considerations for building a system including:  

  • Indicators (what to look for) 
  • Data (how to use it)  
  • Measurement & Analysis (what else to consider)  
  • Examples of how the data can guide priorities and actions 

“Research shows that afterschool programs that target specific youth outcomes (e.g., leadership, academic learning, social-emotional skills) can improve those outcomes if the programs are well designed and high quality, and if young people participate regularly.” 

Another helpful tool for program providers is the Mizzen app. Mizzen by Mott is an innovative tool designed to help afterschool and summer programs plan and deliver engaging courses, lessons and activities. Get free high-quality curriculum and program ideas at your fingertips along with organizational tools to manage your programs and create exciting learning opportunities for students. 

Celebrating Successes

Cities have heavily relied on afterschool and summer programs throughout the pandemic and now is the time to honor and celebrate their efforts. October 28, 2021 is Lights On Afterschool Day, a nationwide celebration of afterschool programs and the vital role they play in the lives of children, families, and communities. Visit a program, host an event, sign a city proclamation, or light up a city landmark! NLC would love to know your plans to celebrate. 

Afterschool programs help boost vaccination efforts

Photo by CDC on Unsplash The approval of COVID-19 vaccinations for children age 12 and older has provided a ray of hope to families and schools nationwide as way to help ensure students’ health and safety as they return to the in-person classroom. In August, the Biden administration...

BY: Nicole Pettenati      10/15/21

Looking back, looking ahead: Back-to-Afterschool 2021

I've never been prouder to be an advocate for afterschool programs than I have been since the start of this horrible pandemic. Through thick and thin, afterschool providers have been genuine heroes in their communities. They've helped children and their families through the hardest of...

BY: Jodi Grant      09/28/21

Highlights from American Rescue Plan Twitter Chat: Maximizing ARP's impact on youth

Last week, the Afterschool Alliance hosted a tweetchat to highlight resources and strategies for programs and education leaders to support youth recovery and maximize the impact of American Rescue Plan (ARP) relief funds, ESSER funds, and child care funds by expanding out-of-school time learning...

BY: Maria Rizo      07/29/21

New resources to help you access ARP funding

More information about American Rescue Plan implementation has been released, so we’re sharing new timelines, toolkits, and implementation examples to help programs make the most of this historic investment in afterschool and summer learning. Visit our American Rescue Plan page to brush up on...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      06/14/21

Webinar Recap: How summer programs are changing the game for youth

With the summer months fast approaching, programs are ready to open their doors after a year in lockdown and families are eager to get their children outside, building connections with friends and peers, and learning in a safe and fun space. This year especially, programs are playing a critical...

BY: Maria Rizo      06/03/21

$1.5M awarded to middle school out-of-school time programs

The Afterschool Alliance is proud to announce the winners of the New York Life Foundation’s 2021 Aim High grant competition, representing a $1,500,000 investment in middle school out-of-school time (OST) programs serving disadvantaged youth in communities across the nation. The Aim High...

BY: Dan Gilbert      05/26/21

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It will come as no surprise to anyone that the entire education and youth development field is going through a turbulent time right now. Afterschool and summer programs, schools, and districts are all scrambling to figure out how to meet the needs of young people and their families this summer and...

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Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash. By Daniel W. Hatcher, director of Community Partnerships at Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and Michelle Owens, national advisor at Alliance for a Healthier Generation. As out-of-school time (OST) and summer-learning programs adjust to operating...

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From feeling safe to feeling like a stereotype

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BY: Guest Blogger      05/10/21

Looking back, looking ahead: Back-to-Afterschool 2021

I've never been prouder to be an advocate for afterschool programs than I have been since the start of this horrible pandemic. Through thick and thin, afterschool providers have been genuine heroes in their communities. They've helped children and their families through the hardest of...

BY: Jodi Grant      09/28/21

An interview with The Wooden Floor, a New York Life Foundation Aim High grantee

As the pandemic changed the learning landscape in and out of school, afterschool programs had to adapt. We spoke with Dawn S. Reese, Chief Executive Officer at The Wooden Floor, to discuss how her organization has pivoted to support students and families, and to hear more about what they undertook...

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“My favorite thing about Positive Tomorrows is being able to talk to anybody and they won’t judge you. Everybody is just like you. They all went through the same or similar situations.” - Josiah, 4th Grade Located in Oklahoma City, Positive Tomorrows is a dual elementary school...

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A group of people sitting around a table. Source: YMCA of Greater Long Beach By Sam Piha, founder and co-director of Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation, both organizations dedicated to promoting the learning and healthy development of youth. Why engage older youth as...

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Source: YMCA of Greater Long Beach By Sam Piha, founder and co-director of Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation, both organizations dedicated to promoting the learning and healthy development of youth. Involving older youth as workers within afterschool programs makes a great...

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My hometown is fighting a hidden opioid epidemic, and so is my family

Art by Aidan Ventimiglia/VOX ATL By Kalliope Samaltanos, high school junior and student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on August 25, 2021 and is republished with their permission. We are sharing this opinion piece as part of our...

BY: Guest Blogger      09/07/21

Tips for safe, positive sports in your afterschool program

Are you ready to get kids active and playing sports this year? Our partner Coaching Corps is ready to help with free tools and resources from coaching tips based on youth development principles, to operating safely and supporting social-emotional well-being. Read on to sample some of their top...

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By Genesis Strother. Genesis, 15, attends North Atlanta High School and wrote this article as part of her work as a student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on July 21, 2021 and is republished with their...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/17/21

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A message from the Internal Revenue Service. We are publishing this information about the Advance Child Tax Credit so that afterschool and summer learning programs can share this information with the families they serve. The families served by your afterschool  or summer program may be...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/09/21

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By Asia Rodney-Collins, 13. Asia is a student at Emma Willard School and wrote this article as part of her work as a student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on June 24, 2021 and is republished the article with their...

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An interview with The Wooden Floor, a New York Life Foundation Aim High grantee

As the pandemic changed the learning landscape in and out of school, afterschool programs had to adapt. We spoke with Dawn S. Reese, Chief Executive Officer at The Wooden Floor, to discuss how her organization has pivoted to support students and families, and to hear more about what they undertook...

BY: Maria Rizo      09/24/21

Policy recommendations to promote youth employment in afterschool programs

Source: YMCA of Greater Long Beach By Sam Piha, founder and co-director of Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation, both organizations dedicated to promoting the learning and healthy development of youth. Involving older youth as workers within afterschool programs makes a great...

BY: Guest Blogger      09/13/21

Tips for safe, positive sports in your afterschool program

Are you ready to get kids active and playing sports this year? Our partner Coaching Corps is ready to help with free tools and resources from coaching tips based on youth development principles, to operating safely and supporting social-emotional well-being. Read on to sample some of their top...

BY: Ursula Helminski      09/03/21

A city-wide approach: Leveraging afterschool to support a new school year

By Bela Spooner, Program Director with the Education and Expanded Learning team at the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, and Gislene Tasayco, Senior Specialist with the Education and Expanded Learning team at the National League of Cities’...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/31/21

An Apology in Action

By Maddy Goldstein, student, writing for YCteen magazine, published by Youth Communication. Youth Communication is a nonprofit youth media organization that promotes youth literacy and civic engagement through youth-led media. The organization provides teen-written stories and curriculum...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/27/21

New guide for programs serving youth in out-of-school time: Indiana Afterschool Network's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tool

By Maria Rizo and Bri Gaston-Bell. In this Q&A with the Afterschool Alliance, Bri Gaston-Bell of the Indiana Afterschool Network, talks about how Afterschool Standards are outlining the path to drive high-quality and equitable OST programs for youth state-wide. What are the Indiana...

BY: Maria Rizo      07/19/21

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BY: Guest Blogger      07/06/21

$1.5M awarded to middle school out-of-school time programs

The Afterschool Alliance is proud to announce the winners of the New York Life Foundation’s 2021 Aim High grant competition, representing a $1,500,000 investment in middle school out-of-school time (OST) programs serving disadvantaged youth in communities across the nation. The Aim High...

BY: Dan Gilbert      05/26/21

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It will come as no surprise to anyone that the entire education and youth development field is going through a turbulent time right now. Afterschool and summer programs, schools, and districts are all scrambling to figure out how to meet the needs of young people and their families this summer and...

BY: Dan Gilbert      05/21/21

Prioritizing youth voice in COVID-19 recovery strategies: An interview with Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation

We spoke with Summer Haran, Chief Developmental Strategist of Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation to discuss how her organization adapted to meet youth needs throughout the pandemic, what aspects were most important when thinking about the future, and how Snider Hockey was able to expand critical...

BY: Maria Rizo      11/16/21

Afterschool programs help boost vaccination efforts

Photo by CDC on Unsplash The approval of COVID-19 vaccinations for children age 12 and older has provided a ray of hope to families and schools nationwide as way to help ensure students’ health and safety as they return to the in-person classroom. In August, the Biden administration...

BY: Nicole Pettenati      10/15/21

My hometown is fighting a hidden opioid epidemic, and so is my family

Art by Aidan Ventimiglia/VOX ATL By Kalliope Samaltanos, high school junior and student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on August 25, 2021 and is republished with their permission. We are sharing this opinion piece as part of our...

BY: Guest Blogger      09/07/21

Tips for safe, positive sports in your afterschool program

Are you ready to get kids active and playing sports this year? Our partner Coaching Corps is ready to help with free tools and resources from coaching tips based on youth development principles, to operating safely and supporting social-emotional well-being. Read on to sample some of their top...

BY: Ursula Helminski      09/03/21

Learning ecosystems are essential threads in our nation's fabric

By Gregg Behr, executive director of The Grable Foundation and co-chair of Remake Learning, and Ryan Rydzewski, science and education reporter.  It started in Pittsburgh like it started everyplace else: A one-off school closing, just for a day or two. Then a district-wide closure —...

BY: Guest Blogger      05/06/21

ACT Now: Afterschool as a substance misuse and violence prevention tool

By Susan Stanton, ACT Now network lead, and HannaMarie Pearl Hohener ACT Now policy and communications intern. This article was originally posted on ACT Now's blog on March 8, 2021. It is republished here with ACT Now's permission. To learn more and to access the new brief,...

BY: Guest Blogger      03/22/21

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: What is the role of the afterschool field?

By the end of February, the United States had given at least one vaccination shot to approximately 14 percent of its population. While vaccination rates around the country have varied and each state has implemented its own rollout plan, many states have begun opening appointments to essential...

BY: Erin Hegarty      02/26/21

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A guide to how Hubs work & examples in place  As schools began shutting their doors and moving to virtual classrooms last spring, afterschool programs and youth development organizations stepped up to help students and families with access to the internet, learning support, meals, and...

BY: Alexis Steines      01/28/21

Access to COVID-19 vaccines for out-of-school time program staff

Update: January 5, 2021: As an update to the request detailed in the blog below regarding out-of-school time workers being classified as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” for the purposes of COVID-19 vaccination eligibility, a change was made by the CDC Advisory Committee...

BY: Erik Peterson      12/22/20

My afterschool experience: Before and during the pandemic

By Malika Ali, an 11th grader in New Jersey. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. I wake up around 6:30 AM to the sound of my blaring alarm clock and hear birds chirping faintly in the background. I somehow manage to get out of bed and start getting ready for school. I wake up my siblings, brush my teeth, change...

BY: Guest Blogger      12/14/20

Civic engagement and activism in afterschool programs: An interview with a youth development researcher

By Sam Piha, founder and co-director of Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation, both organizations dedicated to promoting the learning and healthy development of youth.   According to the Afterschool Alliance, “The afterschool field is an essential...

BY: Guest Blogger      11/15/21

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If you’re an afterschool program director looking for educational resources that relate to culturally responsive programming, WHUT - Howard University Television may be a great source to check out. WHUT is the first and only public broadcast television station, owned and licensed to...

BY: Shaun Gray      11/08/21

How the pandemic sparked my passion to help people who are homeless

By Genesis Strother. Genesis, 15, attends North Atlanta High School and wrote this article as part of her work as a student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on July 21, 2021 and is republished with their...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/17/21

Critical Race Theory: A dangerous ideology? [Opinion]

By Asia Rodney-Collins, 13. Asia is a student at Emma Willard School and wrote this article as part of her work as a student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on June 24, 2021 and is republished the article with their...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/02/21

An Apology in Action

By Maddy Goldstein, student, writing for YCteen magazine, published by Youth Communication. Youth Communication is a nonprofit youth media organization that promotes youth literacy and civic engagement through youth-led media. The organization provides teen-written stories and curriculum...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/27/21

New guide for programs serving youth in out-of-school time: Indiana Afterschool Network's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tool

By Maria Rizo and Bri Gaston-Bell. In this Q&A with the Afterschool Alliance, Bri Gaston-Bell of the Indiana Afterschool Network, talks about how Afterschool Standards are outlining the path to drive high-quality and equitable OST programs for youth state-wide. What are the Indiana...

BY: Maria Rizo      07/19/21

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BY: Guest Blogger      06/23/21

Working on afterschool program's podcast "helped me find a future for myself."

By Elizabeth Lencioni, high school freshman and student at Aptos Community Youth Program. Elizabeth is one of the hosts of the Aptos Community Youth Program's Gen Impact Podcast. Hi, I’m Elizabeth. I joined the Aptos Community Youth Program about a year and a half ago now. I wanted to...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/22/21

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BY: Guest Blogger      06/21/21

Reengaging young people with insights from the Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the entire education and youth development field is going through a turbulent time right now. Afterschool and summer programs, schools, and districts are all scrambling to figure out how to meet the needs of young people and their families this summer and...

BY: Dan Gilbert      05/21/21

Civic engagement and activism in afterschool programs: An interview with a youth development researcher

By Sam Piha, founder and co-director of Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation, both organizations dedicated to promoting the learning and healthy development of youth.   According to the Afterschool Alliance, “The afterschool field is an essential...

BY: Guest Blogger      11/15/21

Culturally responsive programming resources from WHUT for afterschool educators

If you’re an afterschool program director looking for educational resources that relate to culturally responsive programming, WHUT - Howard University Television may be a great source to check out. WHUT is the first and only public broadcast television station, owned and licensed to...

BY: Shaun Gray      11/08/21

Critical Race Theory: A dangerous ideology? [Opinion]

By Asia Rodney-Collins, 13. Asia is a student at Emma Willard School and wrote this article as part of her work as a student at VOX ATL's afterschool program. This article was originally published on VOX ATL on June 24, 2021 and is republished the article with their...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/02/21

New guide for programs serving youth in out-of-school time: Indiana Afterschool Network's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tool

By Maria Rizo and Bri Gaston-Bell. In this Q&A with the Afterschool Alliance, Bri Gaston-Bell of the Indiana Afterschool Network, talks about how Afterschool Standards are outlining the path to drive high-quality and equitable OST programs for youth state-wide. What are the Indiana...

BY: Maria Rizo      07/19/21

There is still time to apply to be a 2021 Afterschool Alliance Youth Ambassador!

By Leah Silverberg, STEM Projects and Field Outreach Associate at the Afterschool Alliance, and Juliana Montell, a student at The Boys & Girls Club of Kennebec Valley.  Applications close June 30 to become one of the next Afterschool Alliance Youth Ambassadors. Each year, we...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/23/21

5 things you can do today to support LGBTQ youth

By Tran Tonnu, marketing manager at School's Out Washington, and Janell Jordan, King County program manager. This article originally appeared on School's Out Washington's blog on June 17, 2021. It has been republished here with their permission. For LGBTQ folks, June is an...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/21/21

$1.5M awarded to middle school out-of-school time programs

The Afterschool Alliance is proud to announce the winners of the New York Life Foundation’s 2021 Aim High grant competition, representing a $1,500,000 investment in middle school out-of-school time (OST) programs serving disadvantaged youth in communities across the nation. The Aim High...

BY: Dan Gilbert      05/26/21

Program Spotlight: Positive Tomorrows providing a wealth of opportunity for families experiencing homelessness

“My favorite thing about Positive Tomorrows is being able to talk to anybody and they won’t judge you. Everybody is just like you. They all went through the same or similar situations.” - Josiah, 4th Grade Located in Oklahoma City, Positive Tomorrows is a dual elementary school...

BY: Maria Rizo      05/17/21

From feeling safe to feeling like a stereotype

Photo by Emilio Garcia on Unsplash By Christina Li, student, writing for YCteen magazine, published by Youth Communication. Youth Communication is a nonprofit youth media organization that promotes youth literacy and civic engagement through youth-led media. The organization provides...

BY: Guest Blogger      05/10/21

Standing with the Asian-American Pacific Islander community

By Lauren Smith, Program Sustainability VISTA (AmeriCORPS) at the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network. Learn more about the AmeriCORPS afterschool VISTA program. One month ago, eight people were murdered during a horrific shooting in Atlanta, Georgia. Seven of the victims were...

BY: Guest Blogger      04/26/21