We are so excited to announce the return of the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award! With the generous support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the Afterschool Alliance is once again looking for stellar afterschool programs that provide students with integral literacy learning opportunities to develop their reading, writing and critical thinking skills. This year, the focus of the award is on English language learners and the ways afterschool programs ensure that these students have the reading and writing abilities they need to thrive.
Nominations for the $10,000 Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award are now open. Here are three tips to help you get started:
Download a PDF version of the nomination form to review the questions ahead of time and see what information you need gather on the program you are nominating.
Send us any questions you have about the award and/or nomination form that we can answer during our upcoming webinar on Nov. 10, "What Reviewers Want: Insights on Nominations for the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award."
Tune in for the webinar on Nov. 10, where we’ll cover the qualities of a promising nomination form and common critiques of past nomination submissions from people who have been involved in the review process.
Nominations are due by December 16, 2016
Be sure to share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues! We’re looking forward to reading about the great work supporting English language learner students that is taking place in afterschool programs across the country.
By Robert Abare
Written by Rhetta Hunyady, Vice President of Education and Training at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, which administers YouthQuest, a high-quality afterschool program serving more than 2,000 students each year in Flint and Genesee County, Michigan.
When you walk into a fast food chain, you probably have a good idea of what to expect. The food, the service, the building’s layout—it’s all fairly predictable. Your experience at one location will be similar to your experience at another.
While that’s a great model for a restaurant franchise, it doesn’t work as well for youth programming. After all, many afterschool programs are offered at multiple sites, each with its own students, its own culture, its own strengths and its own challenges. One size does not fit all.
At YouthQuest, each of our 15 sites follows the same framework, but how that framework is carried out can look very different based on the school. Three key factors that impact this include:
- The needs of the students. One of our sites serves two children who are hearing impaired. Rather than offer only select programming to these students, we’ve partnered with the day school to provide interpreters after school. This has allowed the students to take part in all of YouthQuest’s activities, including violin lessons.
- The needs of the school. One of our partner schools recently moved to a balanced calendar, or a calendar with a shorter summer and several short breaks throughout the school year. This change meant that the calendar for the school's YouthQuest program had to change as well. As such, YouthQuest modified its program to match the day school’s schedule and will provide optional enrichment programming during these modified school breaks.
- Student voice and choice. Each YouthQuest site has its own advisory council, in which students make important decisions about program content, such as field trips and service learning projects. As a result, students feel a unique sense of ownership over the program.
That said, it’s important that the program remains consistent where it matters most. In our case, all sites support YouthQuest’s core curriculum, goals and mission. We continue to offer monthly professional development, share the same lesson plans between sites and meet regularly to ensure that all staff are on the same page.
So, while each site’s methods and program may vary, at the end of the day, we’ve all accomplished the same goal: providing students with fun, engaging programming that connects to the school day.
By Luci Manning
Students in the After-School All-Stars program at Hobson Middle School are taking a different kind of STEM class: one focused on science, travel, entrepreneurship and math. The students celebrated Lights On Afterschool by planning theoretical trips to places like New Orleans and Puerto Rico, learning the foundations of jazz music, expressing themselves with design and business plans and inspiring each other to change their worlds. The program serves 300 children in four D.C. schools and hopes to bring in an additional 200 children by the end of the year. “It’s a very different space,” Afterschool Ambassador Daniela Grigioni told NBC Washington. “It allows children to develop a different skill set than during the school day.”
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback emphasized the importance of literacy and inspired Reading Roadmap students to reach for the stars last week as part of Lights On Afterschool at a Kansas City Boys & Girls Club. The afterschool program targets children in low-income families who are struggling to read. “You learn to read, it’s going to open gateways for you to go all over the world,” Gov. Brownback told the students. “Maybe someday some of you are going to go to the moon, even…. I want you to work really hard, study hard, I want you to get straight As in school, I know you can do it.” The governor signed a proclamation for Lights On Afterschool Day, according to the Wyandotte Daily.
The Bright Futures afterschool program is encouraging 350 students in nine Wayne-Westland schools to learn and grow their academic, art, leadership and time-management skills. The free program provides a meal, homework help and a variety of enrichment activities for youth. Eighth-grader Jael Smith said the program inspires her to push past her boundaries and plan more for her future. “I’ve learned to go outside my comfort zone,” she told Hometown Life. “I think that’s a really important part of growing up and being successful. You can’t really get anywhere without getting out of your comfort zone.” The program celebrated Lights On Afterschool last week with stations highlighting students’ achievements in math, art, film making, physical activities and science.
Nearly a thousand students from 23 area YMCA sites participated in a 1K run last week to highlight the importance of afterschool programs. The YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties has held the annual Lights On Afterschool run around Island Park for 16 years. "It's watching the kids grow, watching the families really appreciate what you do and all the hard work you put into making sure that the kids have somewhere to go after school and somewhere safe to be," Site Coordinator Kelsi McClaflin told KVRR.
By Jen Rinehart
The misalignment between parents’ working hours and kids’ school hours is widely recognized by the afterschool community and working parents everywhere. Years of public polling have highlighted that this issue is top-of-mind with parents and voters. That’s why advocates often point to afterschool's role in helping working families when they make the case for afterschool and summer learning programs.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) recently highlighted this issue in Workin’ 9 to 5: How School Schedules Make Life Harder for Working Parents. In Workin’ 9 to 5, CAP points out that most schools close 2 hours or more before the typical workday ends, and the largest school districts shut their doors for an average of 29 days per school year—excluding summer break. Couple that with the fact that many working families do not have paid leave, and it’s easy to see why CAP is elevating this issue.
Fortunately, according to the report, nearly half of all public elementary schools attempt to address the gap between school and work schedules by providing before and afterschool programs. But CAP also points out that low-income schools are actually less likely to offer afterschool programs than other schools, and when programs are offered, there is often a cost to families. More recent data from America After 3PM indicate that lower-income youth actually participate in afterschool at higher rates, and that participation has been on the rise over the last decade. But those data also reveal that high levels of unmet demand and cost is a more frequently cited barrier to participation among low-income families.
Workin’ 9 to 5 goes on to make recommendations at the national, state and local level for how to better meet the needs of kids and families.
Key recommendations from the report
- Host a White House conference on supporting working families.
- Use the flexibility in Title I to better support working families.
- Increase appropriations for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, Promise Neighborhoods, AmeriCorps and the Full-Service Community Schools Program.
- Leverage community resources and partner with community-based entities to provide programming.
- Redefine how professional development is delivered to reduce the number of days when kids have off school for teacher professional development.
By Robert Abare
As you might have heard, Lights On Afterschool 2016 was a big success! Thousands (8,200 to be exact!) of programs and leaders hosted events in their communities. The Empire State Building glowed yellow on the evening of October 20, along with the Orlando Eye, the Tampa Bay Ray's Tropicana Field and the 35 W Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The nation’s celebration of afterschool would not have been possible without enthusiastic participation from a host of partners, ranging from national organizations that serve thousands of kids to local programs that help small communities.
Major afterschool providers took part in Lights On Afterschool 2016, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, YMCA of the USA, After-School All Stars, Camp Fire, and 4-H, which celebrated in coordination with National Youth Science Day. And more than 100 allied organizations lent their voices and support, including the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), the STEM Education Coalition, The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the Association of Science - Technology Centers (ASTC), the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), and the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Child Care.
At the national and local levels, companies offered their support in many ways, from donating materials to helping build public awareness. Bright House Networks provided hands-on STEM learning experiences for hundreds of afterschool kids across Florida, and Marriott provided funds for posters and online tools for sites. Nickelodeon teamed up to keep kids physically active by celebrating Lights On Afterschool with Worldwide Day of Play. Scholastic gave away 300 books to Lights On sites; WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS gave away their publishing-based literacy program; STEMfinity provided $2000 of experiment kits; and Torani sent celebratory party supplies to the winners of our national Lights On Afterschool poster contest.
All 50 statewide afterschool networks mobilized and supported communities across their states, and worked with 44 Governors who proclaimed October 20 Lights On Afterschool day. The mayor of the District of Columbia also issued a proclamation in support of Lights On Afterschool.
A number of prominent figures, from national foundations to local mayors, added their voice to raise awareness of Lights On Afterschool on social media. These advocates include:
- The Mott Foundation
- John Deere
- New York Life
- The FrameWorks Institute
- The Administration for Children and Families
- Change the Equation
- Sam Liccardo, Mayor of San Jose, California
- Jennifer Roberts, Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina
- Kentucky Dept. of Education
- Georgia Dept. of Education
- The Georgia State Government
- The City of Las Vegas
- Pennsylvania State Senator John Yudichak
- Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President of the National Education Association
- The Arizona Governor's Office of Education
Just like the learning experiences that happen after school, this year's Lights On events came in all shapes and sizes, and provided diverse opportunities for kids to learn, grow and speak out. Thank you!
Although the official day of Lights On Afterschool has passed, many celebrations will continue into early November. Please continue to send us descriptions and photos of your Lights On Afterschool celebrations to email@example.com.
By Robert Abare
Exactly 8,200 events held across the USA and the world make this year's Lights On Afterschool the biggest and brightest since the rally first began 17 years ago! One million people joined together to shine a light on the accomplishments of afterschool programs and to say 'thank you' for all the benefits they provide to communities and working families.
Here are 6 things that made Lights On Afterschool 2016 truly shine:
1. We kicked off Lights On Afterschool with Learn Fresh, NBA Math Hoops, the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings on a big national stage—a game between the Warriors and Kings at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA!
2. The U.S. Senate issued a bipartisan proclamation in support of Lights On Afterschool.
3. The Empire State Building glowed yellow on the evening of Lights On Afterschool, October 20.
4. 44 states issued official Lights On Afterschool proclamations to honor afterschool programs.
5. Exactly 8,200 Lights On events were held around the world!
6. 641 people signed the petition to ask for greater investments in afterschool.
Did you host a Lights On Afterschool event this year? If so, we want to hear from you! Send us your photos and any highlights to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Luci Manning
The Hawaii Afterschool Alliance will celebrate Lights On Afterschool with a rally at the Hawaii State Capitol Rotunda today. The rally will allow children to show off their talents for art, dance and music and give the community a chance to show their appreciation for afterschool programs. “These places are engaging, the kids are having fun, and they are linked to the school hours, so when they are in the afterschool hours, they can support the work they do during school,” Afterschool Ambassador Paula Adams told Hawaii News Now.
The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) recognized Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District as its featured 2016 Lights On Afterschool district in honor of its exceptional afterschool programs. The district’s programs mix academics with enrichment activities, giving students a chance to try their hand at cooking, weightlifting, STEM subjects and more. “Parents are working, and this provides a safe place, an engaging, positive place for students,” Superintendent Mary Gorsuch told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Students need opportunities in a rural community like ours to have outlets that aren’t available otherwise. For us, this is huge. We want to make sure kids graduate ready to be successful adults.”
Community members celebrated the Mat-Su Borough School District’s Building Bridges afterschool program and highlighted the need for more quality afterschool options at a Lights On Afterschool rally last week. Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle issued a Proclamation of Support for Afterschool Programming and students gave presentations on digital art design, dance, archery, robotics, outdoor recreation, personal finance and poetry, according to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman. Building Bridges is a STEM-focused program that provides homework assistance, mentoring, college readiness training and other services.
Students in the Boys & Girls Club in Hernando’s six afterschool sites will perform dramatic productions to celebrate Lights On Afterschool. Each site will put on a different play, and overall some 450 children will participate in tomorrow’s event. The performances are the culmination of a new initiative for club members called Drama Matters, which teaches students the ins and outs of the theater business, Tampa Bay Times reports. Students are not only the actors, but they built the sets, designed costumes and will manage a lot of the production aspects on the night of the performance.
Late last month, Congress avoided a government shutdown by passing a short-term FY2017 continuing resolution (CR). The temporary stopgap funding measure set spending levels at the FY 2016 spending levels through December 9, 2016.
Congress is currently on recess prior to Election Day on November 8, 2016, but will be faced with passing a more permanent spending bill when they return the week of November 14th. House and Senate appropriations staff are now meeting to review and negotiate differences in the spending bills passed this summer by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.
As more than one million parents, students and supporters prepare to celebrate Lights On Afterschool at more than 8,000 events nationwide tomorrow, October 20; major education, youth development and child advocacy organizations sent a letter to Congressional appropriators calling on them to fund 21st CCLC at $1.16 billion, the level included in the House Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) education spending bill.