A very big congratulations to the 2011 “Afterschool for All” Champions!
Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST afterschool program and inventor of the Segway, received the 2011 National Afterschool Champion Award at the 10th annual Afterschool for All Challenge for his work advocating for improved teaching of science and technology and his efforts to help young people discover the excitement and rewards of science and technology through the FIRST programs. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Founded in 1989, FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education andcareer opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills. Children from K-12 work on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) projects, building robots to compete against other students' creations. U.S. Senator Jean Shaheen (NH) presented the Award. (Kamen and Sen. Shaheen pictured with kids presenting the award at top.)
We just wrapped up the 10th annual Afterschool for All Challenge, and I’m feeling incredibly grateful. More than 350 parents, youth, educators and advocates--spanning 40 states--came to the nation’s Capital for our two-day gathering, and met face-to-face with more than 200 Members of Congress and their staff to urge them to preserve funding for afterschool programs and support efforts to expand opportunities for afterschool students to engage in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning.
It was great to see long-standing supporters of afterschool programs, and to welcome many new faces, as we expanded our reach to the STEM community for this year’s event. STEM learning in afterschool was a theme running throughout all our sessions, and served as the centerpiece of our gala “Breakfast of Champions,” where Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST and inventor of the Segway, was honored as the 2011 national afterschool champion. Nine state afterschool champions were also recognized. (Kamen is pictured with his award to the left, on his right is Jodi Grant, and on his left afterschool youth and Sen. Shaheen of NH.)
It seems both the Administration and media are making an effort to highlight examples of struggling schools making gains. Several highlighted in recent weeks have afterschool initiatives as part of their core services. In March, President Obama visited Miami Central High School and TechBoston, and the New York Times magazine cover story April 10 featured a Bronx principal making progress at M.S. 223.
- Miami Central tapped School Improvement Grant dollars to implement a turnaround strategy; one component was “extended learning time by adding afterschool instruction in reading and math.” (Source: White House backgrounder) That funding was awarded in 2009; the state had previously approved and paid for the extended time in 2006.
- TechBoston, which receives a significant amount of private funds from tech companies and the Gates Foundation, provides one hour, from 3.15 to 4:15 p.m., for “sports, clubs, one-on-one learning time with faculty, and extra academic support.” (Source: White House backgrounder )
- In the Bronx, Principal Gonzalez uses afterschool enrichment as a carrot to keep his kids engaged. Students at M.S. 223 must complete tutoring before they are able to take part in enrichment activities. Read the article, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/magazine/mag-10School-t.html
The other night I saw "Waiting for 'Superman'." The buzz around this film has been incredible. Like a thriller whose ending you already heard, I walked in with some pretty solid notions of what it was going to show me. I knew it would upset me; I knew it would expose some deep and persistent problems in our education system.
Stop into your local coffee shop this fall and you may be able to get some afterschool art in your coffee. Art created by afterschool students Savannah Lesser and Julia Grzep will adorn the Torani Raspberry and Sugar Free French Vanilla syrup bottles. The students’ artwork stood out among hundreds of pieces submitted toTorani, the maker of the number one specialty syrup in North America, for its sixth annual Art for Kids project.
Thirteen-year-old Savannah, of the Farmington Public Library (Bayless Library Branch @ Boys & Girls Club of Farmington) Great After School Program (GASP), was inspired by butterflies in making her artwork. Julia, a fourth-grader who attends the Young Rembrandts Greater-Cleveland West’s afterschool program, worked bright, bold colors and a whimsical giraffe into her design. Savannah (pictured right) signed bottles featuring her artwork at a Pizza and Italian Soda party thrown by Torani at her afterschool program. Torani sponsored parties at both sites for the artists to celebrate their win with their fellow students.
Torani’s Art for Kids project highlights the importance of afterschool programs nationwide by promoting the artwork of children and youth in afterschool programs on limited-edition beverage labels. The company will donate five percent of the sales of the limited edition bottles from September through December 2010 to the Afterschool Alliance.
Sept 23, 2010 - Grammy nominated, platinum recording artist and "American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks wowed kids at the Thurgood Marshall Academy afterschool program in Harlem yesterday. Sparks visited the program with Quaker® Oats and the Afterschool Alliance as part of Quaker Chewy Afterschool Rocks, a campaign to bring attention to the need for safe, secure and motivating afterschool programs for all kids.
Students from the Bridge and SMART afterschool programs, run by Abyssinian Development Corporation, were awed by their surprise guest. Sparks encouraged the kids to say active after school, and answered a slew of questions from students about her singing career, "American Idol," and who the most influential people in her life were (her answer: Mom Dad). But the standout question from came a young girl who asked, "Are you going to sing for us?" Jordin responded with "Counting on You." The audience went wild.
The afterschool students showed their talents, too. The Lady Panthers Step Troupe, a powerful group of about a dozen girls from TMS Elementary School, brought the audience to their feet with their booming footwork.
Sparks is lending her voice to the Quaker Chewy Afterschool Rocks campaign to help generate support for afterschool programs and fuel activities with whole grain nutrition to give kids a strong start to the new school year. Jordin's songs are featured in a must-see music library of more than 250 songs from over 70 artists, including Gloriana and Jason Derulo. Parents can visit www.QuakerOats.com/afterschoolrocks to download songs and learn how to get their kids involved in afterschool programs. Parents can also get codes for two free song downloads from the Afterschool Rocks music library by purchasing specially-marked boxes of Quaker Chewy Granola Bars.
It's been a hot, hot summer here on the East Coast. But the sweltering temperature is nothing compared to the heated debate going on all around the country as the Administration and Congress take up serious education reform efforts. A lot of big issues are on the table, including major shifts in funding for afterschool programs as well as what happens after school and in the summer.
At the center of the debate is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a law that sets policy for much of our school-age education system. The bill will not just impact our programs and jobs. It will affect our children for generations to come. (Consider how much influence the last iteration of the bill, the famous No Child Left Behind Act, has had.) What happens to afterschool and summer programs, especially 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grants, is up in the air. 21st CCLC, the only dedicated funding source for afterschool and summer programs, supports programs serving more than 1 million children nationwide.
Just last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure to divert 21st CCLC funding away from afterschool. The bill would allow districts to instead use the funds to extend the school day. While some expanded learning efforts show great promise, taking funds from afterschool for these efforts is not the answer. A decade's worth of research prove that afterschool programs help our kids succeed-especially the low income youth that need help most. Congress needs to know that afterschool programs and the 21st CCLC programs are a worthwhile investment. They keep children safe, inspire them to learn and help working families.
Yesterday afternoon, we wrapped up the 9th annual Afterschool for All Challenge. There’s only one way to describe how the event went –amazing. All three days were jam-packed with activities and conversations that ranged from incredibly uplifting to thought-provoking. We saw afterschool youth deliver a special rap they wrote for Terry Peterson (who they called “Mr. Afterschool”), we cheered “Afterschool Is Key” with a crowd of 700 on the lawn of the Capitol for the Afterschool for All Rally, and we met with 250+ Congressional offices.