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Snacks by Rachel Clark
FEB
14
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Parents share why they love their kids' afterschool programs

By Rachel Clark

A West Virginia parent (L) and Alaska student (R) share why they love their afterschool programs. Photos via @WVSAN and @AKAfterschool.

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day with loved ones, family, and friends, many afterschool students, staff, and supporters are sharing from the heart why they love afterschool.

In addition to sharing on social media, parents from communities across the country have written heartwarming love letters to the afterschool programs they and their children rely on every day. The reasons afterschool is close to their hearts are as diverse as the afterschool field itself.

Afterschool supports working parents

For Pennsylvania mom Tami Reichman, the LifeSpan afterschool program offers job security and the priceless peace of mind of knowing her kids are safe and learning while she’s at work.

“As a single mom of two who is working full time while earning her bachelor’s degree, it’s important for me to have someplace safe for my children to go after school,” Tami shared with The Morning Call.

“With my job as a shipping manager, I can’t afford to miss days of work because of inclement weather or school holidays. LifeSpan offers care right at the school so my children have somewhere safe and supervised to go.”

Afterschool gives students the tools to achieve

Amanda Owens of West Valley City, Utah, loves her son’s afterschool program because it’s given him more confidence in school.

“For years my son struggled with reading. The help and tutoring he's received from the afterschool teachers has been immense,” Amanda wrote in The Salt Lake Tribune. “I cannot imagine how far behind in reading he would be without the afterschool program. Now he's no longer embarrassed to read. He even gets excited to read to his younger siblings!”

FEB
10
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Youth share how out-of-school programming prepares them for the workforce

By Rachel Clark

By Rachel Willis, Research Project Manager at the Kansas Enrichment Network.

Student Jessica Rodas speaks at the Kansas Workforce Summit. Photo via @KS_Enrichment.

We all know the statistics from the last decade. Employment growth in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sectors is occurring at a faster rate than the growth rate projected for all occupations over the decade—13 percent compared to 11 percent, respectively.

At the most recent Kansas Workforce Summit, the Kansas Enrichment Network and other participants heard this reiterated again. We also learned about the importance of educating and preparing young people for jobs that cannot be automated, as well as teaching 21st century skills like communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem solving and critical thinking. While these concepts came as no surprise to us, we were excited that our fellow attendees from outside the out-of-school time field were hearing this message. It set the stage perfectly for our Youth Speak panel facilitated by the Afterschool Alliance’s very own Jodi Grant.

Jodi introduced an audience of business leaders and other workforce development stakeholders to out-of-school programming and the substantial body of research on the effects of quality afterschool programs. This audience was especially interested in afterschool’s role in improving school day attendance—as Jodi pointed out at the Summit, “the number one indicator for whether or not kids will get in trouble with the law, whether or not they graduate tends to be truancy. We have a direct impact on that in afterschool.”

Following this introduction, Jodi turned it over to four youth—one middle school student, two high school students and one graduate student—who answered questions about how their afterschool programs are preparing them for bright futures. The youth spoke about the opportunity to explore various career paths, learning how to work on a team, and improving their leadership skills. “The adults that we have supervising us help teach us important standards such as punctuality and communication, taking on responsibilities, following directions, and developing leadership skills,” student Patience Wagner shared.

FEB
7
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Easy Valentine's activity: Share why your students love afterschool!

By Rachel Clark

This month, we’re celebrating the millions of reasons to love America’s afterschool programs, and we want to see why you and your students love afterschool!

Joining in can make for an easy and fun activity for your program in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. We’ve already seen programs in Washington and Alaska invite students to participate, with some unique and creative results.

Taking part is simple. All you have to do is:

  1. Download the toolkit.
  2. Make copies of the included We Love Afterschool sign.
  3. Ask students (and parents!) to fill them out.
  4. Snap photos of the finished product and share them on social media with the hashtag #AfterschoolWorks!

Ready to get started? Download the toolkit now.

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learn more about: Afterschool Voices Marketing
FEB
2
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: How future-ready schools are implementing global collaboration

By Rachel Clark

By Erin Dowd, Director of Curriculum for Level Up Village. Connect with her on Twitter @eedowd27. Level Up Village (LUV) delivers pioneering Global STEAM (STEM + Arts) enrichment courses that promote design thinking and one-to-one collaboration on real-world problems between students from around the world. Launched in 2012, LUV runs courses during school, after-school and in the summer for students at more than 150 U.S. schools, with 30+ Global Partner organizations in more than 20 countries. For more information, visit levelupvillage.com.

These students in San Juan Capistrano, California, collaborated virtually with partners in Honduras on a 3D printing collaboration in their Level Up Village Global Inventors after school course. (Photo Credit: St. Margaret’s Episcopal School)

Global collaboration is the next phase of 21st Century learning, but it can often be placed on the back burner. Let’s face it: finding the time to address all of the moving parts involved in connecting students across oceans is hard.

But wouldn’t it be amazing to provide an opportunity for your students to learn with students half a world away and develop empathy by collaborating on the same project? And why aren’t more schools doing this already?

Challenge 1: Competing Demands

Afterschool providers are under so much pressure to plan lessons and activities, meet healthy eating and physical activity goals, handle administrative tasks, connect with parents and more. It can be daunting to even contemplate a global collaboration, and inevitably, it slides down the list of priorities.

Challenge 2: Time Zones & Technology Hurdles

Often, plans for a global collaboration are compromised by challenges such as spotty Internet connections, outdated software or lack of tech support. Different time zones are a major factor to consider and can prevent real-time connections.

While these issues are real and can present big challenges, they are not insurmountable as long as educators consider the following:

Global collaboration doesn’t need to replace other learning objectives

Global collaboration is similar to regular classroom collaboration in that it requires curiosity, effective communication, perspective taking, resourcefulness, and ultimately, the ability to follow through on projects. These are all important skills to be successful in life and are also highlighted in Common Core, NGSS, and ISTE standards. Global collaboration allows students to apply these skills across cultural contexts and allows educators to address many goals at once.

Real-time communication isn’t the only way to connect

While real-time video exchange is amazing, there are other ways for students to connect with peers across the world. Asynchronous video exchange, audio recordings, web-based tools, apps and social media are all helping to create meaningful global connections. Not only do these technologies facilitate global collaboration, they also offer flexibility so students don’t have to stay up past their bedtime to take part.

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learn more about: Digital Learning Guest Blog
JAN
30
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Do you love afterschool? Proclaim it loudly!

By Rachel Clark

By Matt Freeman

“This year, my Valentine is to a program that makes all the difference for me and for my family,” So began West Valley City, Utah, resident Amanda Owens in her Salt Lake Tribune letter-to-the editor in 2015. The “program” she went on to describe was her son’s afterschool program, run by the Community Education Partnership.

Amanda Owens is not alone. For the past several years, a number of parents of children in afterschool programs around the nation have sent similar letters to their local newspapers explaining from the heart why they love their children’s afterschool programs.

Are you a parent with a child in afterschool who feels the same way? Or are you a program provider with parents who might be willing to send a letter?

If yes, here are few questions Valentine letter writers might consider as they write.

  • Do you love that your child’s afterschool programs helps with homework?
  • Do you love that your child’s program keeps her or him safe in the afternoons and during the summer?
  • Do you love that your child’s program gives her or him opportunities to get physical exercise, and provides healthy snacks or meals?
  • Do you love the way afterschool program staff care for your child?
  • Do you love the way your child’s eyes sparkle when she or he talks about what they do in the afternoons?

It’s easy to submit letters-to-the-editor; most newspapers will take them via their website or by email. To find out about word limits and how to submit, just do a web search for the name of your newspaper and the words “letter-to-the-editor submission.” If that doesn’t work, try going to the newspaper’s website, finding the letters section and looking for submission guidelines.

But the most important tip is the obvious one: Write from the heart!

That tip also applies to another way you can show why you love afterschool: social media. We’ve created a simple toolkit with guidelines and a printable that you and the afterschool students, parents and providers in your life can use to share what you love about these programs.

Participating is simple: Just print a page straight from the toolkit, fill it out with the heartfelt reasons you love afterschool, snap a photo of the finished product, and share it on your favorite social media sites using the hashtag #AfterschoolWorks (for example, “#AfterschoolWorks for my students!”).

We can’t wait to see the reasons you and the parents of kids in your program love afterschool. Be sure to tag us @afterschool4all on Twitter and Instagram or @afterschoolalliancedc on Facebook so that we see your social media posts and any letters-to-the-editor that you get published!

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learn more about: Afterschool Voices
JAN
27
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Outdoor education grant could change lives

By Rachel Clark

By Beth Wyant. Beth is the program coordinator of the afterschool program of the Northwest Community Action Center, a division of Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, and an Afterschool Ambassador for the Afterschool Alliance.

Mt. Rainier in Washington State.

I suppose every state in the union can brag about the natural wonders within its borders, but in Washington State, we're brimming with the glories of nature. We have Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helen's, the Columbia River Gorge, the Hoh rain forest (yes, you read that right, it's a rain forest!), and the world's longest peninsular beach (28 miles of it). Not surprisingly, we have an outdoor culture in Washington, with camping, backpacking, biking, climbing, swimming, kayaking and canoeing all seemingly hard-wired into many native Washingtonians.

Many, but not all. As the program coordinator of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool and summer program of the Northwest Community Action Center, a division of Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, I work with 1,600 youth from 15 different schools in the Lower Yakima Valley. It's common for these children from mostly low-income families to have grown up nearby, but never visited, our state's natural wonders. Last year, I went on an outdoor education trip to Mt. Rainer, during which 25 of our elementary students enjoyed a day of hiking. Only five had ever been in the area before, even though it's just 90 minutes away by car. Most had never laid eyes on a forest. Their sense of wonder was palpable; their eyes were wide, and they kept buzzing about the smell of the pine trees and the quiet of the forest.

That experience was part of what motivated us to apply for a "No Child Left Inside Grant" this year from the state Recreation and Conservation Office, which runs the state parks system. We heard about the grant program from School's Out Washington, which administers our state afterschool network. That prompted us to read up on the grant program on the parks system website, and then we put together a seven-page proposal. Ours was one of 122 applications from across the state, 19 of which were funded. We were the only one to receive the maximum grant amount of $125,000.

We are going to put it to good use. It will allow us to take our youth to state parks, teach them about conservation, explore Mt. St. Helen's, get them kayaking on lakes and rivers, take them camping - all things that many of them have never done before. And we are hoping we can get their parents and siblings to join us in some of our adventures, making it into a learning experience for the entire family. The money will also help us buy fishing gear, pay for season passes at state parks, and so much more.

Apart from introducing our students to the extraordinary natural beauty around them, and teaching them how the water in their taps at home is related to the water in the mighty Columbia River, it will give us a chance to teach them habits of fitness that can last a lifetime. We've long followed Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards in our programming, and we've also implemented the state's SNAP-Ed program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to help students and families learn how to make healthy food choices. It includes trips to grocery stores, cooking classes, a community garden and more.

So if sometime soon you happen upon a group of wide-eyed children following the Lewis & Clark trail or taking in the Columbia River Gorge, it might just be us!

JAN
19
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy through service

By Rachel Clark

By Ronni Nelson, a My Brother’s Keeper VISTA working to increase access to high-quality educational, enrichment and mentoring opportunities for young men of color in Tennessee.

Volunteers get ready to volunteer at Lonsdale Elementary School.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the day set aside to commemorate one of our most revered civil rights leaders and activists, is also a day that we should strive to live out the values of justice, peace, and service that he believed in so deeply and manifested so profoundly.

Each year, the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC) AmeriCorps program and Emerald Youth Foundation coordinate a joint MLK Day of Service project to serve the local community in honor of this day. For this year’s Day of Service, approximately 60 AmeriCorps and community members, including myself, spent this past Saturday volunteering at Lonsdale Elementary School to work on a variety of beautification projects. Service projects included community cleanup with several litter street teams, landscaping work around the school, and organizing some outdoor and indoor storage spaces.

My group worked to organize the school’s basement, a task that seemed daunting at first sight, but our efforts resulted in a much more organized and usable space.  The litter street teams worked diligently to remove more than 75 bags of trash from the surrounding area. After a morning of hard work, the volunteers refueled with some well-earned pizza and learned a bit more about the diverse school and community they had served, including background on Lonsdale’s very multicultural community—most of the school’s student population is composed of Guatemalan and Honduran immigrants and African refugees.

As a My Brother’s Keeper VISTA working toward closing the racial achievement gap in reading proficiency, it was so meaningful to me to honor one of our greatest champions of racial justice at an elementary school that exemplifies the type of interracial and intercultural community to which Dr. King dedicated his life. In one of his last sermons, Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed the hope that someone would say he had spent his life trying “to love and serve humanity.” Let us all continue working towards his dream of a united nation by continuing to serve our local communities throughout the rest of the year as well. 

JAN
13
2017

IN THE FIELD
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7 tips for connecting with newly elected officials on social media

By Rachel Clark

As elected officials take office in communities across the country, we in the afterschool field have an important opportunity to introduce ourselves to newly elected officials, reconnect with reelected policy makers, and remind our representatives of afterschool’s impact in the communities they serve.

The first things you should do: familiarize yourself with winning candidates’ priorities and stances on the issues, write introductory letters to newly elected officials, and invite policy makers to visit your afterschool program.

But as you wait for your letters to be delivered or to get a visit scheduled, reaching out to your representatives online is an easy and effective way to put afterschool on their radar. Here’s how:

  1. New to social media? Learn the basics. Our social media resources include introductory Facebook and Twitter tipsheets, popular hashtags in the afterschool community, and two webinars on social media strategy.
  2. Find out how to get in touch with your representatives. Find social media handles for your local policy makers in our interactive database. Simply enter your program’s address to see if the local, state and federal officials who represent you are active on social media and how you can reach them.
  3. Make it clear that you’re a constituent. Policy makers’ offices receive thousands of letters, emails, and social media messages each day, so they generally only have time to acknowledge and respond to residents of their own districts. If your city and state aren’t publicly available on the social media profile you’re using for your outreach, it won’t be clear that you’re a constituent, and your message is much more likely to be ignored.
  4. Tell the stories of the people who are impacted by your program. Collect short anecdotes from students, parents, teachers, local business leaders, law enforcement officers, and other community partners explaining in a few words why afterschool works for them. Tell your program’s story through their testimonials by sharing those quotes with elected officials on social media.
  5. Run the numbers. Policy makers want to know how issues affect their constituents. Supplement personal stories from your program with America After 3PM statistics from your state to drive home the widespread demand and support for afterschool programs in your community.
  6. Mention your federal or state funding streams. Does your program get funding through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, the Child Care Development Fund, or other federal or state funding streams? Be sure to note that in your outreach to emphasize the importance of these investments (e.g. “With support from Community Learning Centers, kids in [program name] are performing better in math.”).
  7. Have a specific ask. Your outreach should drive toward a goal—ideally, getting an elected official or a member of their staff to visit your program and see afterschool in action! When you connect with policy makers on social media, try to include a few words inviting them to see afterschool for themselves. Afterschool Ambassador Brent Cummings successfully used this tactic to secure a site visit from a U.S. Senator!  

We know from academic research and surveys of congressional staff that policy makers are listening to constituent voices on social media. In one survey, 80 percent of congressional staff reported that getting their attention takes fewer than 30 posts or comments about an issue! For state and local officials, the threshold to get afterschool on their radar is likely even lower.

With online outreach, a small investment of time can make a big impact and help lay the foundation for a long and rewarding partnership with your representatives.

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learn more about: Advocacy Marketing