This Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week, we’re celebrating you: the educators who dedicate your careers to teaching and supporting youth during the out-of-school hours. To highlight the expertise of a few leading professionals in our field, and foster widespread sharing of best practices, we asked four afterschool leaders from across the country to share their keys to success and sustainability.
Have your own pro-tip to share? We want to hear it!
Find ways to serve many needs at once.
“I teach sophisticated language, because it’s a key part of the success we’re having and a reason the engagement we have is so broad-based: people want to be empowered by words. You have to pull kids up—our program is based on research that low-income children have a 30-million-word deficit in oral communication by the time they’re four years old. And when we combine that with gardening, we’re connecting to so many family histories and cultural heritages, and at the same time we’re teaching biology, botany, chemistry, vocabulary, and community service.
“By connecting our work that way, by empowering kids with this rich oral vocabulary, we’re increasing literacy significantly. For a school like mine, which is underachieving, that gets you some buy-in!
“Parents say ‘Oh, wow! They’re doing better in reading math! I’m going to encourage my kids to go to your summer program and afterschool program.’ But if we were to distance ourselves completely from the academics, they would say, ‘We need you to help meet the school needs, not just babysit the kids after school!’ So we need to give them the academic boost they need.
“Be independent of the curriculum, but honor the need for the literacy and math, and tie it into what the kids love. Give kids choice about how they use their time, in physical activity or gardening or service as teachers to younger kids.”
– MaryAnn Bash, director of Each One Tech One: No More Gap in Colorado
From April 24 to 28, it's Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week! Sponsored by the National Afterschool Association, the week "is a joint effort of community partners, afterschool programs, youth and child care workers, and individuals who have committed to declaring the last full week of April each year as a time to recognize and appreciate those who work with youth during out-of-school hours." It's the ideal opportunity to thank and celebrate the nation’s roughly 850,000 dedicated and passionate afterschool professionals who work with our youth during out-of-school time.
From the Afterschool Alliance, thank you to the afterschool professionals who enrich the lives of their students and communities every day!
This post is presented as part of the Afterschool Spotlight blog series, which tells the stories of the parents, participants and providers of afterschool programs. The most recent Afterschool Spotlight illustrated how an Iowa afterschool program built a valuable partnership with local law enforcement.
|Photo courtesy of the Haddonfield Sun|
After three decades of serving as the director of Haddonfield Child Care, Denise Sellers finds herself thinking about one crucial concept: perspective.
“As I start to make the transition out of this role,” Denise says, “I find myself thinking more and more about new viewpoints. In 1986 I was the right person to hire because I understood the plight of the parents, but there might be something I’m missing as I become part of another generation. Fresher perspective is something that will help the program remain responsive and relevant in the future.”
But that’s not to say that the program isn’t responsive and relevant now. The community of Haddonfield, N.J. has benefited from the exemplary childcare provided by Denise and her team for more than 30 years. This year marks two celebratory occasions for the program: first, an alumnus has enrolled his own child in Haddonfield Child Care, giving the program its first second-generation student.
Second, Denise has been honored as a recipient of a New Jersey Women of Achievement Award. The Haddonfield Sun's recent profile on Denise describes the award as celebrating women who take leadership roles in improving their communities and dedicate their personal and professional lives to creating a positive and lasting impact on others. It’s a description that fits Denise to a T.
Denise describes Haddonfield as small and close-knit, with a vibrant spirit of volunteerism and plenty of overlapping attendance across community groups. It’s a recipe for high buy-in; when members of the Garden Club are also members of the Women’s Club, there’s an opportunity to make connections across the community and encourage reciprocity.
“Because they know me from other community groups, I was able to go to the Women’s Club as an afterschool professional and ask them to support funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers,” Denise says. “Haddonfield Child Care isn’t eligible for it, but we know how important it is for other communities in New Jersey. I was able to advocate on the part of other afterschool programs because my connections to other community groups were already there.”
On April 5, leaders in education, business, media, government, sports, and more gathered at the University of Southern California for the 2017 National Afterschool Summit, “Ready to Work,” co-hosted by the Afterschool Alliance, USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute, and After-School All-Stars. High-wattage speakers brought their diverse backgrounds and perspectives to a series of engaging discussions about how afterschool prepares students to succeed at work and in life.
With so many powerful insights shared by an impressive roster of experts, it was hard to narrow the list of highlights, but here are ten of our favorite moments from the event:
- The Bell Gardens Intermediate and Generation Dance Team kicked off the event, led by their teacher and mayor, Jose Mendoza. Taking the stage after the performance, Extra’s Mario Lopez said he was an afterschool kid like the dancers, who come from a low-income community: “That was me... I’m living proof of what afterschool can do.”
- Matt Iseman, host of American Ninja Warrior and winner of The New Celebrity Apprentice, called us “Afterschool Ninja Warriors” and cheered on our efforts to battle President Trump’s proposed budget cut. Iseman commented, “Working parents are more productive at work when they know their kids are in a safe, productive environment.”
- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger set the tone for the event, reminding us that more than 20 million kids are waiting for an afterschool program.
- NFL star JJ Watt, whose foundation provides afterschool opportunities to middle schoolers, shared that afterschool programs teach skills like teamwork and how to work hard. As Watt pointed out, these skills are not only important in school, but also in work and life.
- Michael Beckerman, president of the Internet Association, discussed the reason afterschool and work are connected—and why employers should care about afterschool: "We want a diverse, educated workforce domestically. Afterschool can have a huge impact on that."
- Senate Afterschool Caucus co-chair Senator Lisa Murkowski stopped by via video message to encourage us all to reach out to our representatives in Congress and share the message that #AfterschoolWorks.
- Oregon Superintendent of the Year Heidi Sipe said, “Afterschool helps students dream new dreams… see a different future… Afterschool is a magical time. It is nonnegotiable.”
- “Afterschool makes a difference in the economic mobility of families and kids,” said Charlotte (N.C.) Mayor Jennifer Roberts.
- American Enterprise Institute Resident Fellow Gerard Robinson noted that afterschool helps kids “build minds, bodies, and spirits,” and the social capital skills kids need to succeed.
- Eloy Oakley, Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, touched on the reason for the event, saying, "Afterschool programs aren't just for academic preparation, but life preparation."
These are just a few highlights from the event. Relive the event by watching the full recording of the Summit, or check out what people said about the event on Twitter. Share your favorite moments with us using the hashtag #AfterschoolWorks!
Facts and figures are crucial in demonstrating the successful outcomes of afterschool programs, but to fully illustrate why and how afterschool works, it’s essential to shine a spotlight on stories and testimonials from kids, parents, educators, and other community members.
As we work to save afterschool funding over the months to come, we want to share stories from as many people as we can to show once and for all that afterschool programs work for people of all backgrounds in every corner of the United States. What’s your story? Tell us.
Not sure where to begin? Check out the Digital Action Toolkit for storytelling strategies and suggestions. Here are some prompts to get you started:
- Before and after. Tell a story about a transformation your afterschool program has caused in your life. How are things different—for you, for your child, or for your career—as a result of your involvement with an afterschool program?
- Favorites. What’s your favorite part of your afterschool program? Is there a memorable project or event that has stuck with you?
- Get some perspective. Use your unique viewpoint to talk about your observations of your afterschool program—kids, parents, program alumni, educators, and afterschool program providers all have different perspectives on afterschool.
- Perks. Tell us about the fringe benefits! If you chose your afterschool program for academic or childcare reasons, what other bonuses have you or your family enjoyed? More friendships or closer relationships with teachers and administrators? A stronger connection to your school or community? Fun memories of shared activities with your family?
- Share your victory! Everybody loves a success story—share your experience confronting a challenge, reaching a personal goal, or otherwise scoring a big win with your afterschool program.
- Illustrate your story. Have a great photo (or photos!) showcasing your afterschool experience? You can upload them alongside your written story.
We want to hear about the positive impact the program has had on kids, parents, schools, and the community overall. Every program has a story to tell—we can’t wait to read yours!
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!”
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:
- Download the toolkit.
- Make copies of the included We Love Afterschool sign.
- Ask students (and parents!) to fill them out.
- Snap photos of the finished product and share them on social media with the hashtag #AfterschoolWorks!
Ready to get started? Download the toolkit now.
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!