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JAN
18
2018

IN THE FIELD
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Promising practices: EPIC program introduces youth to rural employment opportunities

By Leah Silverberg

In 2014, a unique partnership formed between the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, The City After-School Program, and the Kansas Enrichment Network to introduce students to career pathways in Salina, Kans. Career opportunities can seem limited for many students growing up in rural communities but in Salina, many jobs go unfilled.

After the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of local businesses, it recognized an existing need to fill certain jobs in the community. As part of the Chamber's long-term goal to support and sustain the workforce in Salina, the Chamber decided to focus on building the skills of Salina-area students. To start, the Chamber partnered with the Kansas Enrichment Network, the State’s afterschool network to support and expand access to out-of-school time learning. From there, Education Practice and Immersion for Credit (EPIC) was created to connect middle school students to career opportunities in Salina, in the hope that they will choose to pursue a career pathway in Salina in the future.

Over the past three years, EPIC has been piloted through The City, an afterschool program located at the local teen center. Using a digital badging system, each unit of EPIC focuses on an industry within Salina identified by the Chamber of Commerce survey as an industry of growth.

"The goal of the badges," said Eric Brown, former member of the Chamber of Commerce and founder of EPIC, "is to build hope, enthusiasm, and understanding of career exploration: what they [students] like and don’t like, and try to introduce career and college opportunities in junior high."

JAN
4
2018

IN THE FIELD
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"Afterschool is so important to small, rural communities like our town"

By Guest Blogger

By Harli Jo McKinney

Welcome to our new blog series introducing the inaugural class of Youth Ambassadors! Building on the success of the Afterschool Ambassadors program, the Youth Ambassadors program connects five young people with alumni Afterschool Ambassadors to serve as mentors as each Youth Ambassador designs and carries out a project showcasing the value of afterschool programs. In addition, Youth Ambassadors will travel to Washington, D.C., next April to participate in the annual Afterschool for All Challenge, where they will meet with members of Congress and their staff. 

My name is Harli Jo McKinney. I am from Stratford, Oklahoma. I am in 9th grade. I am a cheerleader, I play basketball, and I love to sing. I am so excited to be a part of the Afterschool Alliance as a Youth Ambassador. Afterschool has been a big part of my life. Since beginning school, I have always had an afterschool program. It has taught me so much and given me the extra push to be who I am. It has helped to make me a confident and outgoing person.

Stratford is a small town with a population of 1,500 and our school has about 700 students from Stratford and nearby towns. There are not a lot of jobs in our town. Parents have to drive at least 20 to 30 miles to get to their jobs. This leaves their children with nowhere to go afterschool.

Our afterschool program gives these students a place to go. My program helps us with homework and gives us opportunity to experience and learn new things every day. We do really fun things like cooking, photography, gymnastics, and robotics. We are adding a drone class that we are all really excited about.

Afterschool is so important to small, rural communities like our town. It gives our children a safe place to go and parents do not have to worry about them. There need to be more afterschool programs just like mine all over the country!

I would like to showcase the need for afterschool in my Youth Ambassador project. In my video production, I hope to convey the significant difference in rural communities with and without afterschool programs. I am excited for this opportunity to be a part of the Afterschool Alliance Youth Ambassador program!

JUN
19
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: How one rural town is investing in Alaska's future workforce

By Guest Blogger

By Thomas Azzarella, director of the Alaska Afterschool Network. This blog was originally published on the Alaska Afterschool Blog on June 6.

Photo courtesy of Eric Filradi

Nearly two-thirds of Alaska’s cities, towns, and villages are accessible only by plane or boat, which makes having a strong aviation workforce critical to having a strong state economy. Qualified and experienced employees in the aviation industry are in high demand throughout the state, especially in rural communities.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) in Nenana is addressing this demand by preparing youth living in rural Alaska for this crucial industry.

Nenana is a small rural town of approximately 400 residents. Nenana City School District is comprised of one K-12 grade school that serves nearly 200 students. Approximately 100 of these students are enrolled in the school’s boarding facility, the Student Living Center, for grades 9-12. These students come from villages and towns all over the state, many of which attend school in Nenana because of the limited educational offerings in their home village. 

Nenana’s Community Learning Centers program expands the school’s educational offerings after school by providing tutoring, career-tech programs, and opportunities for building self-confidence and leadership skills. Among these offerings is the school’s Aviation Mechanics program, which is preparing high school students for high-paying jobs in Alaska’s aviation industry.

JUN
2
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Libraries can build college and career readiness in rural and tribal communities

By Guest Blogger

By Hannah Buckland, librarian at Bezhigoogahbow Library on the Leech Lake Nation in northern Minnesota.

Libraries can be dynamic partners in afterschool programming, especially in rural and tribal communities where poverty rates are often higher and children have fewer options for afterschool activities. As rural communities work toward strong futures, libraries are well poised to provide afterschool College and Career Readiness (CCR) services that support youth in exploring career pathways in a fun, informal community setting.

However, rural librarians may not have easy access to the training or tools needed to implement these programs. In partnership with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL), the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) addresses this need through Future Ready with the Library, a project funnded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and launched in January 2017.

MAY
24
2017

IN THE FIELD
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In coal country, afterschool's a lifeline for working families

By Charlotte Steinecke

Photo courtesy of Monongalia County Schools Extended Day in Morgantown.

While some areas have started to recover from the Great Recession, some of the hardest-hit states continue to struggle with sluggish wage growth and limited employment opportunities. One of those states is West Virginia, where 1 in 4 children are growing up in poverty and well-paying union jobs, especially in the coal industry, are becoming rare.

Last month we had the opportunity to hear from parents in West Virginia. Tommy G. is a single father of three hit by the downturn of the coal industry. In a nearby county, Chastity and Brennan took on longer hours and a second job after their incomes were cut. And in Fairmont, a family of eight juggles the many of demands of work and kids. What do these parents have in common? They rely on afterschool programs—and say losing afterschool would result in financial hardship and put their ability to work in jeopardy.

West Virginia’s strong demand for quality, affordable afterschool options is made clear by America After 3PM, which found that the rate of participation in West Virginia’s afterschool programs more than tripled between 2004 and 2014. Hardworking parents, many of whom make ends meet with two or more jobs, find support for their affordable childcare needs in the form of aftercare, free and reduced-price food, homework and academic assistance, and more.

MAY
3
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: May 3, 2017

By Luci Manning

Council Bluffs Schools to Expand Grant-Funded Before-, After-School Clubs After Seeing Benefits (Daily Nonpareil, Iowa)

A study by the Iowa Department of Education showed that participation in afterschool programs leads to increased attendance, better behavior and improved academic performance for students. Thanks to the favorable review, the Council Bluffs Community School District will receive additional funding to expand its afterschool and summer programming this year. “I’m amazed and thrilled because the data we’re getting is right in line with what people are seeing, which is increased achievement and attendance and decreased behavior,” 21st Century Grant Program Director Sandra Day told the Daily Nonpareil.

After-School Programs Help Nebraska Thrive (North Platte Telegraph, Nebraska)

In the North Platte Telegraph Nebraska State Board of Education member Molly O’Holleran and Beyond School Bells network lead Jeff Cole discuss that afterschool programs like Kids Klub in North Platte benefit not just students, but also parents and businesses: “Over half of the elementary school students in North Platte Public Schools are registered in KIDS Klub. These families depend on KIDS Klub to bridge the gap between the end of the school day and the end of the workday. The parents and guardians of these registered students are employed by over 350 local businesses. These Lincoln County businesses depend on KIDS Klub so their employees can come to work with the peace of mind they need to focus on their jobs. The evidence is clear and demonstrable: After-school programming benefits all Nebraskans, urban and rural alike.”

All-Girls Group at D.C. High School Aims to Build Confidence (Washington Post, District of Columbia)

At Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School, 13 girls meet once a week after school to discuss how they’re feeling, how their schoolwork is coming along, and how things are going at home as part of the H.E.R. Story afterschool club. H.E.R. Story, which stands for Helping Empower Regalness, is a space for girls to come together to support one another in the hopes of boosting their confidence and their academic achievement, according to the Washington Post. D.C. Public Schools is planning to implement similar support groups for girls of color in schools across the city this summer.

Students Plant, Give Marigolds to Older Residents (Sunbury Daily Item, Pennsylvania)

A group of children in an afterschool program planted marigold flowers to give to residents of the Maria Joseph Manor nursing home last month, according to the Sunbury Daily Item. The program, Heeter’s Little Hearts, leads students on community service projects to develop compassion and caring for others. 

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learn more about: Budget Rural Community Partners
JUL
27
2016

POLICY
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Congressional staff learn how to support rural afterschool programs

By Erik Peterson

The benefits provided by afterschool programs can be integral to the fabric of a rural community—including STEM learning experiences, community connections, caring mentors, and healthy snacks and meals. On July 26th, a Senate Afterschool Caucus briefing on “Afterschool in Rural America” highlighted research and experiences from providers that demonstrates how rural parents not only view afterschool programs as a support system for children’s academic growth, social development, and overall health and wellness, but how they also regard programs as a critical resource for working families.

An audience of Congressional staffers and representatives from national organizations heard from an expert panel about why the demand for afterschool programs in rural America is even greater than the overall national demand:

Nikki Yamashiro, director of research for the Afterschool Alliance, spoke on data gathered from parents and rural afterschool providers and featured in the 2016 America After 3PM Special Report: The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities, sponsored by John Deere. Nikki reported on statistics about the demand for afterschool, including the finding that 3.1 million rural children who aren’t in an afterschool program would be enrolled in a program if one were available. She also noted how parents say that afterschool supports children and families, and that rural support for public investment in afterschool is strong. She also touched on the challenges faced by rural providers, including those challenges around providing quality STEM learning opportunities.

Liz Nusken, technical advisor for the YMCA of the USA, spoke about rural afterschool from the perspective of a national afterschool program provider. She painted a clear picture of what a rural YMCA program looks like, and the ways that YMCAs and schools work together in rural communities with key academic and behavioral outcomes. In particular, her presentation spoke to the work of the YMCA Achievement Gap Initiative in rural communities.   

Tammy Shay, director of programs, policy and communications for the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network, talked through rural afterschool from a state perspective covering three key areas:

  • Assets of rural providers. Strong partnerships are key to success for afterschool in general—but absolutely essential in rural communities, where everyone wears many hats and can speak about a variety of issues. Schools are "community schools" in rural areas by default, and afterschool programs can be the bridge between schools and other services in area.
  • Transportation challenges. The distances involved and high costs of transportation for rural afterschool program providers form a large hurdle for rural providers to overcome.
  • The supports that rural programs need. The briefing emphasized the importance of 21st CCLC funding, which helps to provide a backbone for programs that includes supporting core staffing that is needed to loop in other partners, managing day to day operations, and finding and retaining staff.

Tammy also detailed the Maryland STEM ambassador program as an example of how statewide afterschool networks create a bridge and make essential connections between community assets in rural areas across the state. 

This briefing covered an important topic for the afterschool field. America After 3PM research found that for every one rural child in an afterschool program, there are three more rural children who are missing out on the amazing opportunities that afterschool programs have to offer. Afterschool supporters and providers can learn more about rural afterschool programs through the 2016 America After 3PM Special Report: The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities and the rural afterschool data dashboard.

MAY
4
2016

RESEARCH
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Webinar recap: Afterschool in rural communities

By Erin Murphy

Afterschool programs are an integral partner for rural communities: keeping kids safe, inspiring learning and supporting working families. The Afterschool Alliance recently explored the current state of afterschool in rural communities in our America After 3PM special report, The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural CommunitiesLast week, we followed up on this issue in our audience-centric webinar, Afterschool in rural communities: what you need to know.

Afterschool participation in rural communities has increased over the last five years to 13 percent, or 1.2 million children. However, unmet demand for afterschool in rural communities is high; for every one child in a program, there are three more who are waiting to get in. Based on an online survey of individuals registering for this webinar, the three guest speakers—Marcia Dvorak, director of the Kansas Enrichment Network; Steph Shepard, director of Altoona Campus Kids Klub and Dan Brown, director of Abilene’s Before and After School Program—were asked to speak about topics that were of most interest to survey respondents. These topics were funding and sustainability, transportation, partnerships, parent engagement and recruiting and retaining program staff.

As director of the Kansas Enrichment Network, Marcia provides support to many rural afterschool programs, and she shared a few tips on creating high-quality rural afterschool opportunities.

  • Utilize your state network! Networks are a great resource for providers with information on funding opportunities, curriculum, professional development and more.
  • Messaging is key. Speak to the needs of your community, highlight how afterschool can meet these needs and emphasize the cost effectiveness of programs.
  • Support advocacy with research. Use good data sources to make the case for afterschool programs.
  • Consider diverse funding sources. Funding is always one of the biggest challenges to afterschool programs. Consider 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), national corporations, NSF, NASA, and community businesses and foundations.
  • Quality is key. High-quality programs are more effective and gain community support. Adhere to state and federal guidelines, considering issues such as dosage, professional development and programming offered.
  • Professional development. Many organizations provide free webinars online that act as great learning opportunities for staff at little-to-no cost for the program.
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learn more about: Equity Rural School Improvement