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JUL
17
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Texas celebrates win for afterschool & summer programming

By Guest Blogger

By Alison Reis-Khanna is the Executive Director of the Texas Partnership for Out of School Time (TXPOST) located in Austin, TX. As the leader of TXPOST, she is constantly advocating for all things afterschool including funding, data gathering, and improved quality. This is a blog on the legislation that passed during the 85th session in Texas on increased data collection of afterschool and summer programming.

The 85th Texas Legislative Session began with the release of a proposed budget that called for across the board cuts in general revenue spending. Substantial cuts were expected due to waning oil and gas prices and significant tax cuts passed during the 84th Legislative Session. Between the proposed budget cuts and the lack of bipartisan support, Texas politicos expected minimal legislation to be signed into law, and they were right.

The session ended with the lowest number of bills and resolutions passed during the previous 10 legislative sessions. Additionally, Governor Abbott was quick to use his veto power, vetoing 50 of the bills sent to his desk. This is the greatest use of veto power since 2007 in the state. From multiple perspectives, this session of the Texas legislature was unique and extremely challenging for many organizations and advocates.

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
13
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Postcard project connects program providers with policymakers

By Guest Blogger

By Sara Beanblossom, Director of Communications and Special Events at the Indiana Afterschool Network

As part of our program provider advocacy initiative, the Indiana Afterschool Network is always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to share stories about the power of afterschool. Based on conversations we’ve had with program providers and policymakers, we embarked on a project that would most efficiently:

  1. Create an opportunity for providers, parents, and kids to share their voices on why afterschool is essential to them
  2. Create an opportunity for policymakers to easily hear the feedback from their constituents

Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse suggested a postcard campaign with clear and compelling messages. We borrowed imagery from the Afterschool Alliance’s clear and energetic infographics and worked with Burness, a global communications firm, to repurpose and customize the infographics to tell the specific stories of Indiana. The postcards were designed with clearly-marked blank spaces for personalized feedback and the exact name and location of each program provider.

MAY
30
2017

IN THE FIELD
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2 ways Wyoming afterschool programs help youth in the justice system

By Elizabeth Tish

Last month, the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance hosted representatives and program leaders from more than 100 organizations in the juvenile justice field from across the state of Wyoming at their Statewide Summit on Juvenile Justice. Attendees included city and state government officials, youth service providers, prevention coalition members, and many other leaders from across the state.

Over the course of the day, experts in juvenile justice and afterschool spoke about ways to develop opportunities for youth in the justice system to succeed and thrive, engaging both juvenile justice and afterschool professionals. Resources from the event are accessible through the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance.

Here are two ways Wyoming afterschool programs are working with the juvenile justice system to benefit kids.

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 Guest Blogger

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.

JAN
30
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Healthy eating and physical activity highlighted during MOST Conference

By Tiereny Lloyd

The Maryland Out of School Time Network held their seventh annual statewide conference on January 5 & 6 in Ellicott City, Md., celebrating the community of out-of-school time practitioners that MOST affectionately calls “OST Heroes.”

The two-day conference was jam-packed with informative workshops, resources from various exhibitors and the first annual MOST awards ceremony. I had the distinct pleasure of moderating a healthy behaviors panel, “Healthy Behaviors: Connecting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Partnerships for OST,” with experts from the Alliance for Healthier Generation, Giant Food, John Hopkins Urban Health Institute, Leveling the Playing Field, and Maryland Extension Food Supplement Nutrition Education.

The panel had three objectives:

  • Build awareness. The prevalence of childhood in Maryland reflects the national average, where approximately one in three children ages two to 19 is overweight or obese. Since the rate of childhood obesity has tripled over the past three decades and children are now more likely to acquire risk factors for cardiovascular disease, building awareness of the issue is imperative. The panel also highlighted the sometimes overlooked relationship between food insecurity and obesity.
  • Celebrate the network’s healthy eating and physical activity successes. In 2013, through a grant from the Maryland Food Bank provided by the Giant Food Foundation, MOST became the first statewide healthy out-of-school time intermediary to bring healthy eating and physical activity resources, training, and technical assistance to Maryland out-of-school time programs. As a result of the work of three Healthy Behaviors VISTAs and several partnerships that have developed over time, MOST was able to introduce the Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Framework, based on the National Afterschool Association’s Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards, to 30 afterschool sites.
  • Take action. Since childhood obesity has become a national epidemic, we can no longer limit our prevention efforts to traditional school hours but must extend our efforts to before and after the school bell rings. To facilitate these efforts, MOST used this panel to inspire OST providers throughout Maryland to adopt the HOST Framework, become a healthy out-of-school time site and engage in the MOST Network’s Healthy Behaviors Learning Community.

The Maryland Out of School Time Network has done impactful work around Healthy Eating and Physical Activity and can be a valuable resource to other networks (and afterschool programs) looking to create and support heathier out-of-school time environments. Way to go, MOST!

JAN
27
2017

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

By Guest Blogger

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
25
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: January 25, 2017

By Luci Manning

Drexel Awarded $30 Million towards Community and Education Programs (The Triangle, Pennsylvania)

A $30 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education will be used to fight poverty and build a supportive community for young people in a West Philadelphia neighborhood. Drexel University will coordinate the initiative in partnership with the city of Philadelphia and area nonprofits. Philadelphia was one of six cities to be awarded the grant, according to The Triangle. “These grants will provide cradle-to-career support for at-risk children in communities across the country, offering meaningful resources that will help them achieve their potential,” Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement.

County Schools Implements Program Giving Each Student an Extra Meal (Cullman Times, Alabama)

Starting this semester, all students at a handful of Cullman County Schools will be able to receive a free afterschool meal, regardless of need and whether they attend the school where the meal is served. “There are a lot of kids who are at school later in the day. All your athletic teams; the band; many of the extracurricular groups—when those kids stay for practice, they can have an extra meal without having to wait until they get home,” Chief School Financial Officer Ed Roberson told the Cullman Times. “It’s really just a great program for a lot of students, for a lot of reasons.”

Idaho Educators Should Capitalize on Opportunities during Nonschool Hours (Idaho Statesman, Idaho)

Writing in the Idaho Statesman, Idaho AfterSchool Network director Marie Hattaway urges state lawmakers to bolster out-of-school time programs in their policies: “Too often as we discuss quality education and its role in the future workforce, we just look to what is offered in the classroom.… It is imperative that policymakers and stakeholders consider partnerships with out-of-school programs to achieve statewide education goals, especially with STEM, workforce and literacy skills…. Idaho invests millions in education, millions in the 20 percent of time spent in the classroom. The other 80 percent of the time deserves strong consideration in state policies and budget. As the state strives to hit key educational benchmarks and goals, out-of-school time must not be overlooked.”

These Chessboards Are HUGE, and They’re Yours to Play with (Durango Herald, Colorado)

Students in the Durango Gametime afterschool and summer programs will learn to play chess and checkers on a large scale, thanks to the hard work and generosity of a 17-year-old Eagle Scout. Trever Snodgrass built the life-size chess and checkerboards himself and donated them to Chapman Hill, the Mason Center and the Durango Community Recreation Center as part of an Eagle Scout community service project, hoping they will ignite the youths’ imaginations. “When we first brought them in, the looks on their faces—it’s nice to know they’re enjoying it,” he told the Durango Herald. “I think the kids are going to love it.