With the sequester now in effect, 3,400 AmeriCorps positions are expected to be cut. A recent story in the Baltimore Sun illustrates the concern that many afterschool providers have about the implications these cuts might have for their programs. At the Mother Seton Academy, a school for low-income children in Baltimore, AmeriCorps members serve in a number of vital roles, including helping out the afterschool program. As the school faces budget constraints and teachers are overworked, AmeriCorps members expand the capacity for schools and nonprofits to serve.
During a time of budget cuts, AmeriCorps members make all the difference in overcrowded classrooms, afterschool programs that keep kids safe or in tutoring programs that lower dropout rates. A recent blog post on Service Nation argues that the small living stipend offered to AmeriCorps members costs the country far less than the price of a teenager who drops out of school. With the wide range of services that AmeriCorps members offer, cuts to the program will undoubtedly have a large impact.
AmeriCorps currently engages more than 75,000 men and women at more than 15,000 locations including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community- and faith-based groups across the country. During their year of service, AmeriCorps members help communities with a wide range of issues including disaster services, economic opportunity, education and healthy futures.
This week is National Volunteer Week, a special time to recognize the extraordinary contributions of volunteers across the country.
Afterschool professionals understand the importance of volunteers. These dedicated individuals are key to ensuring all children have access to high quality afterschool programs. Volunteers fulfill a number of different roles, from serving as tutors and mentors to educating students on specific subjects. They also fundraise for these programs and can manage certain aspects of program operations Without volunteers, many afterschool programs would not be able to serve the 8.4 million students they reach.
Community volunteers are not the only people afterschool programs rely upon. Volunteers from the major national service programs, including AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA, also play important roles in many afterschool programs. During their year-long service commitments, AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA members manage volunteers, fundraise, promote program sustainability and work directly with enrolled students. These volunteers are critical to the day-to-day operations of many afterschool programs.
If you are an afterschool program volunteer, thank you for all that you do! If you manager or work for an afterschool program, be sure to take some time this week to thank your volunteers.
This week, 20 youth finalist teams will meet at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, for the Conrad Foundation’s 2013 Innovation Summit. Teams will present their designs of a “global innovation product” developed for the Spirit of Innovation Challenge to a panel of scientists, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and government officials. Challenged to create commercially viable products to address issues of global sustainability, teams applied their STEM knowledge in innovative ways, developing products for one of four categories—Aerospace and Aviation; Cybertechnology and Security; Energy and Environment; and Health and Nutrition. These young entrepreneurs will undergo a tough evaluation on technical content and market viability from an expert panel, and the winning team in each category will receive a $10,000 grant to continue their product development.
I spoke with one of the teams, Chicks in Space, a subset of the Neighborhood After School Science Association (NASSA) from Ava, NY. MaryAnn, Lillith and Adia—ages 17, 14 and 12, respectively—are among the 5 teams competing in the Aerospace and Aviation category. Their product, the Garden of ETON (Extraterrestrial Organic Nutrition), provides a way for astronauts weary of dehydrated foods to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Through a series of experiments on plant growth in microgravity conditions, Chicks in Space developed a hydroponic gardening system that can be used in space! Their original submission video, below, follows the research and development process of the Garden of ETON.
Christina Schock, AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer, Nevada Afterschool Network
Afterschool Alliance AmeriCorps VISTAs are making a difference across our country. They’re working on projects involved with helping programs write sustainability plans and getting afterschool meals. VISTAs have been placed all across the country including Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, California, Ohio, New Mexico and many more. Along the way, while working directly with programs and networks, we have learned how to overcome many of the issues they face in today’s political and economic reality. Having worked with a gamut of different programs including rural, urban, elementary education programs, secondary education programs, resource rich programs and non-resource rich programs, we are looking to share those experiences and pass them along to programs outside of our reach.
We are introducing a new webinar series to pass along the tools, resources, experiences and lessons learned along the way. Each webinar will address an issue all programs face when looking at long term sustainability, such as grant writing, finding/retaining volunteers, building partnerships, diverse funding, marketing, core messaging, fundraising and events. Guest speakers and experts from the field will also be available to offer their advice and answer questions. Participants can register to participate in upcoming webinars or view/download past webinars for free at www.NevadaAfterschoolNetwork.org. We recommend passing along the webinars to programs that might benefit from them. This series is free thanks to the Afterschool Alliance, Nevada Afterschool Network and the many VISTAs working in the field. For more information and to register for an upcoming webinar you can visit the Nevada Afterschool Network's website.
On March 14, Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui announced a plan to develop a new statewide initiative to enhance the learning experience of intermediate and middle school students during the afterschool hours. According to the lieutenant governor’s office, the Hawaii Intermediate/Middle School Challenge will provide a comprehensive social and educational foundation that will enrich the lives of intermediate/middle school students throughout Hawaii through a broad base of programs and activities, outside of regular instructional hours. The program seeks to include academic enrichment, arts and culture, and sports and will be designed to help prepare students for high school, college, the workforce and their communities.
The new initiative addresses the need to keep young people safe and engaged during the hours immediately following school. Afterschool programs are shown to increase or improve school attendance, behavior and coursework—all key indicators in whether a middle school student will graduate. Furthermore, studies show that crimes committed by or against juveniles occur with greater frequency on schools days and roughly between the hours of 3 and 7 p.m.
The Hawaii Intermediate/Middle School Challenge was inspired by After-School All-Stars Hawaii, a comprehensive, high quality afterschool program for middle school students that provides free, engaging afterschool programming that helps young people succeed in school and in life. The program serves middle school youth ages 12-15 during the afterschool hours of 3 to 6 p.m. at eight middle schools on Oahu. Students from After-School All-Stars joined the lieutenant governor for the announcement.
Last week got off to an exciting start for me. Usually on a Monday morning at 8:00 a.m., I’m on the Red Line train on my way to work. But last Monday I was at the Building a Grad Nation Summit, organized by America’s Promise Alliance here in Washington, D.C., sitting in a packed ballroom listening to Gen. Colin Powell, founding chair of America’s Promise Alliance and Alma Powell, chair of America’s Promise Alliance convey the importance of coming together as a nation to prepare youth to be our future leaders.
This year’s Grad Nation Summit is part of America’s Promise Alliance’s campaign to end the high school dropout crisis and ready youth for college and their careers. The opening plenary began with encouraging statistics from the recently released “Building a Grad Nation” report:
- Between 2006 and 2010, high school graduation rates have increased five points,
- Wisconsin and Vermont are the first two states that have reached the goal of 90% high school graduation rates, and
- There are fewer dropout factories, and fewer students attending them, in 2012 compared to 2011.
Despite these promising developments, challenges persist. The national graduation rate is still below 80%, with some state graduation rates as low as 58%. We need to do much more if we want to ready students for success in college and their careers. It was exciting to hear so many different perspectives about the importance of reaching the goal of a 90% graduation rate by 2020 and what goes into building a grad nation. It was estimated that if we had reached a 90% graduation rate, the additional graduates from a single class would have earned $5.3 billion in income and generated more than 37,000 jobs. The audience heard from research experts like Dr. Robert Balfanz, co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Angela Duckworth, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania; leaders from the business community like Laysha Ward, president of community relations at Target and Beth Shiroishi, vice president of sustainability and philanthropy at AT&T; and special guests like Former First Lady Laura Bush.
On Wednesday the Afterschool Alliance hosted a webinar, the “STEM in Afterschool Virtual Tour,” to introduce our organization’s work in STEM afterschool and the resources we have available online. Our work falls into three main “bins”—field-building, policy and advocacy, and research—and we discussed our current and upcoming initiatives within those. We wrapped up the webinar with a Q&A session with our Director of STEM Policy Anita Krishnamurthi.
Webinar participants were very interested in our recently released STEM Funding Guide and our collection of high quality assessment tools and curriculum resources. We also introduced two new projects the Afterschool Alliance has been working on. The first is Relating Research to Practice, an NSF-funded project in partnership with the Exploratorium, Kings College London and the University of Washington. On the project website, you can tap into the growing body of research on teaching and learning in education. A searchable collection of research briefs translate peer-reviewed research into plain English and provide insight as to how these studies can inform the practice of professionals in informal science environments such as afterschool. In January, the website will be re-designed and re-launched with new briefs continuously added.
The second exciting project we discussed is our new report, “Youth Outcomes for STEM Learning in Afterschool.” It is often asked what afterschool can deliver for STEM learning and what outcomes and goals we can point to. We believed that this was a conversation that needed to be had with the field so that they could have a say in what goals are appropriate and realistic. We hope that this study of expert practitioners and stakeholders will provide a framework and common language to determine the appropriate niche for afterschool within broader STEM education initiatives. The report will be officially released on January 23 at an event in Washington, D.C. You can look for more information from the Afterschool Alliance on this in the upcoming weeks.
Visit our webinar archives page to view a full recording of the webinar, the presenters’ slides and a list of participants’ questions Anita answered. If you missed last week’s webinar, “Feeding America’s Children After School,” those same resources are available on the archives page and you can read a summary here.
Ensuring all kids have access to afterschool meals was the theme of the latest webinar hosted by the Afterschool Alliance. The webinar, “Feeding America’s Children After School,” was held this past Wednesday and featured speakers that discussed how afterschool programs can successfully implement the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program.
The At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program is a federal child nutrition program that was expanded to every state through the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Afterschool programs that are located in or near a school with 50 percent or more of enrolled students participating in the National School Lunch Program are eligible to participate in the program.