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Guest blog: Afterschool gave me hope of a future I'd never known

By Guest Blogger

By Aaron Short, assistant head of staff at 21st Cranston Community Learning Center Bain +2/Kidventure Afterschool Program. Aaron attended the Youth Session of the 2017 Afterschool for All Challenge and spoke to his members of Congress about the impact of afterschool on his life.

From the start of my life, I was taught a few things from living in the ghetto of Cranston, Rhode Island: I didn’t have a chance in life outside there; it was okay to join a gang when your family loses everything; and the ghetto will be my life no matter how hard I try. If you asked me where these ideas were picked up, I couldn’t tell you, but it was inescapable.  By the time I was eight, my ex-friends were talking about how much they’ve stolen from grocery stores. Although I didn’t know it at the time, in the fifth grade I saw future gang members starting their careers at the tender age of 10.

My mother worked her hardest to give me a better life, but the mounting costs of daycare and the needs of my newly-born sister kept moving us lower and lower towards poverty. I still remember a point when we were being threatened with eviction because we couldn’t afford to live in our small apartment. My school’s schedule didn’t help the situation, as my mother having to take her lunch break to drop me off at school and had to leave in the middle of the work day to pick me up. And anyone who starts a job with few credentials and leaves halfway through the year can’t hold that job for very long. The choice was simple: I could be safe after school, or we could have dinner.



Congressional hearing discusses the role of afterschool in workforce development

By Erik Peterson

On Thursday, June 15, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development convened a hearing titled, “Helping Americans Get Back to Work: Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).” Part of the conversation centered on the positive role of afterschool programs in helping develop student employability and life skills.

The hearing was held in conjunction with President Trump’s “Workforce Development Week” – an effort by the administration to highlight job training programs and apprenticeships. Despite the bipartisan praise of these programs, in the FY 2018 budget request, President Trump reduces the Department of Labor (DOL) budget by 21 percent, with significant cuts to job training and employment grants, JobCorps programs, and job training for seniors.



Educators convene town hall against cuts to afterschool & summer

By Ursula Helminski

“Looking back, I don't know where I would have been without afterschool pushing me [and] showing me right from wrong." - Ashley, After-School All-Stars, AFT Tele-Town Hall

On June 12, in a show of united concern and support, the education, afterschool, community school, and health communities came together for a national tele-town hall to discuss the devastation that President Trump’s proposed cuts would wreak on Americans, and what we can do about it. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) organized the call-in event, in partnership with the Afterschool Alliance, the Coalition for Community Schools, Learning Forward, and the National Association of School Nurses.

Teachers, nurses, afterschool youth, working parents, and community school leaders shared personal stories about the programs and supports that will be lost if the cuts are made.



What's afterschool got to do with the military?

By Charlotte Steinecke

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan P. Idle.

Every day, our country is kept safe and secure by the brave members of our armed forces, who have dedicated their lives to serving their nation. But these individuals are more than soldiers – they’re parents, guardians, and members of their communities, and their lives out of uniform are filled with the familiar concerns of civilian life.

One of those concerns is the safety of their children in the hours after school, before parents can be home, and the opportunities afforded to kids to during this time.  The parents in our armed forces need to know that their children are cared for after the school bell rings, and both enlisted and civilian parents find that afterschool programs help them focus on the missions or  jobs before them. What kids are doing after school matters, too. Military leaders and civilians alike agree that afterschool provides important - opportunities for kids to be  engaged  in productive, hands-on educational activities.



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.



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!”



New report underscores the high cost of child care

By Nikki Yamashiro

Affordable and accessible high-quality child care is a critical issue for working families across the U.S. Although the benefits of quality child care for both children and their parents are numerous, many families struggle to afford and find child care that meets their needs. The 10th edition of Child Care Aware of America’s report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care, reveals the ongoing challenges families have faced regarding child care over the past decade. The report also discusses the impact the high cost of child care has on the child care workforce, what some states are doing to better support the families in their community, and steps we can take as a country to make sure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care.

Below are a few highlights from the report:

Child care costs are high.

  • Examining the cost of child care in the U.S., the report found that the cost of center-based infant care was unaffordable for parents in all but one state. Although the cost of child care should not be more than 7 percent of a families’ median income (based on standards from the Department of Health and Human Services), in some states it was more than two times as high, accounting for 14 percent of a families’ median income. 
  • In 19 states, the annual average cost of center-based care for a four-year-old is higher than the cost of college tuition.
  • Another startling finding from the report is that in all 50 states, a child care worker who has two children would spend more than half of their income on child care if they wanted to enroll their children in center-based care.  In 14 states, this cost would be more than 100 percent of a child care worker’s income.

Certain communities are more heavily impacted.

  • The report found that child care deserts, or areas where families have either limited or no access to quality child care, are especially prevalent in, “low-income communities, rural communities, among families of color, and among families with irregular or nontraditional work schedules.”
  • Among low-income families, paying for child care is especially challenging, where the average cost of center-based care for an infant is between 17 and 43 percent of a families’ income.

Where do we go from here?

  • The report outlines a number of recommendations to help ease the cost burden of child care for families, including those in the child care workforce, such as increasing federal investments in child care funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant, creating public-private partnerships that will invest in child care at the local level, and prioritizing professional development and a living wage for child care workers.

To learn more, visit Child Care Aware of America’s website where you can download a copy of the full report, as well as find out what the cost of child care looks like in your state through Child Care Aware of America’s new interactive map.

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Weekly Media Roundup: November 2, 2016

By Luci Manning

Mentor Programs Steer Teens Away from Gangs (Associated Press, Oregon)

A community-wide coalition is aiming to keep youth from joining gangs through a variety of activities, including sports, art, spirituality and bicycle building. The Jackson County Gang Prevention Task Force includes law enforcement, educators, afterschool programs, nonprofit organizations and others who believe that stopping gang violence takes a whole community, not just the police, according to the Associated Press. “The only way to fight gangs is in the community and the police working together to beat this,” former gang member and Familia Unida volunteer Rico Gutierrez said. “The community has to be involved. Police can’t do it alone.”

Time to Jam: Kids Rock at After-School Program (Bland County Messenger, Virginia)

Students in a weekly afterschool program are learning to play fiddle, banjo, mountain dulcimer and other instruments traditional to Southern Appalachian music. Washington County JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians) teaches 50 fourth- through eighth-grade students music skills and gives them a chance to explore and appreciate other aspects of Appalachian culture, such as clogging, square dancing, quilting and more. “We strive to expose the children to music and traditions of our area they may not pursue on their own,” coordinator Tammy Martin told the Bland County Messenger. The program is in its second year and has nearly twice the number of participants.

When Girls Teach Girls, They Unleash a New Power (Miami Herald, Florida)

In an effort to empower young girls from underserved communities, a host of nonprofits and community organizations are providing afterschool and mentoring opportunities at a number of Miami schools. A 13-year old Girl Scout is teaching younger girls how to code and assemble robots. The Embrace Girls Foundation is giving homework assistance and life-skills training at afterschool programs in three local schools, as well as a culinary program, tennis club and more. And the Honey Shine mentoring program provides mentoring and instruction in robotics, STEM, digital and financial literacy and more. “We teach the girls self-empowerment, character development, self-love and etiquette,” Honey Shine program manager Millie Delgado told the Miami Herald. “We empower young girls to shine as women.”

Grooming International Leaders While Helping Camden’s Kids (Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania)

For more than 25 years, UrbanPromise has worked to bolster leaders in international communities and build educational and youth development programs in America's cities and in foreign countries. The fellowship program brings community leaders from Uganda, Haiti and more to Camden schools and afterschool programs to help children break down prejudices. UrbanPromise also helps these fellows develop programs they can take back to their home countries to support youths there. “What we’re doing is supporting and resourcing young leaders to go home and make change,” UrbanPromise International School of Leadership Nadia VanderKuip told the Philadelphia Inquirer