Led by youth, afterschool pulls out all the stops for Congress


Led by youth, afterschool pulls out all the stops for Congress

April 18 and 19 marked the 17th annual Afterschool for All Challenge, when afterschool supporters from around the country join together to remind our nation’s leaders why afterschool programs are so critical for youth, families, and communities. In one day, we met face-to-face with 200 members of Congress or their staff and thousands of Americans logged more than 8,000 calls and emails to Congress, all to urge Congress to keep open the afterschool and summer programs funded by 21st Century Community Learning Center grants.

The Trump administration has called for eliminating all Community Learning Center funding in its budget proposal. Elimination would result in nearly 2 million children, from communities in every state across the country, losing the afterschool programs that make learning exciting, and keep kids safe while parents work.

It’s Congress, however, who has the power to decide what gets funded, and what does not.

To let Congress see firsthand the kinds of things happening in Community Learning Center programs, we kicked things off with a showcase of afterschool programs right on Capitol Hill. Youth showed off projects they created, from drones they built and programmed, to a 3D digital tour of an afterschool program, to videos chronicling the impact of their programs on youth and families. Stealing the show were five sensational Youth Afterschool Ambassadors who spoke about the impact of afterschool in their lives, and six programs which brought displays and youth to share a little of the afterschool learning experience. Programs included: Kid Power, Washington, D.C.; Girls on the Run, Washington, D.C.; Afterschool All Stars, Washington, D.C. chapter; Caroline County Recreation & Parks, Denton, Md.; America SCORES, Washington,DC chapter; Boys and Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle, Martinsburg, WV; and SHINE: Schools & Homes In Education, Jim Thorpe, PA.

Five members of Congress spoke at the event, and spoke personally about the benefits of afterschool and the need to support it:

  • U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) congratulated the afterschool supporters for their advocacy, noting that programs “take the stress and panic” out of the afternoon hours for millions of parents, who might otherwise be worried about their kids. Noting that many families struggle with addiction and many grandparents are raising their grandchildren, Sen. Murkowski talked about “the love and care that comes when you know your children are in a safe setting” like an afterschool program.
  • “I’m proud of the work I’ve done on behalf of afterschool programs with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), who co-chairs the House Afterschool Caucus, said. “I look forward to continuing to advocate for programs like SHINE,” a highly successful afterschool program based in Pennsylvania’s Carbon, Luzerne and Schuylkill counties.
  • Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who serves on the Afterschool Alliance’s board of directors, told the gathering that “our greatest responsibility for our children is to create high-quality, engaging afterschool programs… I am proud to say there’s a lot of bipartisanship in support of afterschool.”
  • “I understand how important these programs are for not only our families,” Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) assured the crowd. “They [also] are vital to our communities and to the workforce of the 21st Century.”
  • Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) added, “3 – 6 pm is a time frame when young people can get into mischief… Young people have better options because of your work.”

The next day, 200 advocates hit the halls of Congress to meet individually with their members of Congress, and concerned citizens logged 8,000 calls and emails to their members of Congress.

If you were part of the team who stood up for afterschool, thank you – and keep it up! What’s next? Invite members of Congress and their staff to visit your program.