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There is still time to apply to be a 2021 Afterschool Alliance Youth Ambassador!

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There is still time to apply to be a 2021 Afterschool Alliance Youth Ambassador!

By Leah Silverberg, STEM Projects and Field Outreach Associate at the Afterschool Alliance, and Juliana Montell, a student at The Boys & Girls Club of Kennebec Valley. 

Applications close June 30 to become one of the next Afterschool Alliance Youth Ambassadors. Each year, we train a group of young people as afterschool advocates. As part of their ambassadorship, they receive training on how to talk about their afterschool experiences in the context of the national afterschool field and guidance on how to advocate to policymakers using their afterschool stories. Through monthly calls, participants learn about the many ways to share their stories to affect change, from writing letters to the editor or their congressional members to digital advocacy on social media. The Youth Ambassador program culminates with an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Afterschool for All Challenge in the spring, where they meet with their congressional representatives and offer remarks at the Afterschool for All Showcase on Capitol Hill!

Youth ages 13+ can apply by submitting anything from a written essay or poem to a piece of artwork to a video or podcast—whatever media allows youth to best express themselves and how they’re feeling! All submissions qualify youth for the chance to win a $40 Amazon gift card and authors and artists whose pieces are published in full by the Afterschool Alliance will receive a $75 stipend.

Check out this recent submission by Juliana Montell from Kennebec Valley, ME!

What The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley means to me

Teens everywhere from cities both large and small are tormented daily by choice, disappointment, and uncertainty, but at my Club, I have found the strength, grit, and confidence to rise above these challenging decisions. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley in small-town Gardiner, Maine is the “home” to more than250 rural youth. Some kids have literally learned how to walk in these halls (having been in the program since they were eight weeks old and continuing on through until they received their high school diplomas). Kids are signed up for the program for a plethora of reasons, but the true magic of what keeps them there is the essence of what The Boys & Girls Club is truly about.

What keeps us coming has nothing to do with the “stuff.” We love The Club because it’s pure. It’s kids in their rawest forms receiving the love and comfort that all youth need regardless of their backgrounds, financial status or unpredictable behaviors. At The Club, we learn that our environment is everything, that we can be ourselves and be celebrated for it, that we can develop leadership when we once found solace spectating, and that we can create family without even looking for it. The unbreakable relationships made at a Boys & Girls Club support us when we are weak and celebrate with us when we succeed. These relationships don’t stay inside the walls of The Club. They become the foundations of what will guide us through life. I depend on my relationships with the staff at my Club to keep me motivated and inspired. They are true examples of individuals who can guide and advocate for my well-being.

The experiences at The Club keep me interested, involved and challenged. These are opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have the chance or courage to take part in. From dancing on stage during the Dancing with the Staff show in front of an audience of 300 community members to now being Vice President of my Keystone Club where I have volunteered over 1,700 hours of community service, I can always count on The Club to keep me engaged and constantly finding myself as an adolescent through play and exploration rather than through the unhealthy alternatives many youth turn to. My commitment to The Club has also rewarded me with real-world experiences such as being named Youth of the Year to helping me become employed. They have taught me that hard work and integrity pay off and that for that, I am extremely grateful.

Attending The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley has not only benefited me, but it gave my mother and sisters the same sense of love and care that they needed as well. For my single mother, it provided her with something that she never was able to feel before, trust. When my sisters and I are at The Club, my mother knows that we are getting every possible opportunity that she wishes she could provide for us herself. She knows and believes that we are safe, that we have role models and that all of our basic needs are being met. Our time at The Club can give her the opportunity she needs to work to financially meet the challenges of providing for four children on her own. This couldn’t be accomplished without my Club’s consistent support and reliable care. My family is safer, stronger, and functional because of our extended Club family.

I speak on behalf of the 11.3 million youth who have already come to rely on their Club’s help and support. Our stories are all different but kids like me who have experienced The Club for all it is and all it can be, know that it is more than a place to be, but an opportunity to be had. Teens like myself who attend a Boys & Girls Club have a better chance of recognizing better possibilities when faced with peer pressures. They will always know where their bellies can unquestionably be fed and will always understand that when they feel lost they should never keep their struggles silent. In Gardiner, Maine and all throughout this world there’s a young person who needs a push, a helping hand, a second chance, nurture, and confidence. I am truly blessed to have found this vital force to navigate my great future at my Boys & Girls Club.

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BY: Guest Blogger      06/21/22

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BY: Guest Blogger      09/12/22

Afterschool supports LGBTQ students

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BY: Guest Blogger      06/28/22

Celebrating Juneteenth in afterschool programs

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BY: Tierra Easter      06/17/22

$1.8M awarded to middle school out-of-school time programs

The New York Life Foundation and the Afterschool Alliance are pleased to announce the 2022 Aim High grant recipients. In its sixth year, the Aim High grant has provided a total of $7.95 million dollars to help fund afterschool, summer and expanded learning programs as they help middle school...

BY: Dan Gilbert      06/14/22

You're invited: Help amplify youth voices in afterschool!

Join us next week for Youth Voice Week! We want to hear from, and amplify, the perspectives and experiences of young people.  From Monday, March 28 to Friday, April 1, we will be sharing pieces by youth about their afterschool experiences, and what youth need after school. Afterschool...

BY: Maria Rizo      03/21/22

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BY: Guest Blogger      02/28/22

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BY: Guest Blogger      01/06/22

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BY: Anita Krishnamurthi      09/27/22

Guest blog: Advancing equity and inclusion in hiring and staff development in OST

By Angelica Portillo, National AfterSchool Association’s Director of Advocacy and Workforce Initiatives, and Shawna Rosenweig, Camp Fire Chief Strategy Officer and member of the National AfterSchool Association's Board. For the last 20 years, out-of-school time (OST) has...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/28/22

Afterschool supports LGBTQ students

By Tran Tonnu, marketing manager at School's Out Washington, and Janell Jordan, King County program manager. This article originally appeared on School's Out Washington's blog on June 17, 2021. It has been republished here with their permission. For LGBTQ folks, June...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/28/22

Celebrating Juneteenth in afterschool programs

Image by William Adams from Pixabay Juneteenth National Independence Day also known as Freedom Day, or Jubilee day honors the emancipation of slaves in the United States. More than 150 years after its first celebration, the Juneteenth holiday provides an opportunity to learn and teach about the...

BY: Tierra Easter      06/17/22

Meet Kaiya Jones, Afterschool Youth Ambassador

Welcome to Youth Voice Week 2022! All during the week, we'll be amplifying the voices of our Youth Ambassadors, as they share their stories and speak about the impact that afterschool has had on their lives.  Kaiya Jones is a 15-year-old student from Howard County Library System Teen...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      04/01/22

Meet Zhonghui Zheng and Kyla Anderson, Afterschool Youth Ambassadors

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BY: Christopher Echevarria      03/31/22

Meet Brock Brewer and Juliana Montell, Afterschool Youth Ambassadors

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BY: Leah Silverberg      03/30/22

Tips for afterschool to support trans and gender non-conforming young people

Photo courtesy of The Gender Spectrum Collection. Thanks to a growing number of supports for transgender and nonbinary youth to feel safe within their school settings, afterschool programs have more resources than ever to ensure that every young person who enters their doors between the hours of...

BY: Shaun Gray      02/14/22

Mentorship "show[ed] me my self-worth... the value that I have as a human."

Photo by Josh Sorenson on Unsplash The impact of afterschool and summer programs last well beyond a student’s formative years. The relationships that afterschool youth build with the adults in their programs often lead to academic success and future leadership opportunities. Mentored youth...

BY: Tierra Easter      01/25/22

Afterschool as a teacher pathway

By Sam Piha, founder and co-director of Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation, both organizations dedicated to promoting the learning and healthy development of youth. Our national teacher shortage predated COVID-19, however there is growing evidence that suggests that the...

BY: Guest Blogger      01/20/22