Expanding Youth Opportunities through Afterschool Programs

Educators and parents from all walks of life know that the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” gets it right. To become thriving members of any community, young people need more than just the love of their guardians or the academic challenges of their teachers; they require a combination of the two, along with diverse learning experiences outside of the home and the classroom.

Cities are embracing afterschool programs across America as part of that child-rearing village, incorporating mentors and as1skills that will help our country’s children learn what it takes to be successful long-term students and eventual members of the workforce. From enriching students in science, technology, engineering and math to providing diversion programs for at-risk youth, the potential for afterschool programming is powerful. At every level – national, state, and local – leaders recognize the importance of expanded learning opportunities, and are committing to strengthening the tools needed to raise and educate our next generation.

On the statewide level, the Oregon After School for Kids program (OregonASK) is bolstering afterschool efforts to benefit students throughout Oregon. The core of OregonASK’s mission is the commitment to facilitating partnerships between public and private partners who are invested in elevating afterschool work to a level of institutionalized importance. This extensive coordination effort requires a multifaceted approach to communication and organization, one that is hinged on tailored outreach to diverse partners across the state.

as2In the northeast corner of the state, local leaders in Umatilla, Oregon offer one example of how cross-system partnerships in support of afterschool can serve to benefit students on a smaller scale. For this city of 7,000 with an agriculture-based economy, struggles with poverty, unemployment, and low rates of educational attainment have traditionally discouraged Umatilla students from pursuing higher education. In an effort to expand local students’ understanding of career opportunities outside of Umatilla, Umatilla Public Schools offers extensive afterschool programming focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning. Umatilla’s “STEM Academy” is supported by outside investment and local buy-in: various foundation grants have made broad K-12 programs possible, and local businesses, community colleges, the school district, and municipal government have strengthened the community’s investment. Umatilla Superintendent Heidi Sipe is quick to emphasize that, in a city so small, everyone is a stakeholder in the success of local students. That level of local confidence in the power of afterschool enrichment has made all the difference for Umatilla students – in 2013 and 2014, the Umatilla Robotics Team competed in the Robotics World Championships.

fbkidsAt every level, in communities of every size, leaders are recognizing the value of quality afterschool programming as a tool for
expanded learning and enrichment. More than that, communities like Umatilla is demonstrating that out-of-school-time hours can be used to address serious gaps and issues that fall through the cracks during the normal school day. There can be no question: instruction during the afterschool hours is a powerful tool, with the capacity to shift the trajectory for students facing a range of challenges. OregonASK and Umatilla recognize that potential, and are invested in using afterschool programming to support the villages raising our kids.

At the 2014 Congress of Cities in Austin, Texas, the workshop Afterschool Successes: Small Cities Lead Local Innovation will
highlight these communities and how they are providing high quality afterschool opportunities in their cities. In this session participants will gain a better understanding of the importance and the impact of high-quality afterschool programs, as well as understanding the critical role cities can play in promoting and supporting high-quality programs. The session will take place on Friday, November 21st at 10:30 a.m.

by Kim Eisenreich, Janel Smith, and Olivia Myskowski

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