Alliance Celebrates Afterschool Programs With 8,000 Events Nationwide

The Afterschool Alliance hosted the Lights On Afterschool rally at thousands of locations across the country to raise awareness of the importance of these programs—and the need for more of them.

The Afterschool Alliance, an organization dedicated to ensuring all kids have access to quality afterschool programs, hosted its 18th annual Lights On Afterschool rally in late October to educate Americans on the important work being done in afterschool programs, as well as to raise awareness of the need for investment in afterschool programs. The rally took place at thousands of locations around the country, including schools, parks, college campuses, state capitols, museums, and malls, among others.

“Afterschool programs are making an enormous difference in the lives of our students, our parents, and our communities, but far too many Americans don’t really know what’s going on,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “They think that kids are safe, and that’s good—and of course, that is good—but these programs are doing so much more than just keeping kids safe. They’re expanding their horizons and creating opportunities that didn’t necessarily exist before.”

Along with providing adult supervision, Grant said that afterschool programs provide kids with the academic, social, and emotional tools and skills that are essential to building the workforce of tomorrow. Many of the events invited their communities and decision makers to witness the work being done in the programs. For instance, at a Tulsa, Oklahoma Lights on Afterschool event, the public got a look at some of the activities offered, include coding, robotics, performing arts, and debate.

“All over the country, people are seeing firsthand the skills students hone and talents they develop at their afterschool programs, which keep kids safe and inspire them to learn through fun, educational, hands-on activities of all kinds,” said Grant in a press release. “Unfortunately, there aren’t nearly enough afterschool programs to meet the need, and one-in-five students in our country today is unsupervised after the school day ends. We can and must do better for our children, our families, and our communities.”

Still, although there are more than 10 million kids who attend afterschool programs around the country—up from six million in 2004—there are 20 million more kids who don’t have access to them. “At the same time, as we’re trying to shine a light on these fabulous programs, we also want to shine a light on the fact that the vast majority of kids don’t have access to them,” Grant said. “For every child that’s in an afterschool program, there are two more whose parents want them in a program, but it’s not available or affordable.”

At another Lights on Afterschool event in Honolulu, Hawaii, kids held up signs that read “Honk for Afterschool,” and they also went to the offices of their state representatives and senators and invited them to attend the rally.

“There were events all across the country from the most urban areas to the most rural areas, and each event was unique to the community that it was showcasing,” Grant said, adding that the best part of the rally is getting to see the numbers—the 10 million-plus in afterschool programs—become individuals. “These are real kids with real personalities and enormous potential, and when you see them and you meet their parents and you see what’s going on in the community and you see the education—it is so inspiring.”

(FatCamera/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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