Special to The Truth
Afterschool programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and give working parents the peace of mind that comes with knowing their children are safe and supervised after the school days ends and until they return from their jobs. During the pandemic, the role of afterschool programs grew, with expanded hours and additional services, including delivery of meals and enrichment kits, support for students learning remotely, connecting families to social services, and much more.
Research shows that these programs, which add value and meaning to children’s afternoons, need more funding. The most recent America After 3PM household survey of more than 31,000 families, commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance, finds that for every child in an afterschool program in the United States, three more are waiting to get in. The families of 24.6 million children — more than ever before — are unable to access a program, with many reporting cost as a barrier. Additionally, the study finds significant inequities, with Black and Latinx children more likely to be unable to access the afterschool programs their parents want for them.
To highlight both the ways afterschool programs support children and families, and the need for additional funding, the Afterschool Alliance recently hosted the 22nd annual “Lights On Afterschool,” a nationwide rally for afterschool programs. From student performances to TikTok challenges to designing lightbulbs powered by potatoes, afterschool programs around the country hosted a range of creative events and activities focused on academics, social and emotional well-being, arts and music, civic engagement, STEM learning, fitness and healthy eating, bullying prevention, and more.
To learn more about the rally, visit afterschoolalliance.org
“We’re sending the message that there aren’t nearly enough afterschool programs to serve all the students and families who need them. The American Rescue Plan is providing an important but temporary boost for these programs, but the recovery and the growth we need will take more time and resources,” says Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance.