As the Afterschool Alliance team wraps up the last of our 2017 to-do items, we reflect back on a year that can only be described as ‘eventful’!
News from the Hill
In March, the president proposed complete elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative – the primary source of federal funding support for local school and community based afterschool and summer learning programs. In response, 2017 also saw the largest advocacy push on record by afterschool advocates – with tens of thousands of Americans making the case for continued federal afterschool support. Afterschool allies reached out to Congress with more than 79,400 calls and emails, energized supporters to turn out at town halls in their communities, and prompted more than 1,400 local, state, and national organizations to sign a letter in support of Community Learning Centers.
Thanks to the efforts of dedicated after school advocates, the final appropriations bill for FY2017, passed in early May 2017, increased 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding to $1.192 billion, a $25 million increase over the FY2016 level, and a record amount of funding for the program. The funds mean almost 2 million children in all 50 states will have access to quality, locally-run afterschool and summer learning programs. While funding for FY2018 is still uncertain as the country is operating under a continuing resolution that expires on December 22, 2017, support for Community Learning Centers in Congress remains strong. (Read more about state and federal policy in 2017.)
Growing the field
The Afterschool Alliance also had a productive year training volunteers and advocates who continue to work hard to bring quality afterschool programming to youth all over the country. In 2017, we hosted 38 AmeriCorps VISTA members serving in 18 states across the country in programs that focus on afterschool sustainability, afterschool and summer meals expansion, afterschool STEM expansion, or young men of color mentoring and literacy.
Additionally, we trained 15 new advocates who make up the 2017-2018 Afterschool Ambassador class. We also announced an inaugural class of five Youth Afterschool Ambassadors. The youth ambassadors are working in their local communities to help others understand the value of afterschool and summer learning programs. Each student is supported by an adult mentor who is an alumnus of the Afterschool Ambassadors program and will complete a project in their community advocating for afterschool and summer learning programs. Their year will culminate in April with when they will attend the Afterschool for All Challenge with their ambassador mentor — check the blog in the coming weeks for guest blogs and profiles as our Youth Ambassadors introduce themselves!
Events, projects, and campaigns
Speaking of the Afterschool for All Challenge, this year’s June event featured a showcase on the Hill with speakers including Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). Teams from 45 states and D.C. attended 200 meetings all across the Hill to bring the case for afterschool to the Capitol. And supporters at home kept the phones were ringing off the hook! While we were on Capitol Hill, afterschool supporters made 761 phone calls and sent 3,286 emails to their representatives in Congress.
Our other successful events this year included the third National Afterschool Summit in April, in which we worked with the Schwarzenegger Institute and the After-School All-Stars to host an incredible gathering of sports stars, celebrities, military leaders, education leaders, students and more to voice their collective support for quality afterschool programming.
In October we had a hugely successful Lights On Afterschool included 8,000 registered events across the country. With unprecedented online engagement, thanks to our “My Light’s On Afterschool” light bulb challenge and all that posts shared from across the country, #LightsOnAfterschool was trending on both the west and east coasts on October 26.
While this year had many successes, we’re already looking ahead at the challenges to come. While we expect to again face many of the same obstacles on the Hill in the coming months, we’re optimistic that the broad support and passionate advocacy that afterschool programs enjoy will help us fight the battles that may lay ahead. We cannot wait to come back in the New Year ready to continue our mission to bring quality afterschool programs to our nation’s youth.