We’ve had a whirlwind two days in Washington, D.C., working with afterschool youth, parents, program providers, and concerned community members in anticipation of meetings with members of Congress. The Afterschool for All Challenge kicked off with a day of workshops and sessions, followed by 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.).
On Wednesday, teams from 45 states and D.C. attended 200 meetings all across the Hill to bring the case for afterschool to the Capitol. The delegations got an early start with a prep session at 7:30 a.m. and met with elected officials throughout the day – and even into the evening.
The 2017 Afterschool for All Challenge was an inspiring event for friends of afterschool across the country! Here are a few snapshots from Tuesday and Wednesday:
- During the Afterschool for All showcase on Tuesday, Sen. Murkowski stopped by to remind us what really matters: “In Congress we focus a lot on numbers, dollars, and policy. But what we should be focusing on is you kids. Kids are the important people in the room.”
National leadership team members of the Afterschool STEM Hub met to strategize for the upcoming year and plan out new policy, advocacy, and communications resources to help make the case for afterschool STEM. Check out the Hub and sign up for the quarterly e-newsletter to be the first to know when those new resources are available.
Jazmyne McNair, a member of the Lawrence, Kan. Boys and Girls Club and winner of the Youth of the Year award in 2016, highlighted the ways afterschool enriches the lives of youth. “Afterschool gave me opportunities, mentors, and supports that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Afterschool has made me who I am today.”
Sens. Murray and Leahy spoke about the importance of afterschool to their communities and their families at the Afterschool Showcase. Sen. Murray encouraged attendees to “gear up, lace up your tennis shoes, and show the world what a mom can do” and Sen. Leahy had a clear response to the claim that afterschool doesn’t work: “Baloney.”
The Voices for Healthy Kids’ Out of School Time Advisory Group convened for a face-to-face meeting to talk about health equity in out of school time. “The discussion was rich, honest, and provided an important first step to ensure that our approach to healthy eating and physical activity is unbiased, inclusive, and targets populations that are most in need,” said Tierney Lloyd, director of the Afterschool Alliance’s Health and Wellness Initiatives.
- In addition to the great conversations and assurances of continued support for afterschool funding from established afterschool champions, three members of Congress (one Republican and two Democrats) have signed up as new additions to the Afterschool Caucus.
- Also at the Afterschool Showcase, Rep. Scott pointed out the ways afterschool connects into the justice system to keep kids safe and out of prison, while Rep. Lowey praised the way afterschool programs “not only keep kids safe – they keep kids learning.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, made an impassioned speech for the essential skills, support, and benefits of afterschool for students everywhere. “Teachers want afterschool!”
- In the youth advocacy session, afterschool students and alumni from programs across the country created brief “elevator speeches” about the importance of afterschool, brushed up on their social media advocacy skills, and got ready to share their stories with members of Congress in their own words.
- 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.
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