Today is the 18th annual celebration of Lights On Afterschool, in which events celebrating the work of after-school programs are held in unique and creative ways. Here are just a few:
- In Covington, Kentucky, after-school students will participate in a panel discussion on The Hate U Give, a novel addressing racism and police violence.
- After-school students on the Crow Reservation in Pryor, Montana, will honor their program’s warriors and host a masquerade powwow.
- In West Valley City, Utah, after-school students will cause a happy traffic jam by holding signs reading “honk if you support afterschool.”
- In Walla Walla, Washington, students will create a virtual reality environment to showcase their work in digital music production, 3-D printing, vlog studio, and robotics.
- On a U.S. Army base in Japan, after-school students will hold a fall festival.
In fact, if you’re in New York City, tonight the Empire State Building will be lit blue and yellow in honor of Lights On Afterschool.
I spoke with Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance, to learn more about this celebration.
10 Million Children
“This is our 18th year celebrating Lights On Afterschool, an event designed to showcase the best of after school in our local communities,” Grant told me. “We want programs all across America to shine a light on the extraordinary things that are happening in today’s after-school programs.”(Children participate in an after-school program. Image: Twitter/UWClarksville)
Grant told me that across the country about 8,000 events are expected, which about 1 million people will attend. In fact, she kicked off the celebration herself recently in Honolulu, where 500 youngsters performed at the statehouse before their elected representatives, showing off what they learn in their local after-school programs.
“This is a time when we’re shining a light on all the great activities taking place in after-school programs—meals, physical activity, tutoring, coding, robotics.” And of course, much more.
Not Enough to Meet Demand
After-school programming is great for those children who participate. The problem, Grant says, is that for every single one of the 10 million children in an after-school program, “there are two more whose parents want them in programs but don’t have access to them.”
There aren’t enough after-school programs to meet the demand, primarily because of cost and transportation, Grant says. The nonprofit she leads, Afterschool Alliance, is an advocacy and communications organization whose mission is to improve the quality and access to after-school programming and summer learning.
“We want these programs available and affordable to all the kids and parents who want them,” Grant says.
The organization provides tools and resources to more than 25,000 after-school programs and works with policymakers in Washington, D.C., educating them about the importance of after-school programming.
The Afterschool Alliance led the fight, Grant says, when the White House proposed eliminating after-school programs earlier this year.
For more about Lights On Afterschool and to see how your area is celebrating, visit the Afterschool Alliance.