Hundreds of afterschool advocates gathered in the State House’s Great Hall of Flags on Thursday, March 22nd for the seventh annual Afterschool and Expanded Learning Opportunities Advocacy Day. The event’s participants called upon state legislators to prioritize critical funding opportunities for afterschool and out-of-school time programming that support children, youth and working families across the Commonwealth in this upcoming budget season.
The day’s agenda highlighted the importance of afterschool and expanded learning opportunities by featuring a number of youth speakers and performers, and legislative champions. Students from the Bird Street Community Center, Winthrop 21st Century Community Learning Center Program, African Community Education, Salem CyberSpace and BalletRox spoke and performed at the event, highlighting the depth and breadth of programming for children and youth. Featured speakers included Secretary of Education Paul Reville, Executive Office of Education; Senator Thomas McGee, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Special Commission on Afterschool and Out-of-School Time; Representative Alice Peisch, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education; and Anita Walker, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
In their remarks, the featured speakers discussed the benefits of afterschool and expanded learning opportunities to cities and towns, and success stories from across the Commonwealth. Senator McGee, Co-chair of the Special Legislative Commission on Afterschool and Out-of-School Time issues and Sponsor of Senate Bill 215 “An Act Establishing the After School and Out of School Time Coordinating Council,” said that the “After School and Out-of-School Time Quality Grant provides critical opportunities for young people from kindergartenthrough high school to learn the skills they need for lifelong success.” McGee also stated that he wants to make sure all children in Massachusetts have the same opportunities to become productive, future leaders for our society.
Representative Alice Peisch told the group, “The quality of out-of-school time experiences, including afternoons, summers, and weekends, plays a large role in determining student success.”
Youth speaker, Rashidi Kibbaba, a student originally from the Congo and now involved with the African Community Education (ACE) after-school program in Worcester, spoke about his struggle to come to the United States and what after school programming has allowed him to accomplish. “The ACE program has become my family,” he spoke, “My family has supported me in my dreams of becoming a doctor.”
Katie Magrane, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership, reinforced the messages delivered by day’s youth and state speakers. “While your resources have been stretched, you’re here now, being a voice for children, and being a voice for access and quality,” she said. And Magrane encouraged attendees to continue to be engaged in conversations around the important role afterschool and summer programs play in education reform.
Those in attendance, not only asked legislators to support afterschool and out-of-school time funding, but also to support the passing of an Afterschool and Out-of-School Time Coordinating Council to increase coordination across state programs.
For those of you who attended Advocacy Day yesterday and were disappointed when technical difficulties prevented the showing of the 2011 Summer Learning Video from Boston After School & Beyond, here is the link: http://www.bostonbeyond.org/
To find out more how you can become an advocate for afterschool and out-of-school time programs during this budget season, please contact Nicole Wilkins, MAP Communications and Policy Associate, firstname.lastname@example.org.