A nationwide effort to leave the “Lights on Afterschool” is finding a home today in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network is working with 200 programs across the state to sponsor rallies that will include an estimated 15,000 participants.
The goal of the day is not only to offer some special activities for students participating in afterschool programing, but also to bring more attention to the programs themselves and the impact they have on the community.
“Afterschool programs keep our kids safe, they help working families and they inspire learning,” said Allegheny Partners of Out-of-School Time Director Aimee LeFevers.
LeFevers’ group will present an event this afternoon at the Carnegie Science Center for any afterschool program that is not organizing its own celebration of the day. A list of all of the events across the state can be found on the website of the Afterschool Alliance, which is the national organizer of the 13th annual Lights on Afterschool day.
LeFevers says it is getting harder all the time for districts and other organizations to pay for afterschool programs as local budgets tighten, charities find it increasingly difficult to raise funds, and federal funding dwindles. LeFevers is asking for increased support of the nearly billion dollar 21st Century Community Learning Centers program contained in the U.S. Department of Education budget. The program is among those being considered for elimination.
“We need to really raise the profile of afterschool programs, that it is not just babysitting, that there is a lot going on,” said LeFevers who believes too many people think after school programs are little more than place to hold kids after school hours. She said the programs are highly professional and have a big impact on the community.
“We know that the highest time for crime is between the hours of 3-6 [pm] so we know if [the students] are in after school programs they are safe,” said LeFevers.
LeFevers notes that many of the programs also provide tutors to help students do better in school and they all help working parents stay on the job.
The 200 rallies in Pennsylvania will be among more than 7,500 events around the nation.