As unmet demand for programs continues to rise, stakeholders meet in Harrisburg
Harrisburg, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) today convened nearly 200 advocates including students, parents, educators, program providers, community leaders, policy makers, business and faith-based leaders from across Pennsylvania to highlight the importance of afterschool and out-of-school time youth development. Legislative visits reminded the commonwealth’s leaders that afterschool programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. The capitol event was a call to action for all levels of government, philanthropy, business and every sector to step up and do more to support afterschool.
America After 3PM, a major study from the Afterschool Alliance found that, despite rapid growth in afterschool participation, for every Pennsylvania child enrolled in an afterschool program, there are at least two more waiting to get in. Currently there are 811,954 kids whose parents would enroll their child, if a program were available.
“The unmet need for afterschool programs translates into missed opportunities for our kids,” said PSAYDN Director Laura Saccente. Students in afterschool programs expand their horizons, enhance their skills and are better prepared for college, career and life. Every child deserves those opportunities – but many are not getting them,” Saccente added.
Co-chairs Senator Ryan Aument (R-36), Representative Mindy Fee (R-37) and Representative Jake Wheatley (D-39) commented on progress made by the bicameral bi-partisan Afterschool Caucus, which provides education, policy development, research and periodic briefings on pertinent issues confronting and relating to the commonwealth’s afterschool infrastructure.
Children benefit from afterschool programs in countless ways. In addition to providing a safe, supervised place to go after the school day ends where kids get academic help, the programs offer youth the chance to engage with mentors, participate in sports and fitness activities, and work in teams as they learn to program computers, plant gardens, volunteer to help those in need, learn music and dance, and much more.
In Pennsylvania, 85 percent of parents support public funding for afterschool programs, and that support crosses all political party and geographic lines. The America After 3PM study finds that the parents value afterschool programs for many reasons, including that they keep kids safe and out of trouble, offer opportunities for physical activity and offer learning activities that are unavailable during the regular school day.
“Kids’ formative, out-of-school time hours can be filled with quality youth development programs that not only promote the well-being of our children and youth, but also families,” Saccente said. Increased academic achievement, reduced criminal activity, and positive social development are broad bipartisan goals and are also the results of high-quality afterschool activities. Quality afterschool programming is an effective strategy that can be used by policy makers to achieve these three goals.”
Speakers at the rally stated that afterschool programs in Pennsylvania improve prospects for students and strengthen families, schools and communities and encouraged lawmakers to support afterschool funding.
“Too many Pennsylvania children who need afterschool programs don’t have them, and families are carrying a heavier burden as a result,” Saccente said. For afterschool programs to serve the huge unmet demand from families, they’re going to need more support from all sectors – from the business and philanthropic communities, as well as from the government at all levels.”
The Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) at Center for Schools and Communities promotes sustainable, high-quality out-of-school time youth development programs through advocacy and capacity building to enhance the welfare of Pennsylvania’s children, youth and families. PSAYDN believes all children and youth deserve access to programs that encourage positive youth development and support the successful transition to adulthood. More information is available at PSAYDN.