Virtual Events Amplify Youth Voices; Focus on STEM, Wellness, and More
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Oct. 22, 2020 — A town hall for youth to share their views, a radio booth for students to share testimonials, a youth-led virtual mural, a NASA experience, opportunities to engage with young entrepreneurs. These are among the national and Pennsylvania-based virtual activities taking place across the country to turn the lights on for afterschool today.
Organized by the Afterschool Alliance, the 21st annual Lights On Afterschool is unlike previous national rallies for afterschool, with many events held virtually this year that focus on science, music and dance, sport and fitness, academics, community service, social and emotional wellness, and more. Organized by schools, 4-Hs, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, parks, museums, community centers and others, events are occurring in communities across Pennsylvania and around the country.
The Pennsylvania State Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) highlights these events to underscore the need to invest in afterschool programs. In normal times these programs — with the help of skilled mentors — provide art, dance and music, sport and fitness activities, computer programming, robotics, job and career readiness, and healthy snacks and meals. Students have the opportunity to learn and increase their critical thinking, collaborate and communicate with peers and adults, and have opportunities for hands-on, team-based learning.
Governor Tom Wolf proclaimed October 22 as Lights On Afterschool Day in recognition of the important role of afterschool programs in Pennsylvania. In his proclamation, Governor Wolf encourages the expansion of innovative programs and activities to ensure that the lights stay on and the doors stay open for all children after school. Governor Wolf stressed, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, afterschool programs have risen to the occasion to support youth by providing virtual programming to keep kids engaged, care for children of essential workers, provide meals and learning supports, and check in on youth and families’ well-being.”
During this challenging time, programs have stepped up to provide virtual educational activities, deliver meals and enrichment kits, help families bridge the digital divide, check in with children to ensure their social and emotional needs are being met, connect families to social services, care for the children of essential workers and first responders, and much more.
In Pittsburgh, MCG Youth & Arts students are gathering perspectives to include on a web-based LOA mural. Students and families, community members, staff and elected officials share their perspectives about the benefits of afterschool and out-of-school time programs. In addition, Youth Express, a 24/7 streaming internet radio service for Pittsburgh-area youth, created by SLB Radio Productions, Inc., provides a virtual recording studio to talk about the value of afterschool programs.
Sunrise of Philadelphia, Inc. is doing afterschool like never before. “We’re Still Here!” serves as the message and battle cry of Sunrise’s 2020 Lights On celebration. During the school day, students will have a chance to complete the light bulb challenge and create a visual representation of how they are coping with virtual schooling. “Students log in after school feeling burnt out from the school day,” says Marina Fradera, Sunrise’s Trauma and Curriculum Specialist. “Despite everything, we’ve been able to cultivate fun and facilitate play, two things children desperately need right now.”
After-School All-Stars Philadelphia and Camden held a virtual theme event Let’s Bridge the Gap Together in honor of students bridging the gap into this new virtual world. Students learn about bridges, their history, how they are constructed, and their importance, including a bridge building activity presentation to engineers. Additionally, landmarks throughout the Philadelphia and Camden area will light up to show support for afterschool programs.
Nationally, Nickelodeon and the National Urban League teamed up with the Afterschool Alliance for a Youth Town Hall for Lights On Afterschool. Youth leaders, including 2020-2021 Youth Ambassador Quinn Stanford, an 8th grader from Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, who attends Summit Early Learning, share their afterschool and discuss what youth need to thrive. On Friday, Oct. 23, the Million Girls Moonshot and NASA will provide afterschool youth with an out-of-this-world Lights On experience when students speak live to astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli about her journey.
A large and powerful body of evidence demonstrates improvements in grades, school attendance, behavior and more, among children who participate in afterschool programs. Researchers have also found that students in afterschool programs are more engaged in school and excited about learning and developing critical work and life skills such as problem solving, teamwork and communications. Lights On Afterschool is a direct call for action to literally keep the lights on these programs as the Afterschool Alliance’s latest surveys find that programs and parents are challenged by virtual learning and evolving school schedules, programs are limited by budgets inadequate to address new safety protocols and students’ emerging needs, and students from low-income families are losing access to the out-of-school-time programs they need.”
Launched in October 2000, Lights On Afterschool is the only nationwide event celebrating afterschool programs. The effort has become a hallmark of the afterschool movement and annually sees more than 1 million Americans participate at more than 8,000 events nationwide. A complete list of Pennsylvania celebrations is available at Afterschool Alliance.
For more information about Pennsylvania’s afterschool network, go to PSAYDN.
Aylissa Kiely, (717) 903-0219