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Opinion / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Sustainability

In this Time of Crisis, Afterschool Gives Me Hope

In this Time of Crisis, Afterschool Gives Me Hope

California, and the nation as a whole, are in the midst of multiple and intersecting crises—the public health crisis of COVID-19, the resulting economic crisis, and a long-standing crisis of injustice and systemic oppression of Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).

When I think of the children and communities who are suffering the most as a result of these crises, I get consumed with questions. What will happen to kids this summer? When will they be able to come back to school? How will we address the trauma that so many kids faced? How can we give them the support they need, particularly if funding gets cut?

I don’t have the answer to any of those questions. I wish I did.

But what I see in California’s afterschool programs gives me hope.

Our afterschool programs serve the kids and families who have been hit hardest in these crises. 9 out of 10 kids in our programs are children of color. 84% of our families are economically disadvantaged. Our programs surround these kids with adults who care about them and support their growth and learning—academically, socially, and emotionally.

2 youth giving plants to the community during expanded learning hours

Photo Credit: Campbell Union School District Expanded Learning Program

When the COVID-19 crisis hit and shelter-in-place orders went into effect, the afterschool workforce quickly pivoted and stretched to serve these kids and families in new ways. More than 30,000 afterschool staff check on families, provide resources, and help youth navigate through these crises. At a time of heightened inequities, food insecurities, trauma, disengagement, and learning loss, afterschool programs have continued to make a difference.

As schools plan for a number of scenarios this fall, they are counting on afterschool programs to help fill the gaps in supervision and educational supports. As parents head back to the workforce, our programs are essential to our state’s economic recovery.

I see programs from across the state leaning into political action and meeting this moment of reckoning.

For years, our programs have been helping youth develop their voice, make change, and lead. But in this time of crisis, I see programs supporting their staff too—the majority of whom are people of color and live in the communities they serve. Programs are making space for them to process, grieve, and take action. As Tommy Brewer from Think Together said in last week’s Fireside Chat with the California Afterschool Network and California Department of Education, “What better way to change the odds for kids than to change the world that they’re growing up in, particularly if the world, as it is, is unjust.”

But now, when the need is so great, afterschool programs are facing a devastating budget cut.

At best, this cut would drop 62,000 kids from our programs. At worst, programs would close throughout the state,

kids standing together in the shape of a heart

Photo Credit: Bay Area Community Resources

leaving far more kids and families without the support they need at a time when they need it most.

Imagining the impact of this cut makes my heart heavy.

Last week, when I was feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of this time, I turned to a friend and leader in this field.

She reminded me how far we’ve come to support kids, even in crisis.

She reminded me that the youth we empower and the bridges we build in the community are needed now more than ever.

She said the work that we do is part of how this gets better.

I believe education is supposed to prepare kids to think critically, work together, and remain resilient as they shape a better future.

Afterschool is an essential part of moving toward a more just society because we take care of the next generation of leaders.

flyer to take action in support of afterschool

Image Credit: California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance

Afterschool won’t solve all of the challenges facing our nation, our state, our communities. But our programs will help kids come back together, heal, and grow as we continue to face these crises head-on.

Advocating for the kids in our programs is one way I can help in this moment.

If you can help raise their voice, please take 5 minutes to help. We only have a few more days to make a difference, as the legislature and the Governor head into negotiations to finalize this year’s state budget.

Text “Budget” to 52886 and make 2 calls to the Capitol. Tell them that afterschool is essential in this time of crisis.

For breakfast, I had pancakes.

Author: @jendietrich

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