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Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

Celebrate Lights On Afterschool. Hands-On Projects Inspire Students to Find the Engineer Within


“I made a new friend today,” a girl enthusiastically shared as she and her fifth-grade peers cleaned up after making polymers.

These girls come together once a week and work through science and engineering activities in an afterschool program hosted by Techbridge. We challenge them to work with students that they don’t know and measure success when we see them supporting each other. It’s a sign that afterschool programs are not only fostering and expanding opportunities for youth to learn but building their confidence in a positive environment.

In America today, 1 in 4 youth — 15 million children — are alone and unsupervised after school. In our community—Oakland—afterschool programs served over 20,000 students in 2011-12–58% of youth. What about the 42% who are without support and supervision? Youth in afterschool programs demonstrate positive benefits including improvements in their school-day attendance rates, better social interaction with peers and adults, and increased safety during the hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Each October, 1 million Americans and thousands of communities nationwide celebrate Lights On Afterschool to shine a light on the afterschool programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working families.

Programs like Techbridge are making a difference by providing a safe place for youth to make new discoveries, develop leadership skills, and explore new interests. Techbridge was launched in 2000 to inspire girls in science, technology, and engineering. In afterschool and summer programs, Techbridge girls design their own video games, program mobile apps that they can share with friends, and create biofuel solutions that power a light bulb.

Through projects like these, the girls work with tools, troubleshoot, and develop confidence and perseverance that serve them well in their academic and career paths. They also learn to work in teams and develop public speaking skills. Techbridge serves 500 girls annually in afterschool programs in grades 5-12, primarily working in under-resourced communities. Evaluation results demonstrate the program’s success: girls show increased confidence in technology, greater knowledge about careers in engineering, and stronger interest in careers in science, technology, and engineering.

Celebrate Lights On Afterschool with us Oct. 18, 2012. You can expand the benefits of afterschool programs and show your support in a number of ways:

As a parent, check out your school, community center, or local museum for an afterschool program for your child.

Explore what programs are available in the community that you can help bring to your child’s school. Make time to arrive early so that you can see what is going on afterschool at your child’s program and meet the staff. Show your interest and ask your child about the projects he/she brings home.

As an engaged neighbor, make a call to your local school and find out what resources the afterschool programs need. Don’t let the lack of materials prevent your neighborhood school from offering science and engineering activities after school.

Get involved and volunteer your time. Ask a school near work or home if you can lead an activity and serve as a role model. Better yet, organize a group of co-workers to volunteer with you and support afterschool programs. Role models often share how much more inspired they are after they volunteer with youth.

Help fund afterschool programs in your community.

Not every family can afford enrichment opportunities after school. Resources we provide our children now will inspire them to give back to their community later.

Show your political support and vote for measures that fund afterschool programs. Let your local politicians know the value of these programs. Wouldn’t it be great, if all children had a safe place to spend their time and develop new talents and interests after school?

Together we can keep the lights on in all our schools so that every girl and boy can participate in an afterschool program.

America’s got talent. Together we can inspire the next Top Engineer or Computer Scientist who just needs a little help from supportive adults and enriching experiences in an afterschool program.

Techbridge offers hands-on science and engineering opportunities for girls and partners with Bay Area school districts to encourage youth to experience science in a fun, informal way. Find out how you can create experiences to spark the engineer and scientist in youth in your community at

Find out more about Lights On Afterschool and ways to support afterschool programs at the Afterschool Alliance.

Author: Linda Kekelis

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