Expanding Access to After-School Programs

with Jodi Grant of the Afterschool Alliance

More than 14 million school-age children are left unsupervised after school each day.

Jodi Grant of the Afterschool Alliance outlines the anticipated benefits of expanded after-school programming for youth across the United States.

Posted on:

Nov 04, 2019

Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: 20% of American schoolchildren are left unsupervised after the day ends. That contributes to a rise in juvenile crime between 2:00 and 6:00 p.m. on any given day. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson
Afterschool programs have been around for some time but have evolved into something that's more than just a safe haven for youth. Many of today's afterschool programs are geared towards improving academic performance and encouraging participation in STEM activities. Jodi Grant is the executive director of the afterschool alliance and she joins me to discuss efforts to increase access to afterschool programs. And Jodi, thank you so much for being here.

Grant: Thank you for having me.

Anderson: So it's my understanding that participation in these afterschool programs has just jumped up in the last 10 years. What's going on and why is that?

Grant: So there's a couple of reasons. One of the things that I'm most excited about is that we know afterschool programs keep kids safe and that for working parents, they are providing peace of mind. But the third piece of afterschool is that it's inspiring our kids. And in this growing world with all the new challenges, kids need to be learning more than just school. So in afterschool, they're getting all sorts of activities to get out of their comfort zone, to learn new things, to learn skills that are going to help them not just in school to succeed but in the workforce.

Anderson: So I got to ask you about the fact that there really just aren't enough programs to provide this type of inspiration is how you referred to it. Why is that? It seems that the priority would be the children.

Grant: The reality is for parents that can pay for afterschool, they are. And that's why we've seen the number of kids almost double because parents see what's going on, they want their kids to have these opportunities. But we need to do more for the families that can't afford it, especially because the consequences are for our entire country. If we're investing now in our kids, it's going to help them succeed, it's going to help our economy succeed

Anderson: How are you specifically working to encourage that specific investment?

Grant: We're trying to do a couple of things. One, we want to publicize what's happening. I think that we find that, across the board, especially in Washington, policymakers if they go home and they see these programs, they see the impact they're having on their community, we have champions. So really educating policymakers, educating business leaders that these programs are going to impact them because, listen, for every child in an afterschool program, the parents of two more want these programs for their kids. And to do that, we're going to need to find ways to support all of these kids. And you had alluded to this earlier, but this is really about a longer term investment. This isn't just about what's happening immediately afterschool. And specifically when it comes to employment in the area of STEM. Can you give us a taste of what's going on with that? It's one of the things we say about all afterschool, but particularly STEM, is that spark, that piece that really gets the kid excited often doesn't happen in the classroom. It happens in that experiment outside of class when they get to own a project and work with it. And so in afterschool, that's one of the things we're trying to do to really give kids some ownership, some choice, and then that love of science is something that we see it transcends into the classroom. But more and more, we see it transcending in careers. And it's important because now it doesn't matter what you are, you know, whether you're a plumber, you're an engineer. You need the STEM background. And it's a fun way to watch our kids do it through building and creating.

Anderson: So there is an interesting statistic. Experts say that by 2025, more than 2 million STEM jobs will go unfulfilled. So what you're doing really does have a long-term impact and you're talking to the children about that. I mean, what's in their future.

Grant: Well, yeah, because we always like to say afterschool is changing that. And one of the things we need to do with our kids is expose them to what's out there. So we love to have people from the community come in and talk about real jobs and real experiences and how what they're learning right now can be used in whatever job they're going to go into.

Anderson: So education, future opportunity. This is all about creating a really well-rounded child. And I know that there's lots of issues with trauma and mental situations that these children have gone through. How are you guys addressing some of those? Grant: So one of the things we're seeing is just more and more anxiety, depression, kids that have experienced trauma -- we call it ACEs -- in their lives. And I think one of the most important things we do in afterschool is provide relationships. They say, for so many kids, having that one caring adult or that one caring, you know, near peer mentor makes all the difference. So creating opportunities with people in the local community to nurture those relationships is one of the most important things we do.

Anderson: Well, we appreciate your work and thank you. Thank you for joining us, Jodi.

Grant: Thank you for having me.

Anderson: And thank you for watching as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, be sure to visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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