On Monday, October 19, the Denver City and County Building will be lit up with orange lights in honor of afterschool programming. Governor Polis has proclaimed October 22nd to be LIGHTS ON AFTERSCHOOL DAY. Both are part of a national celebration of afterschool programming called, “Lights On Afterschool.” “Afterschool programs have risen to the occasion to provide support to youth and families during the Pandemic,” said Megan Nyce, Project Manager of Colorado Afterschool Partnership. Programs have stepped up to provide virtual educational activities, deliver meals and enrichment kits, quickly opened remote learning centers, and checked in with children and families to ensure their social and emotional needs are being met.
While communities are gearing up to return to school, afterschool programs are stepping up to provide continued support before and after school. “Now that schools are starting to open, afterschool programs are continuing to find ways to provide a safe space to support the educational needs of youth and working parents,” added Megan Nyce, “the way programs have pivoted this year to help Colorado youth and families is tremendous.”
The Afterschool Alliance organizes a national Lights On Afterschool celebration to underscore the need to invest in afterschool programs. “Afterschool programs have stepped in during the COVID-19 emergency in vitally important ways,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “But the challenges they face, and the implications for the next generation, are concerning. 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.
The America After 3PM household survey of 30,000 families, commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance, found that participation in afterschool programs has increased to 10.2 million students nationwide – but the unmet demand is great. In Colorado, for every child in an afterschool program today, two more are waiting to get in. Unmet demand is especially high in rural communities and communities of concentrated poverty. Studies show that children who participate in afterschool programs are more likely to show improvements in grades, school attendance, and behavior. Researchers have also found that students in afterschool programs are more engaged in school and excited about learning and develop critical work and life skills such as problem solving, teamwork, and communications.
The City and County building will be orange for the duration of the week to remind the public that afterschool is more important than ever this year. “Check with your afterschool program to see if they are planning anything next week to celebrate Lights On Afterschool,” Megan adds, “and be sure to say thank you to the program staff.”