Aug 06

From Alaska to Alabama, working parents count on afterschool

From Fairbanks to Miami, young people aren’t the only ones to benefit from quality afterschool programs. Millions of parents who would otherwise have to take time off work rely on afterschool programs to provide support for their children until the business day ends. Knowing that their kids are safe and cared for means that these parents can commit themselves fully to their careers during the day, and that peace of mind pays dividends: a study from Catalyst indicates that afterschool programs help save $300 billion per year, thanks to increased worker productivity.

As Lights On Afterschool approaches, working parents come to mind as one of the beneficiaries of afterschool programs across the nation. In Fairbanks, Alaska, Dale credits his daughter’s afterschool program with his daughter’s improved academic performance and his own literally atmospheric career path. With her kids safe and learning in an afterschool program, Kelly in Alabama was able to return to school and continue her college education while working more than 50 hours a week. And Laticia, an afterschool program director in Oklahoma, has a front-row seat of the effect afterschool has on all children—including her own.

Committing to a career, thanks to afterschool

“I never got straight A’s, but this afterschool program… when she showed me her report card and she got straight A’s?”

Tears rise to Dale Austermuhl’s eyes. He shakes his head.  “That made my day. That made my world.”

Dale is a single father in Fairbanks, Alaska. His daughter, Eva, has been enrolled in an afterschool program since the second grade, and Dale credits Eva’s improvement in social behavior and academic performance to the afterschool program. 

Knowing that Eva’s cared for during the afterschool hours means that Dale has been to commit himself to his job and contribute to his company for a full work day.

“While she’s in the afterschool program, I am able to put energy into my work. Before, I was working as a lead mechanic, but with Eva taken care of after school, I was able to give my time to the company and be even more productive. I was able to advance and become a director of maintenance in aviation. Eva’s afterschool program helped my career.”

Back to school—for parents, too

Kids aren’t the only ones who continue learning outside of afterschool.

“Afterschool programs helped me to continue my college education,” says Kelly Quattlebaum, a single mother from Alabama.  “The program allowed me to continue to work and go to school while the kids were taken care of.”

Kelly has four children, one of whom recently graduated high school with a scholarship for J.F. Drake Technical College.  Two of Kelly’s other children are currently in afterschool programs.

“I could not have finished my college education without the afterschool program. Typically, I work about 55 to 60 hours a week, and then I go to school.  I have finished one degree and I am still pursuing college. Being a single mother of four kids… it’s hard out here. I have no choice but to work all those hours. This program allows my kids to be in a safe place, get their homework done, and eat a snack after school.”

There’s no question about the role of afterschool programs in the lives of Kelly’s children. “I wouldn’t be able to give my kids the lifestyle that I give them. There’s no way that I could do it without afterschool.”

Afterschool’s impact, professionally and personally

Laticia Vacca is the program director of the 21st Century Program in Stratford, Oklahoma. She sees the way afterschool programs impact children firsthand.

“I’m not just the director of the afterschool program,” she says. “I’m also a parent of four children who have been through the program. It’s been a huge blessing with my kids: they can have a place to go where they’re getting homework help and some type of engaging enrichment activity during those after school hours.”

In addition to the peace of mind that comes from knowing their kids are safe after school, the program gives parents a system of support for issues like academic performance and enrichment. As school curriculums change year by year, Laticia often hears about parents struggling to help their children with their schoolwork. An afterschool program that provides homework help ensures that students make the grade, while families get to enjoy more quality time in the evenings and spend less time on homework.

With so many kids, parents, and families relying on afterschool, what would happen if program funding was cut in rural Oklahoma?

“I feel like it would be devastating to our working families, to our families who are trying to provide extra resources to their kids, to those single parents who need some support, and to our grandparents who are raising children. I want our lawmakers to realize how essential it is and what a vital resource we will be losing if we don’t have our afterschool program.”