By Jessica Woltjen, Policy & Outreach Manager
On October 25th, afterschool programs across the nation joined the Afterschool Alliance in celebration of the 19th annual Lights On Afterschool Day. Lights On Afterschool calls attention to the importance of afterschool programs and the need to keep the lights on and the doors open after the school day ends. In Georgia, nearly 200 afterschool programs registered celebrations. Nationally, a record-breaking 8,400+ programs registered celebrations.
For this year’s Lights on Afterschool, GSAN sought to raise awareness of the wide variety of programming offered by afterschool programs using the hashtag #ThisIsAfterschool. To do this, we partnered with several afterschool programs across the state to highlight high demand topics and how afterschool supports youth in each area. Check out our recaps of each event below:
Literacy (Positive Direction Youth Center in Dawson, GA)
Positive Direction Youth Center hosted a festive Lights On Afterschool afternoon with games and activities for students, families, and community members. The event featured a “We are the World” program led by the students including a song and presentation of flags from around the world, as well as welcoming remarks from Dawson Mayor Robert Albritten, other community leaders, and GSAN’s Director Katie Landes. Check out the Albany Herald’s coverage of the event here.
Approximately two-thirds of Georgia’s children are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Afterschool programs are part of the solution by providing more opportunities for learning, increasing school day attendance and providing one-on-one interventions when needed.
STEM (E.W. Hagler Club in Augusta, GA)
E.W. Hagler Club hosted a STEM-focused Lights On Afterschool event with a student led tour of the program featuring a biology lab, a 3D printer, and a garden. The Club recognized State Representative Brian Prince as an Honorary Member. The event concluded with a student performance of “Thriller” as part of a haunted house set up in anticipation of Halloween.
It is estimated that 65% of today’s youth will be working in careers that have not been invented yet, with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills becoming increasingly mandatory in a broad range of occupations. Afterschool and summer learning programs can greatly increase the amount of time youth have to explore STEM subjects and engage in hands-on, project-based learning through real-world experience.
Behavioral Health (F.A.V.O.R. in Stone Mountain, GA)
Families Advocating for Voices of Resilience, Inc. (F.A.V.O.R.) brought together the community for Lights On Afterschool with a showcase of youth performances that kept everyone on their feet! F.A.V.O.R. offers several services to support the behavioral health of the youth and young adults in their program, including support groups, one-on-one assistance, skill building training, and Youth M.O.V.E. The program serves approximately 100 youth a year.
Approximately 100,000 children in Georgia live with serious mental health conditions. Afterschool can support behavioral health by promoting the healthy social-emotional development of all children and youth, recognizing when young people are at risk for or are experiencing mental health problems, and identifying how to intervene early and appropriately when there are problems.
Youth Voice (VOX Teen Communications in Atlanta, GA)
Where are metro-Atanta teens during out-of-school time? What are teens top concerns today? How can adults best communicate with teens today? VOX Teen Communications answered these and many more questions at their Lights On Afterschool event. Participants got to experience an interactive data reveal from VOX’s Atlanta Teen Survey all while teens shared their voices about what matters to them. VOX creates a level playing field where teens collaborate directly with adults as peers to learn critical thinking, writing, and publishing skills to help them raise their voices! Check out Youth Today’s coverage of the event here.
When asked where they felt valued, 40% of metro-Atlanta teens mentioned afterschool programs as a place they felt valued. Afterschool can help youth learn to communicate, collaborate, and lead. Beyond providing youth with a safe place to go after the school day ends, afterschool programs allow youth to develop trusting relationships with caring adults who can support them in making better decisions.