Before ending the school year, students from Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School, Ánimo Leadership Charter High School, and Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School headed to Sacramento to advocate on behalf of after school programs. Each of these student’s participation in after school programs motivated them to join the California Afterschool & Summer Challenge (CalSAC), a program that educates and empowers youths and their families to engage in grassroots advocacy.
Advocating for Others
The current state administration has threatened to cut the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative that funds after school programs, including several that serve our highs schools. Ryan Atapattu, a senior at Ánimo Leadership saw this CalSAC trip as opportunity to use his voice and newfound platform to advocate not only for the students at his school, but for the 850,000 students who participate in afterschool programs throughout California.
“I know how much after school programs have impacted me, so having the opportunity to help students have the same great experiences that I had after school was an honor,” said Atapattu.
He joined students across the state in a rally at the steps of the State Capitol. Students met with state legislators to share their personal stories about how after school programs have impacted their lives and why these programs are needed.
“I’m grateful for arc because if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be where I am today. Similar to my school, arc has helped me with my academics, and supported me in the next step of my academic journey,” said Atapattu. He believes that people have many misconceptions about after school programs: “People often think students just hang out at these programs, but it's so much more than that. There are a variety of clubs and opportunities for students to further their learning.” During his time in arc an after school and experiential learning program, Atapattu participated in study groups, mentorships, and led a club that advocated for undocumented students and families.
What's at Risk
"In affluent neighborhoods, parents are often able to subsidize the costs of after school programs," said David Nunez, Coordinator of After School and Student Mentor Programs at Green Dot. "But in underserved communities, those same resources aren't available. This is why it's so long-term funding for these programs is so vital." California’s after school programs serve over 850,000 students, providing more than just child care, but additional supports and academic opportunities. At Green Dot, these programs are an extension of the academic day. Many of our students are entering our schools significantly behind grade level. While we strategically schedule classes to provide appropriate interventions, our after school programs provide middle school and high school students with a space for additional support and academic enrichment at no cost to their families. “Sustainable funding for afterschool programs continue to be an issue because the After School Education and Safety (ASES) and After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) funding have remained stagnant as costs have continued to rise,” said Nunez.
According to the After School Alliance, students are most likely to become victims of violent crime, to be involved in accidents, and to engage in other harmful behavior on weekdays between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. “People who want to cut the funding don't see the impact after school programs have on students, and I doubt they wonder what would happen to students if they weren't in these programs,” said Atapattu. “Programs like arc keep students in school learning, developing social skills, and bettering themselves rather than in the streets getting involved in unsafe activities.”
Without these programs, thousands of California students will have no safe place to go once the school day ends. By working with community partners like arc, the Boys and Girls Club, and the J.K. Livin Foundation we have been able to build safe, hands-on, engaging, student-centered, and results driven learning experiences beyond the school bell. Now students are making sure legislators here it from them, advocating for complementary programs necessary to ensure our future is a bright one.