I work for an Afterschool Program in my city. Almost every day I walk into my school and am greeted by nearly one hundred elementary school students that would have nowhere else to go after school. These are children with parents who work past 5pm each night, who would be bussed back to empty homes if not for this program. Each day I work, I encounter a child who tells me if it weren’t for the meals offered at the program, they would be going the rest of the day without food. Every day I work with kids who take vital skills from the lessons I teach and apply them to their daily interactions. I have seen so much growth in my students thanks to the curriculum that we teach. I see students making friends with other students they might otherwise never have met. Students learning from each other about lifestyles and cultures different from their own.
The bonds that are forged between the students and their Afterschool mentors are irreplaceable. I have students confide with me things they say they wouldn’t tell anyone else. I have students who tell me I’m their role model or that I’ve helped them solve a problem in their lives. I see students becoming better people because of the interactions they’ve had with Afterschool staff, learning to mentor others and make mature and educated choices.
I’ve worked with kids whose teachers have given up on them. I’ve guided “problem” students to places of comfort and engagement that no one expected them to reach. And I’ve seen each of my co-workers do the same, day after day, week after week, month after month.
These programs are vital in serving our communities. These programs give students tools to become educated, engaged citizens. These programs provide essential resources for parents and families who work so hard to build good lives for the children in their care.
Communities thrive when they are given resources for their youth. Our youth are the foundations of the future. Our youth are the voices we will be listening to years down the line. Building a community of strong, educated, engaged youth is the best investment we can make for our world. These are the people who will be shaping our world very soon, so we need to do the best we can to make sure they have the tools and resources they need to prepare themselves.
The idea of our federal government cutting funding for these programs blows my mind. So many resources have already been reduced or taken away from our public schools. How can we even think about calling ourselves the greatest nation in the world if we don’t support our youth?
Please call and write your representative and urge them to advocate for the continued funding of afterschool and summer youth programs.