Governor Kay Ivey, a graduate of the Auburn University College of Education, recently signed the Lights On Afterschool Day Proclamation at her office in the State Capital. She was joined at the signing by Paul Morin, administrator of afterschool programs in the college’s Truman Pierce Institute, and Felicia Simpson, Director of Community Outreach and Engagement for the Alabama Afterschool Community Network, and Service Grants and Partnership Coordinator in the College of Education at the University of Alabama.
The proclamation emphasized the importance of afterschool programs in providing children with safe places to learn and grow after school hours, and how such programs help working families, build stronger communities, and develop partnerships to advance the welfare of our state’s school children.
“Governor Ivey, a former teacher, has long been a positive force in advocating for afterschool programs in our state,” said Lynne Patrick, director of the Truman Pierce Institute (TPI). “Paul Morin is the Network Lead for Afterschool programs across the state of Alabama. The Alabama Afterschool Community Network (ALACN) is an initiative of the TPI that serves as the Network’s home. It is one of the 50 National Afterschool Networks dedicated to informing policy, developing partnerships, and shaping practices to sustain and increase the quality of Afterschool programs nationwide.”
ALACN works in collaboration with the Alabama State Department of Education, the Alabama 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the Alabama Department of Human Resources, and the Alabama Community Education Association (ACEA) to ensure Alabama youth, families, and communities have access to high quality programming during Out-of-School time. There are hundreds of Afterschool programs across the state responding to family and community needs.
TPI works in cooperation with the ALSDE for the effective implementation, administration, and evaluation of more than 150 afterschool sites at more than 100 schools across the state, operating year round, from Madison to Mobile and everywhere in between – funded solely through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers federal fund allocation to the state. TPI directs a budget of more than $400,000 and has managed 21st CCLC administrative functions for 11 years.
“In addition to our work with the 21st CCLC program, we also direct summer camps in conjunction with our school partners in Loachapoka, called Loachapoka at Auburn Days, or L.E.A.D.,” Patrick said. “We began with just one camp but the federal program directors liked it so much we have expanded that to three separate camps held on campus during the summers.”
The L.E.A.D. camps give the young people an opportunity to learn and grow in a residential setting on the Auburn campus and provide a wide array of activities. Last summer’s camps included trips to visit the Tuskegee Airmen museum as well as the Equal Justice Initiative and Legacy Museums in Montgomery.
“We do so many different things at the camps, and last year we introduced a chess tournament,” Patrick said. “We knew it could go either way but the campers loved it! It was so popular we let them take home the chess sets to teach others in their community how to play.”
Afterschool programs keep kids safe
This fall, a report was released by a nonpartisan law-enforcement organization comprised of more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, and prosecutors across the country, advocating for evidence-based solutions that improve the lives of kids while reducing crime and making our communities safe. The report was entitled From Risk to Opportunity: Afterschool Programs Keep Kids Safe. The upshot is that while juvenile crime peaks between 2:00 and 6:00 PM, quality afterschool programs reduce crime, boost academics, improve behavior, lead to healthier habits, and save money.
Ivey’s proclamation notes that funding for many of these programs has lapsed across the country, but Alabama intends to fortify its already strong record of quality afterschool programs.
“Unfortunately, millions of our nation’s children each year are unable to reap the benefits of high-quality afterschool programming,” the report states. “Afterschool programming is unavailable for over 19 million children, more than half of whom are low-income, whose parents would enroll them if an afterschool program was available. These young people are missing out on the opportunity to connect with caring adults, develop relationships with peers, explore what interests them, and get additional supports like homework help, healthy snacks and meals, and opportunities for physical activity.”
The report details an analysis of FBI and local law enforcement data on school-day crime rates for youth in 46 states. The analysis found that a majority of states for which data was available saw juvenile crime spike during the afterschool hours. In Alabama, juvenile crime peaks from 2 to 6 p.m. on school days, with about 36 percent of all juvenile crime on those days occurring during the hours following the last school bell.
Alabama’s kids are among the more than 11 million children nationwide who still find themselves in an environment devoid of adult supervision during the afterschool hours. In all, 19 percent of children in Alabama are unsupervised after school. The encouraging news is that the research contained in the report makes a striking and compelling case for the positive impact of high-quality afterschool programs, which can provide a range of benefits to participating young people, including homework help, mentors, healthy snacks and meals, computer programming, opportunities to think critically, collaborate, and communicate with peers and adults, job and college readiness, sports and fitness activities, robotics, art, dance, and music, and opportunities for hands-on, team-based learning.
“This vitally important new report is a powerful endorsement of afterschool programs from the law enforcement community. Law enforcement leaders from coast to coast recognize that investing in afterschool programs today is essential to our safety and security tomorrow,” said Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance.
“This new report shows conclusively that the hours between 2 and 6 PM, when schools are closed but many parents are still on the job, are prime time for juvenile crime. So, if we are serious about reducing juvenile crime, victimization and delinquency, keeping our streets and communities safe, and putting youth on the path to becoming responsible, successful adults, we will increase funding for afterschool programs. Every student needs the chance to learn and grow, in a safe, supervised environment, after the school day ends.”
That call for investment is a more pressing concern today: Although funding for afterschool programs has increased since 2000, the current administration has recommended entirely eliminating funding for 21st Century Learning Centers. Slashing funding would be counterintuitive not only to the research case for high-quality afterschool programs, but also to the strong recommendation of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids’ law-enforcement leaders.