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Afterschool Advocacy Week Sets the Stage for Our Spring Advocacy Push in 2022

Jailain Hollon

Jailain Hollon is the Marketing Associate at ExpandED Schools.

Earlier this month ExpandED Schools participated in New York State Network For Youth Success's Afterschool Advocacy Week to disseminate data and vivid stories around the critical need for afterschool, summer and expanded learning. In addition to the programs we design and the school-community partnerships we support, ExpandED supports the afterschool field through advocacy. In collaboration with The Network for Youth Success and their Power of 3 program, we advocated for New York State to prioritize afterschool investments and equip them to support students across New York City and New York State. 

The pandemic has proven long-lasting and far-reaching since it began almost two years ago next month. As a result of the lingering effects of the pandemic, the afterschool field is suffering from staffing shortages, budget cuts and funding crises for many of the remaining afterschool service providers. However, the need for afterschool, summer and extended learning hasn't rolled back. It has only increased.

This year the big ask for Afterschool Advocacy week has been for New York State to restore the $5 million cut to the Advantage After School Program and provide $169 million to align the three-state afterschool funding streams- Advantage; Empire State, Extended School Day/ School Violence Prevention Program- towards actual programming costs. 

The Network and other advocates also ask that New York State increases Empire's per-student rate to $4,300 in the budget language so that programs can cover their costs better. Furthermore, we asked to dedicate a line-item fund of $250,000 to increase the capacity of the Network for Youth Success to provide afterschool with crucial technical assistance support.

In leveraging the collective voices of students, parents, staff, and advocates to our elected officials, we needed to share stories about the real-world impact afterschool has on the community. 

Last summer, ExpandED Schools conducted a site visit at P.S. 089 Cypress Hills in Brooklyn, working with the youth-serving nonprofit Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation. We saw firsthand how afterschool and summer learning is essential to our communities' response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the entire day, the program allowed students to be in a classroom again since so many students had been out of the school building during remote learning. It was a semi-return to normalcy for middle school and a first for elementary school students.

The impact of the program at P.S. 089 Cypress Hills in Brooklyn spoke to a talking point we addressed with the Legislative Offices of Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Assemblymember Michael Benedetto and Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins. 

Out-of-school time learning programs have been crucial to helping young people and their families through COVID-19, and ongoing economic and social crises by providing services families missed out on during remote learning. We saw the P.S. 089 Cypress Hills program provide parents and their young children free and low-cost meals, including breakfast and lunch, to families in need. 

In sharing our story about the summer program at P.S. 089 Cypress Hills and similar stories coming from partners such as the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, we conveyed the around-the-clock work these programs provide for youth, families, and their staff.

Considering how the pandemic has pulled students out of the classroom and out of the school entirely, providing these meals is even more critical for preventing hunger and promoting kids' health.     

Furthermore, as the pandemic persists, it is clear that families, young people, and schools also need broader support to meet the Social Emotional Learning needs of the community. Afterschool professionals who are educators, mental health counselors and social workers are necessary to the health and wellness of these local communities.

Need for SEL is why one of our asks for the FY 2022-23 budget included a requirement for school districts to receive new RECOVS learning and mental health grants to demonstrate mutual collaboration with at least one community-based afterschool, youth or mental health partner to help students recover from the social, emotional and academical losses caused by the pandemic. 

In some positive feedback from the Legislative Office of  Assemblymember Michael Benedetto, his trusted Chief of Staff John Collazi was very supportive in saying, "It's a new day, new governor, we'll see what we can do."

We look forward to seeing what changes our week devoted to advocacy and ongoing efforts bring from our youth, families and communities.

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