Expanded Learning Opportunities

According to the 1970 Census, the median household income in the United States was $9,590. In 2014, that number rose to $53,657. While this sounds like progress, the nation’s official poverty rate in 2014 was 14.8 percent, which means there were 46.7 million people in poverty. Studies also show that individuals with the most educational attainment were the least vulnerable to being in near poverty, while individuals with the least educational attainment were the most vulnerable. For many, the key to success lies in programs being offered in addition to seat time in school.

Before- and after-school programs serve children and youth of all ages and offer a wide range of programs that include academic support, mentoring, field trips, arts and cultural enrichment, sports and recreation. According to a 2010 report by Yohalem, Pittman and Edwards, estimates suggest that nearly 10 million participate in afterschool programs annually.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has been a champion of afterschool programs, putting together a coalition of stakeholders and organizations that have come together to build good policies and practices to sustain and expand quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities. Now reaching 50 states, the statewide afterschool networks cultivate partnerships and initiatives that develop and support quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities for young people.

Meeting the need is greater in urban and rural areas.  A recent report from the Afterschool Alliance, titled “The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities”, highlights a strong demand for rural afterschool programs. The data indicate that 13 percent of students who live in rural areas participate in afterschool programs, but that for every student enrolled, an additional three would enroll if a suitable program were available.

Afterschool programs are not just for the elementary grades, they have been shown to benefit teens at risk of dropping out as well. Project briefs by the National Conference of State Legislatures and Harvard Family Research state that in addition to giving students something to look forward to when coming to school, students in after-school have less opportunity to be involved in illegal activities, such as drug use and gang involvement, during the critical hours immediately following school. Their findings include higher rates of attendance, lower dropout rates; improved attitudes towards school; stronger connections with adults and peers; improved health and ability to make healthy choices; more opportunities to learn about and choose college and career options.

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