Wednesday, October 29, 2008

DCAYA Turns the Lights On Afterschool!

Lights On 2008

Cheerleaders, chess players, and head-spinning hip hop dancers came together at the Lights On celebration of District afterschool programs. While representatives from DC Public Schools, DC Public Libraries, DC Parks and Recreation, DC Alliance of Youth Advocates and the Children and Youth Investment Trust spoke about the importance of quality programs for youth when they are not in school, the highlight of the afternoon was the young people who performed poems, songs, and cheers illustrating the power of these programs.

During the event many organizations presented information at tables, signing youth up for programs and sharing pictures and slideshows about the work youth do at the different sites. Several sites brought their elementary and high school after school programs to the event, and the auditorium echoed with the cheering of students from Lincoln MS, Bancroft ES, Bell Multicultural HS, among others. CYITC Director Millicent Williams’ closing remarks were a call to action to the youth and providers present, saying we must work together to ensure that these programs are well-supported in the District. DCAYA Director Eshauna Smith encouraged the children and youth to find their voice, write a letter, and let decision makers know how afterschool programs affect them.

To that end, DCAYA kicked off our out-of-school time postcard campaign, gathering approximately 25 postcards from those present. Messages ranged from “We need programs to help us and guide us to a better career,” to “Afterschool is important to me because I get to study there. People can help me with my homework.” DCAYA will continue to collect these at member organizations throughout the next months as we create tools to share the importance of out-of-school time programming with those who will be making decisions about city investment in children and youth.

School is not enough. In addition to quality schooling, it is critical that all youth have access to quality neighborhood afterschool programs. Some estimates state only 6% of DC youth have access to afterschool programs. Afterschool programs ensure that youth are safe and positively engaged in meaningful activities. The city must support youth by enacting youth positive policies and comprehensive funding support.

DCAYA thanks all the organizations who participated in making the Lights On event a success!

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