By Sam Piha
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2019, we gained a new understanding of why afterschool workers are essential workers. Over the last two years, afterschool programs have pivoted to meet the new needs of schools, youth and their families.
“What we saw during the pandemic was a recognition from K-12 educators of, ‘Wow, afterschool staff have something to bring. These people have something to offer that can help support the whole child in a compelling way.’ I am heartened that expanded learning time is increasingly being recognized as something powerful, effective, and transformative. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I'm seeing more educational leaders look at expanded learning as a field, differently.” – Michael Funk, Director of Expanded Learning, California Department of Education
Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week (April 25 – 29, 2022) is a perfect time to say “thanks” to afterschool workers.
According to the National Afterschool Association, “Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week is a time to recognize, appreciate and advocate for those who work with young people during out-of-school hours. The week is marked by celebrations and public relations efforts encouraging appreciation and support for all the afterschool professionals who make a profound difference in the lives of young people.
Afterschool Professionals are skilled individuals who work with children and youth in diverse school and community-based settings to provide a wide variety of positive developmental relationships and experiences during out-of-school hours. Currently, in the U.S., an estimated 850,000 individuals are practicing members of the afterschool profession.
An estimated 10.2 million children participate in afterschool programs each year, and for every child in an afterschool program, there are two more waiting to get in. Every young person deserves quality afterschool experiences that positively impact their development. It takes skilled professionals to create these experiences. Because of the important role afterschool professionals play in the lives of kids, they deserve recognition and support.”
“When the pandemic started and schools were closed in March 2020, the afterschool coordinators were key players in making sure the families receive information, and schools knew what families needed to support learning at home. From there, our program leaders' role changed to case management and technology ambassadors. We partnered with the district and other CBO's to ensure the families could have their basic needs met. These actions strengthened our relationship with teachers, school administrators and families.” – Youth Worker, Bay Area Community Resources
Begin planning how you will celebrate and acknowledge afterschool programs. To learn more, access talking points and a communication toolkit, go to https://naaweb.org/ideas.