It's hardly a secret that after-school programs are a signature funding area of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The funder's Learning Beyond the Classroom initiative has rained millions in grants on organizations to support after-school and summer learning initiatives.
Because of Mott's extensive experience in funding after-school efforts, program officers at the funder know that these learning opportunities are most successful when all stakeholders—not just schools and families—are at the table. In particular, a growing trend in after-school programs is the involvement of city officials, who have come to see the value of after-school programs as measures to combat crime, substance abuse, and pregnancy among youth, as well as support working parents.
To further engage city officials across the country, Mott has been partnering in recent years with the National League of Cities Institute. The funder is continuing that relationship with a new two-year $450,000 grant, which extends through October 2016.
The grant from Mott will enable the NLC Institute to continue to engage mayors, city council members, and other municipal officials in after-school and summer learning programs; highlight the importance of support for after-school programs at the local, state, and federal levels; and continue its research and communications outreach on the importance of after-school programs.
This sounds like money well spent to us, especially as momentum grows for after-school programs.
Research by NLC highlights successful collaborations among cities, school systems, and other organizations to support learning opportunities outside the traditional school day. Examples include Louisville, KY, where city, school, and United Way officials have joined forces to increase after-school program participation; Portland, OR, where after-school programs are seen as a key element of a cradle-to-career framework of educational support for Portland children; and Nashville, where the city's After Zone Alliance is adopting a successful model for after-school programs developed in Providence, RI.
Despite these and other successful collaborations, the need for after-school programs remains huge. NLC data indicate that 15 million youth, about 1 in 4, are at home unsupervised after school, without any structured activities. Polls indicate that many parents would send their children to an after-school program if one was available in their community.
With the need for more after-school programs, this is a growth area. And potentially all the more so if Mott and other funders succeed in mobilizing key public allies to support out of school learning opportunities, initiatives, and collaborations that show a potential for success.