Celebrating America's Afterschool Programs

A little girl holds a blue painting with a butterfly and dots while standing in front of a colorful painting.
Grace, one of the author's daughters, found her passion for painting and crafting during afterschool time and used the skills to boost her self-confidence.

About six years ago, my husband Robert and I adopted three amazing young kids from Ukraine. Adjusting to our new family life was challenging. Our oldest and biological son, Jack, was no longer the only child. His new siblings—Max, Grace and Levi—spoke only Russian and were surrounded by new people, starting at a new school, eating unfamiliar foods and living in a different home. My husband and I both had demanding jobs. Life was chaotic!

This was especially true during the weekday afternoons because our schools let out several hours before my work day ended. Like millions of parents nationwide do, I turned to our local afterschool programs for support. Not only did afterschool give me peace of mind and allow me to finish my workday without worry—each of my kids benefited in a unique way. 

Grace found her passion for painting and crafting. Mastering new skills helped to boost her self-confidence. Levi tried karate and joined the gardening club. Both activities helped to ease his anxiety and improve his ability to focus. Max really bonded with one of the counselors and their interactions helped Max learn how to make friends and improve his social skills. 

There are millions of stories like these that demonstrate the impact afterschool programs have on kids and families across America. 

Afterschool offers new learning opportunities that engage kids in hands-on projects and teach them how to work together, communicate and lead. It’s a place that sparks passion and fuels imagination, helping kids discover who they are and what they love to do. Kids in afterschool also improve their grades, work habits, school attendance and have higher graduation rates. 

This week marked the 20th anniversary of Lights On Afterschool, an annual celebration of the afterschool programs that serve more than 10 million kids nationwide. Efforts coordinated by the Afterschool Alliance resulted in an epic 2019 celebration involving more than a million people at 10,000 events. 

Students, parents, educators, business leaders, policymakers and community members came together at schools, parks, museums and other venues for events focused on space exploration, growing and cooking healthy food, community service, technology, the arts and more. 

The Council for a Strong America released a new report, From Risk to Opportunity: Afterschool Programs Keep Kids Safe, showing that afterschool programs are one of the best strategies for preventing crime and keeping kids on track for success in school and productive careers. 

Landmarks across the country—from New York’s Empire State Building and the Orlando Eye to New Orleans’ Superdome and San Francisco’s City Hall—were lit in yellow and blue to show their support for afterschool programs. 

Clear Channel Outdoor ran roadside billboards promoting afterschool in more than 1,300 markets nationwide and donated some of its most prominent space, including digital billboards, in New York City’s Times Square. 

I’m so proud to be a part of the team at Burness that supports the Afterschool Alliance and the afterschool networks in each of the 50 states. This work is critical for helping young people reach their full potential, for supporting working parents and for keeping our kids and communities safe. 

Right now, nearly 20 million kids in America are waiting for an available afterschool program. Learn more here