by Pamela Brasher
It’s the time of year again when many of us resolve (again) to be better versions of ourselves: thinner, stronger, quieter, kinder, less impulsive, less wasteful, more reliable, more generous, and in a hundred other ways, better people.
I’ve always thought that the most important resolutions are the ones that look beyond one’s own waistline, and instead bear on our commitments to family, community and country. So the resolution I recommend to those who might happen to be in the market for self-improvement this year is that they commit themselves to supporting efforts to strengthen our community. That could mean volunteering your time, donating your money or used items, sharing your expertise or know-how or, in whatever way makes sense, giving a little more of yourself.
For example, I’m lucky to work with after school kids every day – to help them overcome challenges, share in their discovery of new experiences, and watch over and guide them as they grow into young adults. At the Santee School District’s Out-of-School Time Programs in Santee we work with over 900 children and try to give them the very best experience we can, keeping them safe, inspiring them to learn, and helping free their working parents of worries about what their kids are up to in the afternoons.
We provide healthy snacks and physical activities to nourish their bodies. We provide assistance with homework to nourish their minds. We provide a time to interact with their peers to nourish their emotions. We provide a variety of experiences which include drama, art, music, sports, science, technology, leadership, and many others. These allow the children to expand their horizons and opportunities
But we’re strained for resources and volunteers, as is virtually every afterschool program I know. Several years ago, it looked as if the federal government was going to provide the resources necessary to expand afterschool care here and across the nation, but now afterschool funding has grown even scarcer, and the Obama administration is pressing to divert already strained afterschool funds to much more expensive programs to extend the school day.
That would mean more students unsupervised and at-risk after the school day ends. Working parents would be without the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their children are safe, and more students would miss out on the innovative, engaging and hands-on learning opportunities that often aren’t available during the school day.
Granted, these are tough economic times. But afterschool programs are a terrific investment. By keeping kids safe from a variety of afternoon hazards and temptations, and by supporting their academic achievement, afterschool programs help kids succeed.
That’s no doubt why the American public overwhelmingly supports afterschool. The parents of 18 million children say they would enroll their kids in an afterschool program – if one were available. But too often, it isn’t.
The federal failure to follow through on the commitment to expand support for afterschool programs is – so far at least – an opportunity squandered.
That’s where New Year’s resolutions come into play. After school programs not only need charitable support from individuals, they also need support from our lawmakers in Washington.
So here’s a two-part resolution I’d suggest: First, resolve to do what you can to help afterschool and other community organizations working on causes dear to your heart. And second, be in touch with your elected representatives in Congress to urge them to do what they can to help, as well. For afterschool programs, that means both providing more funds and saying ‘no’ to efforts to use afterschool funds to support other programs.
Pamela Brasher is the Director of Out-of-School Time Programs in the Santee School District. She is an Afterschool Ambassador with the Afterschool Alliance. To contact your Member of Congress, call 202-224-3121.