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Leaders: Learning Doesn’t Stop After School

Crain’s Content Studio

Decades ago, after-school programs and youth development opportunities were both plentiful and accessible to Michigan’s children. Those programs and opportunities were available because the state’s leaders knew they were important to children’s development, said Tonya Allen, president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation.

Allen introduced Ready Students, Ready Communities on Tuesday, May 29 at the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference. The session focused on the role after-school programs can play in building stronger youth and communities.

Today, many out-of-school programs are “pay-to-play,” adding to the existing imbalance between the education received by youth from different income levels.

“Middle-class kids and higher-income kids sometimes have 3,000 hours more of after-school programming than poorer kids and children of color,” Allen said. “We have to solve this problem.”

The session, hosted by The Skillman Foundation, featured keynote Karen J. Pittman, president and CEO of The Forum for Youth Investment, as well as panelists Matt Gillard, president and CEO of Michigan’s Children and a former state representative, and Darienne Driver Hudson, president and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

Children need equity in resources and opportunities alongside places to gather safely. They also need sources of inspiration, Driver Hudson said, whose organization is working with the City of Pontiac to balance the scale for underserved children and their families.

“You can tell what a country believes by the way it treats its children,” Driver Hudson said.

Balancing the odds for young people means addressing equity, quality, and readiness so youth will be ready for work and ready for life, said Pittman. That means creating conditions that promote learning anywhere and pouring into children rich instructional experiences, from math to mechanics.

Gillard said the state needs to at least match the $38 million the federal government grants Michigan through its 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative by creating its own after-school learning model.

Key Takeaways:

  • Afterschool programs intentionally teach critical skills, mindsets and habits; they also provide instructional experiences, safety, strong relationships, and individualized support.
  • Seventy-two percent of voter’s support funding after-school programs.
  • There are twice as many applicants to after-school programs than there are funds available in Michigan.
  • Nonprofits need about $80 million annually — $42 million more than the federal government provides — to support children through out-of-school programming. But using funds gathered from possibly regulated online sports betting could help bridge the funding gap, Gillard said.

This article was written by Crain’s Content Studio for the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference.