Cities with municipal leaders that recognize the importance out-of-school time programming are more likely to provide high-quality learning opportunities for youth and children. This is true for large and small cities alike, including Hammond, La.
The City of Hammond is located between New Orleans and Baton Rouge and has approximately 20,000 residents. Concerned with the overall health of the community and the lack of out-of-school time opportunities for young people, Hammond Councilman Lemar F. Marshall worked with the Louisiana Center for Afterschool Learning (LACAL) and NLC to learn how other cities implement afterschool programs and to gain a better understanding of the steps and resources needed to create a citywide afterschool program in his community.
In August 2012, Councilman Marshall attended LACAL’s Mayoral Summit on Afterschool. It was at this event that he realized the important role that he as a local elected official could play in creating and shaping opportunities for young people. As a follow-up to the mayoral summit, he attended the National Conference of the Statewide Afterschool Networks and connected with the Wallace Foundation’s Knowledge Center to learn more about afterschool system building.
Councilman Marshall then convened a key number of stakeholders representing local schools, nonprofits, parents and other key partners to start a conversation around better serving young people in the out-of-school time hours. The Hammond Youth Education Alliance was established in 2013 to ensure all young people have access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities. The formation of the Alliance is highly credited to Councilman Marshall’s passion, energy and leadership around the issue, which is reflected in his remarks to a local news station: “Our children will be responsible for the future of our community and the community is responsible for preparing them for the future. It's not an argument for social justice, it's about economic development and creating a viable and prosperous community.”
Since its inception, the Hammond Youth Education Alliance has been working to develop a strategic plan for afterschool and summer learning. They have collected data from schools as well as from youth and parents to better understand the needs in the community and gaps in service. They are currently in the midst of a community mapping project to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the afterschool landscape.
To further this effort, Mayor Mayson Foster proposed $50,000 in the city's general fund for afterschool. Hammond is the first city of its size to begin to build a coordinated system of afterschool programs.