Getting Started With Afterschool

We often hear from municipal officials about the concerns they have for young people in their communities and tremendous need for more and better afterschool learning opportunities. They say they want to use their leadership to get something started in their communities. “Where do I begin? How do I get started?” are common questions we hear. Below are some resources to help you get started and some videos that describe answers to those questions.

Students at an afterschool program

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I am concerned about the lack of activities/opportunities for young people in my city, what is the first thing I should do as the mayor/councilmember to get something started? 

A: One of the first things a mayor or city councilmember can do is convene a meeting with key stakeholders in the community to have a conversation about the range or amount of opportunities that exist afterschool for young people and the impact that the lack of options has on the community. Suggestions for who to convene include the school district superintendent, police chief, the city's Park and Recreation director, leaders from the United Way, Chamber of Commerce, community foundations, large and/or prominent youth-serving organizations (i.e. YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, etc.), faith-based organizations, parents, youth, and other stakeholders that seem appropriate and influential based on the local context. This conversation can set the stage for future action to learn more about what is available and what other concerns people in the community have. Mayors can create a Task Force or charge the group of stakeholders to make afterschool a priority, create a vision for youth, and to determine how to fill gaps.

Q: What can I do to find out if children and youth in my city have enough access to afterschool programs?

A: One way to determine if there are enough afterschool programs in the "right" places for young people and their families to easily access them is to conduct a scan to map the community. Many cities have utilized a geographic information system (GIS) mapping process to visualize the locations of programs across a community and to determine where program gaps may be. A starting place may be to work with an organization or leader who serves young people in the afterschool hours to help you survey afterschool providers across the city to learn what currently exists. If there is no entity serving that function, a mayor can partner with the school district superintendent to issue such a survey. NLC has examples of surveys that other cities have used for this purpose, so please contact us to help.

A useful map will include the locations of all of the afterschool programs and the schools. It can be very powerful to also utilize school district poverty data and city police juvenile crime data to see where the needs are and compare them to where the afterschool opportunities are. City GIS departments can often easily overlay these data points onto one map to create a compelling visual that will incentivize community leaders to take action to either offer additional programming, relocate programs to reduce duplication, make investments, create partnerships, or even utilize mobile programming options to go to areas of town that do not have the infrastructure to serve young people.

Q: We seem to have a lot of afterschool programs, but I do not feel like they are of high quality. How can I help improve the quality of programs?

A: Many communities have this concern and have undergone a process to establish afterschool program quality standards. NLC has many examples of cities that have created their own standards which we can share with you so you do not have to start from scratch. Cities often begin by reviewing standards from other places and convene a wide and diverse group of youth-serving organizations to work on creating a local set of standards that everyone can agree upon and feel ownership for. NLC has also helped city leaders facilitate conversations with afterschool providers to come to consensus on their standards, so please contact us to learn more and let us know you are interested in taking this step.

Q: How can I find financial resources to create more afterschool programs in my community?

A: Unfortunately, NLC does not offer financial support to create programs, but we can inform you about a variety of funding streams that you might be able to tap into. The main and largest federal funding stream that supports afterschool is the U.S. Department of Education's 21st Century Community Learning Center (21CCLC) grants. Over 1 billion dollars is distributed to states and communities to serve young people in the afterschool hours. School districts, cities, and non-profit organizations are all eligible grant recipients, and working in partnership with the schools is always encouraged. Find out if there are 21CCLC grant recipients in your city already or about how you can apply by contacting your state department of education. For an overview of 21CCLC, see the U.S. Department of Education's website.

Other federal funding streams also support afterschool programs. For a range of resources on funding streams as well as publications on the cost of afterschool programs, please see the Finance Project's website.

Q: What is NLC's afterschool Policy Advisors' Network (APAN) and how can I join?

A: APAN is a network of elected officials, senior city staff, and their partners who are interested in afterschool. NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families created APAN in 2005 as a way to regularly communicate with city leaders about all the exciting work happening in cities and on the national level related to afterschool. Regular e-newletters to APAN members share information on news in the field, funding opportunities, informational webinars, city examples, and much more. Interested city leaders are encouraged to join. Contact Erika Pierson to join. More information on APAN »