by Bela Shah Spooner
Mayors, state and city agency directors and young people gathered in Dearborn, Mich., on September 21 to participate in a statewide mayoral summit on afterschool and expanded learning. "The Michigan Mayoral Summit: Helping Our Youth Succeed in the Workforce" was held as a preconference session at the Michigan Municipal League's (MML) annual convention. The event was sponsored by the Michigan After School Partnership (MASP) in partnership with MML and NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute).
Co-chaired by Grand Rapids, Mich., Mayor George Heartwell and Adrian, Mich., Mayor Gary McDowell, president of the Michigan Association of Mayors, the summit focused on successful citywide afterschool system-building efforts and highlighted how mayor's youth councils can provide a unique expanded learning opportunity.
The gathering was the last of five statewide mayoral summits on afterschool that the YEF Institute has supported through technical assistance and small financial grants made available through the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The YEF Institute has also partnered with statewide afterschool networks and state municipal leagues to organize summits in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa and South Carolina.
More than 500,000 young people across the state of Michigan go home unsupervised after school. MASP was created in response to a recommendation by a legislative task force to determine what afterschool learning opportunities Michigan youth need. The Michigan Departments of Education, Human Services and Energy, Labor and Economic Growth have all supported the development of MASP as the state voice for afterschool. The summit offered an opportunity to highlight mayoral leadership in cities across Michigan, connect city leaders to MASP's state policy efforts and encourage mayors to play an active role in supporting young people through citywide partnerships.
"At a time of fiscal constraints, we can multiple our strengths by partnering across communities, organizations and agencies," said MASP Executive Director Mary Sutton.
Grand Rapids has maintained a strong commitment to youth for many years. Early in Mayor Heartwell's term, he set a goal of ensuring that a quality afterschool program is available in every public school in the district. The city achieved this goal in 2009, and all 47 schools across the city now have afterschool programs.
"Youth are our future, but they are also our present," said Heartwell. "Youth represent a resource cities should develop and tap."
Todd Lipa, director of youth and family services for the City of Farmington Hills, Mich., joined youth from his community in sharing information on how the city has invested in afterschool programming for more than a decade. Farmington Hills Mayor Jerry Ellis' Youth Council has also played a significant role in raising funds and strengthening partnerships with businesses to open new afterschool centers.
Mayor McDowell formed a Mayor's Youth Council in Adrian in 2006 and has focused on how to connect young people with businesses, colleges and mentors.
"We are stressed by the changing needs of our society, and often the needs of youth are not at the forefront. We need to support, mentor, encourage, reward and love them," said Mayor McDowell.
Summit participants expressed interest in additional information and guidance on how to support afterschool opportunities in their cities. In response, MASP plans to follow up with participants and serve as a resource for local officials.