Mayoral Summits on Afterschool in Four States Highlight the Role of City Leaders

June 4, 2012

by Kim Eisenreich and Bela Shah Spooner

With support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and The Wallace Foundation, NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families is providing technical and financial assistance to nine statewide afterschool networks that are collaborating with state municipal leagues to host mayoral summits on afterschool and expanded learning.

Thus far, four statewide networks have hosted summits with resounding success in Nebraska, Minnesota, North Carolina and Washington. Additional summits will take place in Virginia, Maryland, Louisiana, Oregon and Pennsylvania over the next few months. The goals of each summit are to inform municipal leaders of the importance of afterschool opportunities and help them strengthen afterschool efforts in their communities.

Collectively, nearly 400 local elected officials - joined by school district, county and philanthropic representatives - have attended the summits. Key topics discussed have included promoting workforce development, improving program quality, increasing engagement in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), building coordinated systems of afterschool, building partnerships and financing afterschool programs.

As a result of the summits, the networks have been able to identify and support local champions of afterschool programming, establish new partnerships with state leagues and corporate sponsors, and mobilize communities to develop and sustain afterschool opportunities for children and youth.

Nebraska: Statewide Mayoral Summit on Afterschool

At the League of Nebraska Municipalities winter conference held last February in Lincoln, the Nebraska Community Learning Center Network convened mayors, city councilmembers, state and city agency directors, afterschool providers and the state commissioner of education for a statewide mayoral summit on afterschool and expanded learning hosted by Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle.

Gary Person, city manager of Sidney, Neb., a small town of roughly 6,700 residents, discussed how he has worked with local businesses to sustain community afterschool programs that serve more than 250 students after the city's federal 21st Century Community Learning Center funding ran out.

Police Chief Larry Thoren from Hastings, Neb., shared how the Hastings Police Department has offered afterschool programming to older youth as a crime prevention and community-building strategy. As a result, the police department has strengthened its relationship with young people and has leveraged additional resources, including college and AmeriCorps volunteers.

Gary Wasdin, representing the Omaha Public Library, discussed how Omaha has been able to provide homework "hotspots" and other afterschool programming in local libraries throughout the city. His department has also created a mobile program that brings library resources to students at local schools.

One of the key issues raised at the summit was the need to educate young people about the workforce opportunities within their communities and their state.  Larry Johnson, president of the Nebraska Trucking Association, stated that young people are often unaware of the varied opportunities available within the transportation field and the kind of education needed to qualify for those positions. The out-of-school time hours offer an opportunity to not only build workforce development skills, but also to connect young people to careers in their own backyard.  Nebraska will host a webinar in August and a second afterschool convening in September at the state league's fall convention.

Minnesota: Building Citywide Systems for Learning Beyond the Classroom

In partnership with the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties and the Minnesota School Boards Association, the Minnesota Statewide Afterschool Network (an affiliate of Youthprise) brought together 120 municipal elected officials, school board members, nonprofit organizations and local foundations for a day-long summit on afterschool system building. NLC Second Vice President Chris Coleman, mayor of Saint Paul, and Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis co-hosted the event.

Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation, gave a keynote address highlighting the foundation's commitment to citywide afterschool system building and the critical impact of afterschool programming in cities. A panel of youth leaders from three different communities inspired participants by sharing how afterschool programs have helped give them a voice and prepare them for life after high school.

Numerous city leaders participating in the summit expressed interest in applying for small grants from Youthprise to either start an afterschool system-building process or expand existing system-building efforts.

North Carolina: Strengthening Opportunities for Children and Youth from "3 to 6"

The North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs (NC CAP) hosted its summit last April in Charlotte, in partnership with the North Carolina League of Municipalities, the City of Charlotte, the Public School Forum of North Carolina and many private funders.  This two-day event brought together 60 municipal elected officials and 350 other stakeholders, including afterschool providers, school board members, school district administrators, funders and corporate leaders.

NLC Immediate Past President James Mitchell, Councilmember of Charlotte, N.C., highlighted the impressive investment that his city has made in afterschool over the last decade.  Mayor Anthony Foxx of Charlotte, Mayor Terry Bellamy of Asheville, Mayor Pro Tem Susan Kluttz of Salisbury, Mayor Al King of Goldsboro, and Mayor William Bell of Durham shared their perspectives on how afterschool programs help address crime and childhood obesity and support workforce and economic development and academic achievement.  North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis kicked off an award ceremony in which NC CAP honored these five mayors as champions of afterschool in their communities and across the state. 

Speakers also discussed ways to eliminate siloed approaches among cities, school districts and nonprofit providers offering programs that are not coordinated with one another.  Cities have developed coordinated afterschool systems to expand access to programs, improve program quality through joint professional development, maximize city resources and collect data to help shape investment decisions.  In addition, summit participants learned about new grant opportunities and resources to support afterschool programs from Time Warner Cable, the U.S. Tennis Association, Duke Energy, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and the North Carolina Division of Public Health. 

The summit concluded with a keynote address by Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, on the importance of believing in young people and providing them with a rigorous STEM curriculum to prepare them for the workforce.

Washington: Building Community by Helping Kids

The Washington Afterschool Network, an affiliate of School's Out Washington, held two regional mayoral summits in May in partnership with the Association of Washington Cities - one event in Federal Way, Wash., at a local community center and the second in Cheney, Wash., at the local Boys and Girls Club.

As the keynote speaker at the Federal Way summit, former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice spoke about how his city supports young people in the out-of-school time hours and the investment the city has made over decades through a tax levy.

In Cheney, Kenneth Watts, general manager at Comcast, gave a keynote address describing his personal reasons for championing afterschool opportunities. As a father of triplets, he and his wife relied heavily on afterschool opportunities to ensure their children were well prepared for life after high school. He also spoke about the role of the Comcast Foundation in giving back to the community by supporting afterschool opportunities for young people.

Both summits addressed issues of program quality, workforce development and the role of municipal leaders. One local parks and recreation staff person described how her city's adoption of a quality assessment tool provided local afterschool providers with a common language and definition of quality programming. Participants also discussed how they can use regional and county partnerships to serve more youth. While working across city jurisdictions has its challenges, participants felt that collaboration will be vital to sustaining afterschool opportunities as cities continue to operate under tight budget constraints.

Details: For more information about upcoming summits in Virginia, Maryland, Oregon, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Nebraska, contact Kim Eisenreich at eisenreich@nlc.org or (202) 626-3035 or Bela Shah Spooner at spooner@nlc.org or (202) 626-3057.