Municipal Leaders Answer U.S. Secretary of Education’s Call to Action


  • Emily Young
August 7, 2023 - (5 min read)

What is the Engage Every Student Initiative?

Afterschool and summer learning programs play in the lives of young people, the Secretary has asked communities across the country to ensure that every child who wants to participate in an afterschool or summer learning program has access to one. In response, NLC got to work.  

NLC is a founding partner of the Engage Every Student Initiative, along with its partners at the National Summer Learning Association, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, the National Comprehensive Center at Westat, and the Afterschool Alliance. Engage Every Student was launched by the U.S. Department of Education in response to Secretary Cardona’s call to action and works to support communities as they expand access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs. 

What The Engage Every Student Initiative Can Do for Cities

Engage Every Student is an exciting opportunity for municipalities to be part of a national afterschool and summer learning movement. As we enter year 2 of the initiative, NLC is pleased to share the range of resources Engage Every Student offers to municipalities looking to expand programs in their communities, including:  

  • Compilations of News and Resources: The Engage Every Student Today bulletin is a bi-monthly newsletter with the latest resources, events, and examples of how communities are expanding access to programs. Sign up for the newsletter here.  
  • Customized Stakeholder Guidance: Once a month, representatives from each of Engage Every Student’s founding partners offer office hours. City leaders can log on to ask questions about afterschool and summer learning and receive advice from experts on how to tackle any challenges they may be facing in expanding their community’s programs. Office hours are held on the first Friday of each month from 1-2pm EST online, and the sign-up link can be found in the Engage Every Student Today bulletin. 
  • Webinars with Experts from the Field: Engage Every Student’s monthly webinar series features key experts from the field conducting a deep dive into a specific aspect of afterschool and summer learning. Past webinars have focused on everything from program funding and sustainability to collaborating with municipal leaders. You can find recordings of past webinars here and sign up for new ones through the Engage Every Student Today bulletin. 
  • Examples of Municipal Investments: Looking for examples of how other cities are leveraging their State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to invest in afterschool and summer learning programs? NLC and the Afterschool Alliance’s joint investment map showcases how cities across the country have put these funds to work for youth.  

Celebrating Local Leadership in Afterschool

NLC has continuously celebrated the role of local leaders in afterschool through peer learning communities such as the Afterschool Policy Advisors’ Network and the Mayors’ Education Policy Advisors Network. Engage Every Student has provided NLC with another opportunity to uplift local leadership in afterschool.  

In July 2023, Engage Every Student celebrated its one-year anniversary with the Raise the Bar: Engage Every Student Summit, held at the U.S. Department of Education. Multiple NLC members were in attendance to demonstrate the importance of these programs to cities, including the Honorable Nathaniel George Booker, Mayor, Maywood, IL; the Honorable Lily Mei, Mayor, Fremont, CA; and the Honorable Stephanie Moon Reynolds, Councilmember, Roanoke, VA. Representatives from the Cities of Houston, TX and Orlando, FL were also in attendance. The program included remarks from high-ranking government officials, including Deputy Assistant Secretary Cindy Marten and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, who spoke about how the federal government is supporting afterschool and summer learning programs and encouraged attendees to expand the programs in their communities. A panel discussion on partnerships featured Dr. Shontia Lowe, Executive Director of the Office of Out of School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes for the Honorable Muriel Bowser, Mayor, Washington, D.C. Dr. Lowe spoke about the power of municipal partners in supporting afterschool and summer learning programs and shared that Mayor Bowser is making a historic $5 million investment in afterschool programs for FY 2024.  

The Honorable Lily Mei, Mayor, Fremont, CA and the Honorable Stephanie Moon Reynolds, Councilmember, Roanoke, VA attending the Raise the Bar: Engage Every Student Summit.

How Can Cities Get Involved? 

The U.S. Department of Education has recognized just how pivotal a role municipal leaders can play in this field. Now it’s up to cities to join NLC in rising to Secretary Cardona’s challenge and supporting youth across the country. Municipalities looking to get involved in the Engage Every Student Initiative and expand program access in their communities can:  

  • Become a Engage Every Student Partner by committing to amplify the efforts of the initiative within their networks 
  • Pledge their support for the Engage Every Student Initiative by expanding access to afterschool and summer learning programs. 
  • Consider investing their State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds into high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs. Cities looking for guidance on how to use these funds for youth can reference NLC’s research.  
  • Join NLC and the American Institutes for Research’s webinar on August 22nd, 2023 to learn more about the research behind high-quality afterschool programs and how city leaders can support the programs in their communities.  
  • Have local elected officials visit program sites with members of the media to raise awareness about programs and their importance.  
  • Share program information at city sites like parks, libraries, and recreation centers for families to access. 
  • Join national celebrations like Lights on Afterschool and National Summer Learning Week, which uplift the importance of afterschool and summer learning to young people. Cities can participate by illuminating city buildings, issuing celebratory proclamations, or visiting programs. 

Learn More

For more information on how your city can get involved in afterschool and summer learning, drop us an email!

About the Author

Emily Young

About the Author

Emily Young is a Program Specialist with the Education and Expanded Learning team within the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families at the National League of Cities.