Using Lights On Afterschool for Advocacy - A Report from Detroit

This is an exciting time for afterschool in Detroit. More kids are attending programs. And more programs are focused on quality.

The Detroit Youth Development Alliance (YDA) is breaking new ground to increase awareness and public support for afterschool programs throughout the city. The YDA is a network of more than 200 youth-serving organizations that work to build a city where quality programming that helps kids learn the skills they need to succeed in life is available to all.

The YDA has worked to improve the system of afterschool programming since 2011 by focusing on bringing programs together and stressing the importance of quality.

This work has had a great impact. There are now youth programs in neighborhoods where previously there were few or no options. Programs across Detroit are committing to training their youth workers to better understand how to reach kids. And programs are talking to one another, sharing best practices and collaborating in ways we had not seen before.

It’s great to see, but we’re also still working toward bigger things. We believe that every Detroit youth should have access to and get involved in afterschool programming – and we’re not there yet. In fact, of recently surveyed youth in six Detroit neighborhoods, nearly 20% said they’re routinely alone, unsupervised after school. The programs themselves also need more support, including stable lines of financing. Detroit is one of the biggest urban centers in the country without any form of public financing for afterschool programs. That’s a huge missed opportunity.

We believe what happens afterschool is as important to a child’s future as what happens in the classroom. We need to get that message to more Detroiters. We are using Lights On Afterschool to do just that. As a nationwide rally that attracts 1 million Americans to 7,500 events, Lights On Afterschool is providing a great platform for us to galvanize our allies and to ask city leaders to commit to increasing youth development opportunities. Afterschool programs in Michigan and across the country will host events throughout the month to bring together community leaders, elected officials, parents, businesses and other key stakeholders in demonstrating the importance of out of school time programs in their communities.

In Detroit, we are taking our voices to City Council on October 21. We’re bringing youth, parents and program staff to share their perspectives on afterschool. Afterschool supporters will attend the meeting, wearing the light bulb buttons that signify Lights On Afterschool. We hope that the new Michigan data from America After 3PM, plus our context on what we know is happening (and not happening) for our youth after school, will provide a powerful combination of data with the local, personal perspective.

We also leveraged our Youth Development Alliance conference held earlier this month to share our key messages, and build excitement among our colleagues about our developing advocacy work.

We look forward to sharing more, and welcome the opportunity to connect with our colleagues across the state!

The Detroit Youth Development Alliance (YDA) is a body made up of more than 200 youth-serving organizations and programs throughout the Skillman Foundation’s target neighborhoods. The YDA’s mission is to significantly strengthen the supports and systems that affect youth and help them develop leadership skills and the ability to successfully navigate life. It does this through a collaborative network of youth serving agencies, community organizations and youth. See more at:http://www.skillman.org/How-We-Work/Investment-Areas/Youth-Development#sthash.PjDdKHM9.dpuf