BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Local after-school program providers celebrated Lights On Afterschool on Thursday at the capitol.
Organizations gathered to have a conversation about after-school programs, funding and communities.
“Thursday is a day of celebration for our community and spotlights the importance of keeping the lights on after-school to restore the days when our schools were a haven of not only educational endeavors, but enrichment activities and community fellowship,” said Buddy Proud Executive Director Gaylynne Mack.
Local after-school advocates came to take their picture as a part of a nationwide campaign to spread awareness about after-school programs and their importance, especially after a trying year.
Mack said over 300 children wrote letters to legislators and decorated lightbulbs to lawmakers to show them how much after-school programs mean to them from their perspective. The lightbulbs symbolized keeping lights on after school through support and funding for organizations like these.
“I cannot wait to deliver these stacks and stacks. We have over 300 letters, so we’ll be bringing them by our members of our state legislature so they can read how important these programs are,” said Mack.
She said since the pandemic after-school programs have become even more crucial for youth.
“We see an increase in violence. We see, you know, young people who are dealing with a lot of stressors that they haven’t had the proper tools to deal with. We have a lot of young people that are falling behind,” she explained.
Many of the programs, like Kid’s Orchestra, had to make big changes to try to keep students engaged.
“After-school programming across the nation, you know, the childcare infrastructure virtually crashed. But after-school providers are used to being creative and flexible, and we find ways to still connect with our families,” said Kid’s Orchestra education director Sean Trevathan.
Mack said programs are just getting back to normal as the state’s COVID-19 case numbers decrease.
“So we’re all coming back to be in-person across the country. We can report that 68% of the after-school programs are back to in-person programming. There is another 24% that are not back in-person, but are providing some type of virtual activities for young people,” she noted.
They are calling on lawmakers to invest more money into these programs.
“21ST Century Learning Budgets, which is a big federal grant, we need the backing of any policymaker in our state so that it can be funded year and year again. You know, that provides opportunities for thousands of kids across Louisiana,” said Trevathan.
The governor’s mansion will be lit up in blue, representing keeping the lights on for after-school activities.
The letters written by the students will be delivered to every lawmaker this evening.