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Cities boost statewide afterschool network efforts.

Statewide networks across the country are bringing cities and states together to strengthen afterschool programs for youth.

At a recent national conference in Atlanta, Ga., organized by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, 230 members of the foundation's 31 state networks convened to discuss strategies, accomplishments and challenges to improving afterschool efforts.

After funding a cohort of states annually for the past four years, the foundation plans to expand the number of networks in 2006.

The main goals of the statewide afterschool networks are to:

* Build partnerships and public will to impact policy development;

* Secure financial resources needed to sustain new and existing programs; and

* Improve program quality.

Featured workshops at the conference demonstrated the importance of city-state partnerships. Many cities invest heavily in afterschool programs as a public safety, community development and family strengthening strategy.

"The leadership and experience developed by the Cities of Grand Rapids and Detroit in creating local afterschool systems has been an important resource to the Michigan After-School Partnership (MASP)," said Mary Sutton, MASP coordinator.

The efforts of Grand Rapids helped lay the foundation for MASP's governance structure and work on standards and licensing. Since 2000, Grand Rapids has fixed a fragmented afterschool system by developing standards, and has created an online searchable program directory, a self-assessment tool and training on the standards.

"The city and state need each other to bring system change," said Lynn Heemstra, administrator of the Grand Rapids Office for Children and Families and member of the MASP Steering Committee.

With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the City of Detroit created Mayor's Tune, an intermediary organization that used afterschool to improve the health and safety of young people. Grenae Dudley, Mayor's Tune executive director and MASP Steering Committee chair, noted that Detroit's relationship with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation brought $100,000 to help fund MASP

In Colorado, the relationship between the Colorado Afterschool Network (CAN) and the City of Denver is a model partnership.

According to Maxine Quintana of the Denver Mayor's Office for Education and Children, the partnership has helped build awareness and public will, engaged local and state policymakers and focused on program quality.

Denver has been investing in afterschool programs for several years and has developed quality standards. The city has created a free professional development training program and is now creating a start-up tool kit for afterschool providers that CAN will use to help smaller and rural communities across Colorado.

"City partnerships are a critical part of our work," said Phillip Chung, CAN coordinator. "The network wants to partner with cities effectively to reach rural, mountain and front range communities that otherwise wouldn't have access to afterschool programs."

Other success stories shared at the conference came from Providence, R.I., Albuquerque, N.M., and Little Rock, Ark.

Since 2004, the Providence After School Alliance has worked closely with the state network to expand afterschool programming, strengthen the capacity of providers, leverage more resources and implement quality standards statewide.

In Albuquerque, Mayor Martin J. Chavez has supported the investment of more than $18 million in afterschool programming. Little Rock was instrumental in creating the Arkansas Out-of-School Time Network with its efforts over several years to convene community stakeholders around afterschool issues.

By engaging other mayors on the importance of afterschool, mayoral champions can create ripple effects across their states. Recognizing that local success stories propel state efforts, state network coordinators have expressed interest in engaging state municipal leagues as partners in theft efforts to reach communities.

As the number of statewide networks expands, they hope to deepen relationships with cities to increase their impact on state afterschool policy and continue to make a difference for young people across the nation.

Details: For more information about the statewide afterschool networks and how to connect with your state's coordinator, contact Bela Shah at shah@nlc.org.

Statewide afterschool networks funded by the Mott Foundation:

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Georgia

Florida

Illinois

Iowa

Kansas

Louisiana

Massachusetts

Maine

Michigan

Missouri

Minnesota

Montana

North Carolina

Nebraska

New Hampshire

New Mexico

New York

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

Vermont

Washington

Wisconsin
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Title Annotation:after school programs for youth
Author:Shah, Bela P.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 13, 2006
Words:683
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