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Municipal leaders discuss citywide afterschool systems.

Local elected officials, municipal staff and community partners recently met to discuss building citywide afterschool systems Leaders from 12 cities convened in Baltimore, Md., to discuss afterschool programs at the first cross-site meeting of the City Leaders Engaged in Afterschool Reform (CLEAR) initiative November 13-15.

NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) selected the cities for the CLEAR technical assistance project in July. The project promotes citywide systems to support expanded learning opportunities for young people.

The 12 participating cities are: Alexandria, Va.; Baton Rouge, La.; Boise, Idaho; Bridgeport, Conn.; Burlington, Vt.; Carolina, RR.; Chicago; Denver; Florence, S.C.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Salt Lake City; and Waterloo, Iowa.

Over the last several months, CLEAR cities have formed community teams to begin a dialogue on building a cohesive system of high quality, accessible afterschool programs. These teams bring together parks and recreation departments, school districts, community-based afterschool program providers, police and sheriff departments, business leaders, libraries, museums and other key stakeholders.

Vision and Commitment

The meeting provided these teams with an opportunity to share best practices and strategies and to learn from national experts about the key elements of creating a citywide system, including the importance of creating a strategic vision for this work.

"There are dozens of steps mayors and councilmembers can take to move things forward, but if the sense of a unifying vision for a system isn't there, moving forward will get lost," said Clifford Johnson, executive director of the YEF Institute.

The CLEAR cities share the goal of making quality afterschool programs accessible to every child. However, they face major obstacles to providing sufficient facilities, transportation and financial resources. Strengthening public will and improving communication systems across city agencies and community organizations are other top areas of concern.

City investments in aflerschool programs represent one key way of overcoming these obstacles.

Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon and David Costello, director of Baltimore's office of community investment, kicked off the meeting by sharing information about the city's new $6.12 million investment in their afterschool strategy.

Links to City Priorities

Many of the local officials at the meeting also recognize the impact that quality afterschool programs can have on other important municipal issues.

"I believe you need to look at afterschool programs in the broader sense of providing education and safe havens for children across the country," said Councilmember Van Turner of Salt Lake City. "We have an obligation to ensure youth can fulfill their promise."

Anson Shells, chief of police in Florence, S.C., noted the connection between the lack of afterschool opportunities and increased juvenile crime.

"Typically police chiefs don't often take part, but they should truly be engaged and involved from the very beginning," said Shells. "Law enforcement should recognize the value of afterschool programs."

The cities will continue to broaden and solidify their community teams over the next month. After receiving action plans from each city, the YEF Institute will select four to six cities to receive more intensive technical assistance for 12 months.

"As local elected officials, we're concerned with economic development and city infrastructure," said Mayor Tim Hurley of Waterloo, Iowa. "But if we are not serving our youth, the rest of the work that the city does is all for naught."

Details: For more information about the CLEAR project or the YEF Institute's broader efforts to engage municipal officials in afterschool reform, contact Bela Shah at shah@nlc.org or (202) 626-3057.
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Title Annotation:City Leaders Engaged in Afterschool Reform
Author:Shah, Bela P.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 28, 2005
Words:575
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