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3 reasons we need afterschool programs NOW

two girls sitting on a slide in the playground smiling for the camera
Camp Fire Heart of Iowa

Out-of-school-time programs really matter in the day-to-day lives of families and young people. They are also a core strategy in Camp Fire’s mission to connect young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves.

We’ve written about our commitment to developing quality programs before, but we wanted to take some time to talk about three reasons afterschool programs are essential right now

1. Young people are in the middle of a mental health crisis.

This past December, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy made it official when he issued an advisory on the mental health challenges kids, teens and young adults are facing today. Even before the pandemic, more than 1 in 3 high schoolers said they were regularly sad or hopeless, and the isolating effects of the pandemic did nothing to help. Two of the recommendations Dr. Murthy offered were “supporting the mental health of children and youth in educational, community and childcare settings” and  “addressing the economic and social barriers that contribute to poor mental health.” Afterschool programs offer social emotional learning (SEL) in safe environments that strive to be accessible to children of all economic and social backgrounds. 

2. Students are still struggling to catch up after pandemic disruptions.

Although the past school year helped young learners chip away at the COVID-19 learning gap, many students are still behind. Math and reading scores remain lower than normal. Thanks to decades of educational structural racism, Black, Hispanic and Indigenous students are more likely to face pandemic academic challenges. Research has shown that afterschool programs can boost reading comprehension, math scores and overall learning. In fact, 73 percent of afterschool students both get help with homework and participate in STEM activities. High quality afterschool programs can help students make up lost ground academically, emotionally, and socially.

3. There’s a huge shortage of quality afterschool programs available.

According to research by the Afterschool Alliance, even before the pandemic, there were three young people waiting to get into a program for every one attending. Afterschool is inaccessible to 24.6 million children—when even one child missing out on out-of-school-time development is too many. Afterschool programs are one way Camp Fire serves more than 68,000 youth and families annually. We are continually working to expand access, so all kids have equitable opportunities to thrive.

three girls stand together, arms around each other, smiling for a photo
Camp Fire First Texas

Mental health challenges. Pandemic learning gaps. High demand for great programming. These are all reasons why Camp Fire has joined the National Partnership for Student Success. Launched this July, the public-private initiative is designed to drive support to methods proven to help young learners, including afterschool programs! The partnership goal? 250,000 new volunteer tutors, mentors and educators over the next three years. 

Are you ready to help young people thrive after school? Here are three ways you can help: 

  • Volunteer at a Camp Fire afterschool program. Find a council and program near you to get involved.
  • Spread the word about the importance of afterschool programs through Lights On Afterschool next month. The Afterschool Alliance’s annual celebration will be held October 20, 2022. Find an event, share on socials and learn more here!
  • Give to Camp Fire. Your support helps us continue to create innovative, equitable afterschool programming for all kids. Donate today.

September 1, 2022

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