The week’s almost over. It’s a Thursday. My CBL partners and I scattered across the room, waiting for the students to arrive. One by one, they started to come in, smiles on their faces. At this point in the program, different students gravitated to each of us. A rambunctious boy named Jackson always sat next to Ashley, a spunky girl named Teagan always sat next to Alex. Cameron and Breiden would sit next to me; Breiden was an extrovert who talked my ear off about the Call of Duty video game series, while Cameron was more of an introvert, eager to talk about cartoons. At the front of the class sat the “Executive Board”, which included the club’s “President”, Kathy, as well as the “Vice-President”, Lauren. These were only some of the students that took part in the Kiwanis Builders’ Club at Potsdam Central School, the CBL Placement where I was assigned for the semester. In the club, we primarily had two objectives: to create invaluable leadership skills for all members of the club through various team-building activities during the club’s 2-hour session, and to engage with the community through hosting events such as a pancake breakfast for residents in and around Potsdam. The experience was truly great, for the kids, for my partners and I, and for our organizer, Julie Johnson. We had fun, while learning in ways we simply don’t in the classroom.
Now, this blog post is supposed to address my assigned issue for my CBL Class, “Leadership & Civic Engagement”, hosted by our wonderful and passionate professor, Dr. Liz Regosin. And, by this point, Liz is probably wondering why I haven’t addressed this yet. I wanted to lead into my issue by briefly describing my own personal experience this semester, because this made me truly see the importance of after-school activities. My issue was after-school funding, and the opportunities that have been taken away because of this. While Builders’ Club gets funding from Kiwanis, other after-school programs are not as financially secure. I have explored some examples of this problem in my Storify blog (https://storify.com/tylercsands/education-opportunity). While the problem arises with all different demographics throughout the country, I focused on rural communities in places such as Potlatch, ID, or Calcutta, OH. Exposure to learning outside the classroom is especially important in rural communities, due to, in many cases, isolation from more populated areas.
Quite honestly, I’ve found that the issue has not gotten the amount of spotlight that it deserves. There are organizations devoted to the issue, such as Afterschool Alliance. However, none have received sufficient national attention. To many people, after-school attention is very secondary to regular classroom activities in education children. Perhaps this is the reason why the 21st Century Learning Centers program was such an easy target for President Trump’s budget cuts. The Trump Administration knew that the blowback would be insignificant due to the public’s lack of concern. "The Trump administration's call for zero funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers after-school initiative is a betrayal of the millions of students and parents who depend on after-school and summer learning programs," says Jodi Grant*, Executive Director of Afterschool Alliance. "This proposal would devastate working families. It is painfully shortsighted and makes a mockery of the president's promise to make our country safer and to support inner cities and rural communities alike." As I’ve stated in my blog, Trump isn’t exactly helping the “forgotten men and women” that he promised will be “forgotten no more”. However, how will this argument be brought nationwide and given the spotlight that it deserves?
The issue did get a dose of spotlight recently, through none other than the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger brings up an interesting concept: that teenagers and children gain bad influences between 3 and 6 o’clock, when their parents are working. He also mentioned that the government can save “three to six dollars” down the line for every dollar spent on after-school programs, as less money will need to be spent cracking down on crime. Schwarzenegger is a former Republican Governor of California, and he, like me, has an ideology of fiscal responsibility. This could be a good argument to sway Republicans who are looking for places to cut government spending.
The issue of after-school funding is an important one. After-school activities are not secondary to classroom learning; they are equal. I believe that the issue needs more national spotlight, as people don’t consider after-school activities on a daily basis as much as they should. And I also believe that, with the current political climate, after-school activities need to be championed by our politicians, particularly Republicans. If more conservatives spread Schwarzenegger’s point of long-term saving, it could sway the direction of the next government budget plan.