Afterschool supporters led by the Afterschool Alliance, the National League of Cities, and the National Summer Learning Association are joining with Clear Channel Outdoor (NYSE: CCO) to launch a campaign across more than 1,000 digital billboards nationwide as part of the nationwide Lights On Afterschool celebration. The ads recognize afterschool programs for “rising to the moment” to support youth and families during the pandemic, from providing care while schools are closed, to supporting the learning and well-being of children, to offering meals to those in need.
Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant said “Quality afterschool programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working parents – and Clear Channel Outdoor’s support helps us recognize the tremendous efforts afterschool programs are making to support kids and families during these challenging times. Programs are truly rising to the moment, and we need to help them keep the lights on”.
In its 21st year, Lights On Afterschool is the only national rally for afterschool programs. Throughout October, and leading up to Oct. 22, the official Lights On Afterschool rally, the coalition is involving people across the country in virtual events focused on academics, science, arts, sports and fitness, community service, and more to send the message that demand for afterschool programs is high, too many students are without programs, and the pandemic has increased the need.
In fact, the America After 3PM household survey of more than 30,000 families, commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance, found that participation in afterschool programs has increased to 10.2 million students nationwide – but the unmet demand is great. For every child in an afterschool program today, two more are waiting to get in. Unmet demand is especially high in rural communities and communities of concentrated poverty. One in five students in the United States is unsupervised after the school day ends.
Lights On Afterschool serves as a reminder that a powerful body of evidence demonstrates improvements in grades, school attendance, behavior, and more among children who participate in afterschool programs. Researchers have also found that students in afterschool programs are more engaged in school and excited about learning and develop critical work and life skills such as problem solving, teamwork, and communications.
Organized by the Afterschool Alliance, Lights On Afterschool includes virtual events organized by schools, 4-Hs, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, cities, parks, museums, community centers, and others. These mostly virtual events this year will showcase the skills students gain and the talents they develop in their afterschool programs. In normal times, afterschool programs provide help with homework; skilled mentors; art, dance and music; healthy snacks and meals; computer programming; opportunities to think critically, collaborate and communicate with peers and adults; job and college readiness; sports and fitness activities; robotics; and opportunities for hands-on, team-based learning. During the pandemic, programs have stepped up to provide virtual educational activities, deliver meals and enrichment kits, help families bridge the digital divide, check in with children to ensure their social and emotional needs are being met, connect families to social services, care for the children of essential workers and first responders, and much more.
Clear Channel Outdoor is supporting Lights On Afterschool by donating some of its most prominent space to display afterschool messages on digital billboards, bus shelters, and poster spaces in 25 markets around the country throughout the month of October. On October 22, Clear Channel will feature afterschool messages on two jumbo billboards in New York City’s Times Square, and will bathe Boston’s South Street Station in blue and yellow in honor of Lights On Afterschool, complementing a similar lighting of the iconic Empire State Building that week. Supporters also will be lighting up local landmarks and buildings across the country to show their support for afterschool programs.
Clarence E. Anthony, National League of Cities (NLC) CEO and executive director said “The National League of Cities is proud to uplift Lights On Afterschool again this year. As Lights On Afterschool celebrates its 21st anniversary, NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families celebrates 20 years of working with cities, towns and villages to advance afterschool learning opportunities. Local elected officials have long been champions of afterschool programming – they know the positive impact these programs have on families and communities every day, and they’ve played an even more critical support role during the pandemic.”
This year, NLC is partnering with the Afterschool Alliance to encourage mayors to light up their city halls or issue a proclamation in honor of Lights On Afterschool.
The Afterschool Alliance is a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality afterschool programs.