As Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week wraps up this week, a local afterschool program is raising awareness for its value to the community in the face of potential federal funding cuts which may threaten afterschool programs.
Afterschool professionals work with children and youth in school and community-based settings to provide extended learning opportunities and care during out-of-school hours. The National Afterschool Association (NAA) celebrates afterschool professionals during an appreciation week from April 24 to April 28. The week is marked by celebrations and public relations efforts to encourage people to thank afterschool professionals serving children in program and organizations across the nation.
The Hernandez After School Program (HASP) joins NAA in the appreciation week this year. HASP began 17 years ago when a group of concerned parents began organizing to clean up their school’s playground in Egleston Square. These parents became Friends of the Hernandez, which evolved to include support for the HASP.
Today, HASP is a bilingual program that provides academic programming and activities including martial arts, West African dance, and yoga to 165 students.
“We provide a safe and caring place for students to be,” said Sara Kilroy, director of HASP, in an email. “There are really no words to describe the warmth one feels when entering the Hernandez community. On more than one occasion, visitors have commented about the positivity that exudes from this community, a home away from home for many.”
HASP employs over 40 part-time professionals, and is supported by additional local community and college volunteers.
In the early days of HASP, the program received funding from 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), which is the only federal funding source dedicated exclusively to afterschool programs. This year, the Hernandez has been nominated as one of two Boston Public Schools to apply for 21st CCLC funding again. 21st CCLC falls under the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), an agency and funding source which may be eliminated according to the current Trump administration’s budget plans. Kilroy said that HASP would face significant challenges if the CNCS was eliminated.
“An estimated 10.2 million children participate in afterschool programs each year,” said Kilroy. “Today, afterschool programs are viewed as much more than just childcare. They are widely credited as the way to enhance education in STEM, literacy, the arts, social and emotional learning, health and wellness, and more. With that demand comes increased responsibility on the estimated 850,000 of professionals who are making a difference in the lives of our children.”
The AmeriCorps program also falls under CNCS. HASP has been awarded two AmeriCorps positions for the past two years to help build their middle school program and to further develop fundraising.
Kilroy herself was an AmeriCorps member 15 years ago in Los Angeles.
“The experience [of serving in AmeriCorps] changed me, it changed my life and now I have dedicated my life to serving others. What could be more valuable than that?”
For more information about Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week, visit heartofafterschool.com. For information about HASP, visit rafaelhernandezk8.org.