Vermont Afterschool Talking Points
When crafting an argument for the value of afterschool programs, our natural tendency is to tell people about what we do. Although it is important to provide facts and details at this level, it is critical to begin with why afterschool and summer learning programs are essential.
In the U.S. today, more than 11 million children—1 in 5 youth—are on their own unsupervised after school. These children face numerous risks and challenges. They are also missing out on opportunities to learn and grow. Research shows that afterschool, summer learning, out-of-school time, and expanded learning programs offer a range of valuable benefits:
1. Inspiring Learners
- High-quality afterschool programs can lead to improved attendance, behavior, grades and coursework.
- Afterschool and summer programs are real solutions linked to closing the academic achievement gap and accelerating learning gains.
- High-quality expanded learning programs connect youth to their communities and offer them the opportunity to engage with their local neighbors, businesses, and organizations.
2. Helping Working Families
- Afterschool programs help relieve the stress on working families. In fact, parents miss an average of five days of work per year due to a lack of afterschool care.
- 81% of Vermont parents agree that afterschool programs give working parents peace of mind about their children when they are at work. For most families, there is a gap of 15-25 hours per week when parents are still at work and children are out of school and need supervision.
3. Keeping Kids Safe & Healthy
- On school days, the hours between 3 and 6 p.m. are the peak hours for youth to commit crimes, be in or cause an automobile accident, be victims of crimes, smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs.
- For every $1 spent on quality expanded learning opportunities, Vermont gets back $2.18 in long-term savings from reduced criminal activity and substance abuse treatment, as well as accruing benefits from increased high school graduation rates and work productivity.
- Afterschool and summer programs are important venues for improving nutrition, providing access to healthy meals and snacks, and promoting physical activity.
4. Supporting Vermont’s Vision for Education
- Project-based, service learning, and STEM programs cultivate career awareness, build 21st century skills, and support personalized learning plans.
- Afterschool and summer learning programs are well positioned to provide youth, particularly those who are underserved and underrepresented, with opportunities to be college and career ready.
Creating a One-Page Program Overview
Legislators and policy makers are often persuaded into action by hearing the details about what is happening within their own districts. Consider the highlights within your program and be prepared to speak to the following points. Putting together a one-page overview that captures these details is an effective way to communicate critical information. A one-page overview of your program will help to highlight the opportunities available for youth, the outcomes being realized, and the needs your program faces. It’s also a way to standardize how we present program information so that we are unified across the state; working together to communicate our unique messages and program information with clarity and consistency.
The following information is helpful to include in your overview:
- Types of programs and enrichment offered
- Positive outcomes
- Program examples of engaged learning, school/community partnerships, and family engagement
- Number of children and youth served
- Number of low-income children served
- Number of children/youth on a waitlist and re-sources needed to serve those youth
- Resources needed to build/sustain your program
- Contact information for program and director
Tips for creating a powerful one-page:
- Keep each thought short and succinct
- Create headings to make it easy for the reader to skim the page and understand the main points
- Group common facts and figures together under a single heading
- Use bullet points to organize your points
- Add a candid photo that exemplifies learning in action, and don’t forget to include a caption with the photo along with a photo credit when necessary along with the proper photo release forms
- Create a pie chart that communicates your funding sources along with a description of your financial needs
- Use a free online tool at canva.com to make a polished design
Creating an “Elevator Speech”
An “elevator speech” is a short statement of your mission, goals, and needs that could be delivered for the duration of an elevator ride. In other words, it’s a short and sweet pitch that gets right to the point if you only have a minute or two to talk! The purpose and intention of your elevator speech will depend on the audience, but hopefully you can craft a general script that will cover the basics and address:
- Why are afterschool programs important for kids and communities?
- How does your program address these needs?
- What does your program do to affect change?
- Ask for what your program needs to be successful.
Taking the Next Steps
- Become a member of Vermont Afterschool. The stronger our membership, the stronger our ability to speak with one voice. Click here for membership information.
- Attend the Vermont Afterschool & Summer Learning Day. This annual event at the State House provides a forum for afterschool program directors and staff to speak with their legislators about the important working taking place in afterschool and summer learning programs across the state.
- Host a Lights On Afterschool
Event. Lights On Afterschool is a national campaign held each fall to promote afterschool programs. Hosting a Lights On and/or an open-house event at your program is a great way to bring visibility to your program. Plus, fall is a great time to invite your legislators to visit!
- Contact your legislators. Knowing who your legislators are and developing relationships with them is a critical step in advocating for your program. Use the forums above (Vermont Afterschool & Summer Learning Day and Lights On) to talk with your legislators and invite them to visit your program. For a listing of Vermont legislators, visit the Vermont Legislature website. Vermont’s congressional delegation can be found here. Let us know how it goes and
don’tbe afraid to reach out if you need more support or coaching when it comes to communicating with policymakers.
- Write a letter to the editor. Letters to the editor in your local and statewide newspapers are an excellent way to be a strong voice for Vermont’s children and families and influence a large audience (including your elected officials). Check out Afterschool Alliance’s tips on writing an effective letter to the editor.
More Advocacy Resources
- Action Center. This is Spark Action’s “one-stop site for connecting with the people elected to represent you in Congress, and at the state and local levels.”
- Afterschool Alliance Federal Policies. Federal policy plays a big role in the afterschool landscape. Learn about Afterschool Alliance’s current federal policy priorities, as well as the latest federal policy developments.
- Reaching Policymakers Toolkit. This Afterschool Alliance resource has everything you need to advocate.
- Bolder Advocacy – An Initiative of Alliance for Justice. An entire website and organization dedicated to helping non-profits engage in our democratic process and weigh in on issues of public concern.
Do’s and Don’ts When Communicating With Policymakers
- Your homework. Before making contact, learn key background information. Visit the policymaker’s website or read their bio to see what kinds of issues are near and dear to their hearts. Then figure out how you can connect with them.
- Be specific. When you call, email or meet in person, tell the official why you are there and what you want. Your interaction might only last a few minutes. Be sure to mention you are a constituent.
- Establish yourself an expert information source. Elected officials have limited time and staff, and many competing issues to consider. That is why advocacy is so important. You can fill their information gap and become their “expert.”
- Bring materials to leave behind. Leave your elected official with a profile of your program and any other materials that describe your program’s benefits for kids and families in your community.
- Follow up after a meeting. Always send a personal thank you note to the official and staff for their time. If you promised information, be sure to send it as soon as possible.
- Think you have to know everything. It is okay to admit you do not know something. Rather tell them you will find out and get back to them.
- Take too much time. Be mindful of their schedules and time constraints.
- Forget elected officials work for you. You should be courteous but not intimidated.