I AM WRITING today to talk about the importance of after-school care in my life and in the lives of many Early Language Learning (ELL) students.
I was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and later fled with my family to Uganda. My family was resettled in Concord, New Hampshire in 2014. I was 16 and started my sophomore year at Concord High School. New to the states and new to the English language and culture, my parents were not able to help me with my school work or help me feel comfortable making new friends.
That’s when I started staying after school and attending the 21st Century Community Learning (21C) after-school programming. Not only was I able to access help with my homework, but engaging with other students outside of school helped me grow in confidence socially and in my language skills. 21C was invaluable in my growth and in my junior year of high school I started volunteering at 21C to help other students.
I helped tutor middle school students in math and English, as well as helped out with extracurricular and enrichment activities. It is during the activities that students really grow socially and emotionally, connecting with other students with similar interests.
I know the current pandemic is unlike anything we all have experienced. Concord students are learning remotely to start the school year and learning, and social skills are going to be difficult for some. Like our schools, after-school programs also have had to adapt. We are fortunate that 21C is open and is available to Concord families during this time.
Some after-school programs are not so lucky. Some have lost funding and staff, others have had to adjust hours to accommodate school schedules, some have transitioned to remote assistance, and some have closed their doors.
21st Century Community Learning Centers, like the one here in Concord, are the only federally funded programs dedicated exclusively to support local after-school, before-school, and summer learning programs. Currently, more than 6,100 kids are enrolled in a 21st Century program in New Hampshire, with the state receiving $6.1 million in federal funds. It is critical to keep this funding in place and right now the current administration has eliminated funding in the proposed FY2021 budget.
Supporting after-school programs keeps kids safe, inspires kids to learn, and helps America’s working families. We cannot let these funds slip away.
I am now a senior at Harvard University, studying remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. In my free time, I hope to volunteer once more at 21C, to give back to the program that helped me so much and to help other students feel good about themselves, both academically and socially. I encourage everyone to support afterschool programming, without it many students would be left behind both academically and socially. Please reach out to your representatives and Senators to advocate for 21st Century Community Learning Centers and all after-school care programs.