From Mississippi to Michigan, we're all charged with the same task: Inspiring, Connecting and Equipping students, parents and the community with resources. While each community has unique challenges, what connects us is hope for a better future through the rising generations and use of the available resources. For decades, the afterschool field has risen to the challenge, providing students and families opportunities to grow holistically in many areas. High-quality afterschool programs are grounded by the support of resources available within their communities.
Every state has agencies, higher education institutions, libraries, museums, businesses and community organizations offering services that support students served by afterschool programs.
Department of Mental Health
Many programs have developed partnerships with mental health professionals, ensuring they are prepared to meet challenges faced by students. Each state's Department of Mental Health typically has regional offices providing outreach services and training opportunities. The emergent Youth Mental Health First Aid training certification is offered to individuals working with students, helping equip them with strategies to use when a child experiences a mental health crisis. Explore possible partnerships with your state's Department of Mental Health.
Higher Education Institutions
Community colleges and universities offer unique opportunities, from college tours to mentorship programs among afterschool students, college students and faculty. Hiring college students to work with programs or establishing volunteer opportunities connects the institutions to afterschool and can improve programming. Many community colleges focus on preparing students for the workforce and technical jobs. Developing community college partnerships could afford opportunities to inspire students to explore career pathway programs and more.
Museums contain a wealth of knowledge to extend to afterschool students, who can learn historical facts and ignite creative thinking by visiting. Scheduling field trips and staying connected to local museums provide extended learning opportunities and new explorations.
Radio and television stations inform the public of noteworthy news. Connecting with local media outlets could provide opportunities for afterschool programs to gain support of initiatives, internship openings and marketing. Social media sites are also relevant, useful resources for afterschool programs. These resources can be a positive community voice to advocate for program support.
Community banks provide monetary sponsorship and could provide financial literacy seminars to students and families. Banks are great resources when holistically developing programming to teach students how to financially prepare for the future. A bank could allow a wonderful partnership, developing to address program participants' financial needs.
Major/Minor League Sports Organizations
Not every state has major/minor league sports organizations, though most have some sport organization that could be contacted to garner support. Requesting players give time to afterschool programs by reading a book, throwing a ball or offering encouraging words could inspire students in an amazing way.
Small businesses help fuel the American economy. Asking local businesses to speak with afterschool students and share success or provide incentives is a sustainable resource that could benefit both afterschool programs and businesses in strengthening community relations.
Community and nonprofit organizations are often formed to meet community needs. Leveraging their resources is a win for afterschool programs and the organizations wishing to offer services through partnership. In Mississippi, Families First seeks to strengthen families of all backgrounds and life circumstances; through seminars, workshops, classes and presentations it provides youth development and parenting education. It's one of many organizations nationwide with resources overlapping the needs afterschool programs strive to address. Utilizing community organizations that offer low- to no-cost services is ideal for afterschool programs. Partnering with them is a sustainable opportunity that could benefit both parties.
States and regions differ. Yet in the afterschool field, we are universally connected in providing the best possible experiences and resources to the students and families we serve each day. The resources noted here are a few we could connect with when developing unique, engaging opportunities.
When we all work together as a community and nation—as partners, unified in making the future brighter for the children we serve—we exude resounding unity that partnerships can work.
Dr. Tierra Flowers, a graduate of Tougaloo College and Jackson State University, is the Assistant Project Manager for the Career Development Academies, an afterschool and summer learning initiative at the Mississippi Community College Board that is funded by the Mississippi Department of Human Services Workforce Development Division.