Peterson serves on numerous local, state, and national education reform councils and chairs the Afterschool Alliance national board. Always searching for "what works," he has visited more than one thousand educational institutions in almost every state, and in fifteen countries from Singapore to Denmark, Dubai to Mongolia, and Northern Ireland to China and Brazil.
What are the accomplishments you are most proud of?
1. My involvement in helping grow and strengthen the 21st Century Community Learning Centers from serving 1,500 students in ten sites in 1997, with a $1 million federal appropriation, to now providing annually expanded learning opportunities and enrichment in afterschool and summers to almost two million students in 11,000 schools and neighborhood centers, with a $1.1 billion annual appropriation.
2. Serving as the chief developer and editor over three years of Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success (2013) through the partnership with the CS Mott Foundation in producing this landmark compendium, along with almost one hundred terrific authors of the articles.
Where do see the field in ten years?
1. The need for quality afterschool and summer learning and enrichment programs will continue to grow as the number of working families continues to grow and as there is increased recognition that the regular school day and year can't provide all the opportunities, experiences and connections that young people need for positive development and learning to succeed in this 21st Century.
2. Increasingly, afterschool and summer programs will be impacted by anytime, anywhere learning possibilities on one hand. On the other hand, parents are likely to request that afterschool and summer providers keep their children and youth actively involved in hands-on projects, the arts and creative learning endeavors, community service, and learning second and third languages, and be engaged in fitness opportunities and away from electronic devices—unless they are blended into active learning and development activities.
What are the biggest opportunities for the afterschool field?
1. Seamlessly connecting schools and their students and families with providers of quality, engaging afterschool and summer learning, fitness, and enrichment opportunities, because busy families have great, great difficulty in dealing with transportation issues, the variety of options, incompatibility of hours being open and work hours, et cetera.
2. Offering credit or competency-based certification opportunities for meaningful middle-grade and high school-age youth learning and enrichment experiences in afterschool and summers, especially for low- and middle-income students, working with schools and colleges.
What are the biggest challenges facing afterschool?
1. Finding ways for the children and youth of low-income and low middle-income families to have easy access to quality, affordable afterschool and summer programs. Fifteen million families want their children and youth in quality programs and can't find them—and many can't afford them. So we need more local, state, and federal funding for quality programs and also to find ways for parents to realistically contribute through sliding fee scales and through other means so that more affordable programs can be developed and be sustained. This means that afterschool providers and their families and supporters have to become much stronger advocates for funding working with their state afterschool network and the Afterschool Alliance.
2. Breaking down the barriers to school-afterschool/summer collaboration to provide mutually reinforcing experiences and opportunities. Schools, many full of terrific learning resources—art rooms, libraries, science and foreign language labs, fitness equipment—sit locked and closed seventy-five percent of the time, and at the same time, tens of thousands of youth serving groups need space and access to these learning resources that are locked up. Plus there is often inadequate funding for transportation. Why can't schools in joint partnerships with community and youth serving groups serve as youth development hubs or community learning centers for young people and families from 3 to 7 p.m. and in the summers? And why can't school bus transportation budgets be tweaked so that students can easily get to afterschool and summer learning and experiential opportunities in the community--e.g., libraries, museums, park and recreation facilities, Y's, Boys and Girls Clubs, 4-H, community colleges and universities, work site internship programs, et cetera?
What makes an afterschool program successful?
1. The first ingredient is that afterschool programs need to be full of the Six E's of quality programming:
Extra connections, hands, and hope
Educational expertise flows both ways between the schools and community
Excellence and high expectations
Energetic staff (even at 5 p.m. and on a warm summer day)
2. The second ingredient is capitalizing on a range of funding possibilities and fully utilizing volunteer and community partnerships so the programs can be sustained, including:
Parent contributions and support
Diversified local, state, and federal funding streams
"In-kind" resources are fully used
Win-win partnerships with a variety of community and youth serving organizations
Building senior citizen and business support
Edited by Amy L Charles, editorial director of AfterSchool Today magazine, the Official Publication of the National AfterSchool Association.