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​​​​​Front row, from left: Justin Davis ’15, YDEV Field Coordinator Rachael Ficke Clemons and YDEV Co-Director Lesley Bogad. Back row, from left: Melissa Dubois ’16, Gustavo Rodriguez ’17, Ilana Tirocchi ’17 and current students Amanda Hey and Jacqueline Gilligan​​​

Ninety-one percent of Rhode Island [Afterschool Leadership Circle] partners agree that schools alone are not enough. To develop the skills needed to succeed, children and youth need to participate in additional activities after school and during the summer. – United Way of Rhode Island​

At the Rhode Island State House on May 25, faculty, students and alumni of RIC’s Youth Development Program (YDEV) joined with afterschool organizations across the state to promote the value and importance of afterschool programs. 

Organized by the United Way of Rhode Island’s Afterschool Leadership Circle, participants gathered at tables in the rotunda and discussed their programs with elected officials. The overall message of the day was that afterschool programs serve a critical function and that both federal and local funds are needed to sustain them.

Under the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, federal grant money is designated to organizations that provide afterschool and summer learning programs to support underserved students who attend high-poverty, low-performing schools. “Across the state of Rhode Island, more than 50 communities, serving more than 13,000 students, benefit from 21st CCLC funding” (Providence After School Alliance​). Recently, President Trump’s proposed budget eliminated this key funding stream.

RIC YDEV and other organizations spoke to legislators about the importance of the 21st CCLC initiative as a key federal funding source for afterschool programs and expressed the importance of building an afterschool environment in Rhode Island where the young and underserved have the resources they need to thrive and succeed.

“The work we do in the Youth Development program at RIC is very linked to the work of out-of-school programs in Rhode Island,” said YDEV Field Coordinator Rachael Ficke Clemons. “We prepare our graduates to lead youth by giving them strong foundations in social work, education and nonprofit studies.” And these skills are used in a wide variety of services offered by afterschool programs, such as arts, civic engagement, STEM, service learning as well as internship and apprenticeship programs.

Research suggests that of the students who regularly attend high-quality afterschool programs “close to one in three [students] improve their math and language arts grades, seven in 10 improve in homework completion and class participation and two in three improve their behavior in class” (Providence Afterschool Alliance).

Afterschool programs also help children and youth “find and grow passions” that “affect their entire lives,” added Justin Davis ’15, graduate of RIC’s YDEV program.

And quality afterschool programs are hands-on, experiential and encourage youth voice: “They are spaces unbound by typical [school] regulations, so they are able to mold their objectives to uniquely fit each youth,” said YDEV graduate Lauren Kelley ’17.

Now working for At Youth in Action, YDEV graduate Ilana Tirocchi ’17, noted, “Our staff stop at nothing to make sure young people are heard. It’s very special when young people and adult allies can work together, co-exist, collaborate and create beautiful things.”

Among the organizations who participated in Afterschool Day at the State House were the Afterschool Leadership Circle; Beat the Streets Providence; Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Ocean State; Boys and Girls Club of Rhode Island (seven sites represented); Connecting for Children and Families; Cranston 21st Century Community Learning Center; Jewish Alliance of RI, J-Space and J-Cation Camp; Kids Klub; New Urban Arts; Newport 21st Century Community Learning Center; Office of Children, Youth and Learning; Providence After School Alliance; Providence Public Library; Young Minds in Motion; Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children; RIC Learning 4 Life and College Visions; RIC Youth Development Program; and Save the Bay.