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The indelible mark of afterschool

Growing up in Detroit, I had many opportunities to engage in a variety of activities. Whether it was the Cub Scouts, tap dance, drum lessons, or sports, my childhood was filled with awesome experiences.

These opportunities taught me the importance of time management, emersed me in a myriad of different experiences that helped me find my niche, and introduced me to caring adults, all of whom left an indelible mark on my ongoing development as an adolescent.

There’s no doubt about the benefits of afterschool programs (also called “out-of-school time” programs) for kids’ academic, social, and emotional growth. Kids in such programs tend to perform better in school; have meaningful, lasting relationships with peers and caring adults; and have a better understanding of their own mental and physical well-being. The message is clear: afterschool programs are great for young people.

But Detroit afterschool program providers often face challenges. Long story short, there are more kids wanting afterschool programs than program providers have the resources to serve. Youth advocates have expressed the need for more funding for programs and the impact it could have on our children.

But what do Detroiters want?

According to data collected by Lake Research Partners, Detroiters also want more public funds dedicated to afterschool programming.

In March, Lake Research Partners polled 600 likely 2022 general election voters about their thoughts on child well-being and their support for afterschool programs. These potential voters represent a wide range of ages, racial identities, gender identities, and other key factors to get the best possible representative sample of Detroit.

Below is a synopsis of some of the key data gathered:

Detroiters want more funding for afterschool, even if taxes are raised

90% of respondents said they would support or strongly support increasing afterschool funding. When they were asked if they would support such funding even if it led to an increase in their taxes 88% of all respondents still showed support.

Even with possible tax increases, Detroit voters have made it clear that afterschool programs are vital and need more funding to have the greatest possible impact on the city’s children.

Accessing programming can be a challenge

While respondents overwhelmingly showed support for afterschool programs, they also noted key barriers that prevent Detroit kids and families from being able to engage with programming. Such barriers include a lack of access to quality, affordable childcare and early childhood education to help working parents; a lack of support for youth living with mental health issues; and financial need.

Afterschool programs are important, but voters also realize that these barriers must also be addressed to make programming more accessible and affordable across the board.

Detroiters recognize the impact of afterschool

Respondents noted there was a significant need for afterschool programs in the city. When asked why they thought such programs were important, they mentioned the following possible benefits:

  • More safe spaces for children to learn and grow
  • Children will be better prepared for their futures
  • Children will see benefits for their mental well-being
  • Older youth will have more career training opportunities
  • Fewer youth will be involved with the justice system with a larger network of caring adults

Detroiters are making their voices heard: afterschool programs are important for whole-child development, and they are willing to do a great deal to make them more affordable and accessible for young people and their families. It’s now up to leaders in communities, government, business, philanthropy, education, and more to make sure our kids have greater opportunities to partake in such life-changing programs.

Read LRP’s findings.

Terry Whitfield

Strategy lead for afterschool, including advisory support to other afterschool efforts. Focus areas include afterschool programming, community organizing, and family supports

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