The National Comprehensive Center (NCC) joined the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, national partners, and students and education leaders from around the country to launch the Engage Every Student Initiative on July 14th in Washington, D.C.
The Initiative will help communities use American Rescue Plan funds alongside other state and local funds to ensure that every child who wants a spot in a high-quality out-of-school time (OST) program has one.
As part of the launch, The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced a public-private partnership with the NCC and four other coordinating organizations: the Afterschool Alliance, the National League of Cities, The National Summer Learning Association, and AASA, the School Superintendents Association. Together, we will work with more than 20 allied organizations to ensure that students have access to these critical learning and development opportunities year-round. This includes inviting more states and more representatives to join our Strategic Use of Summer and Afterschool Set Asides Community of Practice and Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative.
Secretary Cardona described quality OST programs as essential to an equitable recovery.
“We must prioritize the academic, social, emotional, and mental wellbeing of all of our students,” he said. “Students thrive when schools, communities, philanthropies, and governments at every level work together to provide enriching, engaging opportunities for students to learn, grow, and build community beyond the classroom.”
The launch event brought together high school and college students from around the country to share their summer projects and experiences and featured expert panels on system-level collaboration and program quality.
Community of Practice member and panelist Eric Billiet, Expanded Learning Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education, described how his agency has broken down siloes across funding streams and departments to look at expanded learning holistically.
“How did we expect districts and communities to create systems if we just funded a program?” he asked. “By working across our different programs, we could better support local communities to do the same.”
Billiet also touched on a key theme of the day, youth voice. He described Minnesota’s commitment to youth inclusion at all levels, including helping to set priorities for funding RFPs, reviewing proposals, and analyzing data. He challenged all other states to do the same.
Laveta Wills-Hale, Lead of the Arkansas State Afterschool Network, spoke about her organization’s goals of layering and braiding state and local funds to make OST programs accessible and sustainable after ESSER expires. That includes partnerships among libraries, school districts, 4-H clubs, Boys and Girls Clubs, and faith-based and university-based organizations.
“We’ve been describing these opportunities as critical education infrastructure,” she said. “Like physical infrastructure, these opportunities need to be sustained. To that end, our work at the state level [is designed] to ensure that long after these ESSER funds are expended, we have a roadmap forward. We cannot go back.”
The NCC is eager to use its professional learning platforms to fortify system-level connections in service of young people everywhere. Through close partnership with states, Regional Comprehensive Centers, and local teams, we will elevate OST system-building success stories from the ground and address pressing issues on the road to universal afterschool and summer learning opportunities.
Schools, districts, local elected officials, local government agencies, community-based organizations, states, and others connected to out-of-school time efforts can join the initiative by making a pledge and accessing resources. For more information, access a recording of the launch event and visit the Engage Every Student website.