Q&A: Afterschool Alliance’s Jodi Grant on Pandemic Silver Lining



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For over 15 years, Jodi Grant has guided advocacy efforts as Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance, a national organization committed to expanding access to after-school programs. During her tenure she had many rewarding moments, but the one that really stood out – the organizational achievement she says she’s most proud of – was when they got federal reimbursement to feed children in the provinces. extracurricular programs.

“It was huge,” Grant said. “Because now we’re giving kids full meals, not just snacks. ”

Grant says advocacy organizations like his have enabled tens of millions of families to benefit from after-school programs. Without the advocates, she said, after-school programs would have no federal funding.

Grant was not always a strong advocate of extracurricular activities. She was in law school when she got itchy. In her remarks below, Grant explains how she landed on an after-school career path and some glimmers of hope that came out of the pandemic.

How did you end up working in the extracurricular space?

I have always loved children. Even in high school, when I wasn’t a waitress to earn money, I was still a camp counselor. During my freshman summer when I was in college, I worked in a summer apprenticeship program. I had a group of college kids that I was teaching English to and we came up with the idea of ​​writing a journal. The children came up with story ideas, interviewed people and took pictures. Then, when I was in law school, I was a “big sister.” “I also spent a term working for the Youth Law Center with young incarcerated people. When I graduated in law, I decided I didn’t want to work for a law firm. My passions were in the area of ​​civil rights, equity, positive youth development, juvenile justice, education.

What is the most pressing issue impacting extracurricular space today?

The biggest issues have been staff and space, both of which have been exacerbated by Covid. Programs across the country are all grappling with this in various ways. All of Covid’s safety protocols make it very difficult, especially with the delta and pandemic still on the rise, meaning they need to have smaller groups of children and space them out. So you need more staff to spend more time and more space. We review children’s waiting lists to enter due to understaffing or lack of space. A program that previously served 200 children cannot follow safety protocols and still serve 200 children, so they need more space as well as more staff.

Have there been any glimmers of hope for the extracurricular field resulting from the pandemic?

Yes, absolutely, there was a huge silver lining: a recognition that learning happens all the time. And that children don’t have to be physically in a classroom with the teacher to learn. Throughout the pandemic we have seen the creation of learning centers or learning centers where a child could take what was once an after-school program, but now all day engage in a combination of virtual learning and hands-on tutoring and learning. enrichment of the person.

We really hope this will lead to the idea of ​​“Community Learning Centers”, where these learning centers can complement what kids do in school all the time. It could be to learn things that are not offered in their schools, like coding lessons. Ideally, children would earn credits that would be transferable to their schools. For older youth we have internships and apprenticeships and real jobs. There is no reason why children should not be credited for this as well. It’s about creating a model that allows for more flexibility outside of the school day and for kids to get credit for the work they do.

Another silver lining to emerge from the pandemic is a windfall of federal money earmarked for after-school programs. Without being too far-fetched, can you tell me about this $ 30 billion? Does all of this go after school?

Not exactly. The US bailout is setting aside $ 30 billion to deal with the learning loss over a three to four year period. It’s huge. About $ 22 billion goes primarily to local education agencies for Title 1 schools (school districts with high poverty rates). The remaining $ 8 billion is intended for public education organizations. We have tried a lot to encourage education agencies in the state to watch their pot of money. This is because public education organizations can donate that money directly to after-school programs that partner with schools. Right now we’re tracking that about half of the states are doing that, which is really exciting. The other states, unfortunately, just send the money to local agencies.

Children are now vaccinated against Covid-19. Do you think this will make it easier or harder for after-school programs?

One of the things that we are seeing, and it’s not just vaccination but regarding all kinds of responses to Covid, is that it really varies from locality to locality. In Washington DC, I think the vast majority of families and schools support vaccinations and masks, and I hope this will reduce the risk and make it easier to get programs in place. But you have other communities where parents or schools don’t support immunizations and hide themselves. Different communities have very different attitudes about what they need to do to fight Covid. We see after-school programs becoming piecemeal. There is no single solution to all of this because it is different everywhere.

We are not experts on Covid-19, but I will say this: I strongly believe that we should do as much as possible in person with children. Of course, safety must come first. Isolating adults is bad enough; isolating children is really damaging on many levels. And I say this not only as an advocate, but also as a parent.

The details

Title: Executive Director of Afterschool Alliance

Residence: Washington DC

Hobby: Cycling.

“I love to ride a bike which is pretty amazing considering how many horrible bike accidents I’ve had. I was hit by a car and broke my neck, back, teeth and nose. But I always go out on the bike because I love it.

Previous employment: Director of Work and Family Programs for the National Partnership for Women and Families, General Counsel for the Senate Budget Committee, Director of Personnel for a Senate Committee

Education: Law degree from Harvard Law School and an undergraduate degree from Yale University.

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