Link site

State Afterschool Network Provides a Helpful Link | Journal-news

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a four-part series on the recent meeting of 21st Century Community Learning Centers and how 21st Century Grants help deliver after-school programs.

MARTINSBURG — The West Virginia State Extracurricular Network (WVSAN) is one of many networks across the country funded by the CS Mott Foundation. Organizations work to raise awareness of the importance and accessibility of high-quality after-school and summer learning programs for all school-aged children.

The network was represented at the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Meeting, held recently in Martinsburg.

Susan Gamble, director of WVSAN, explained that the network is part of the West Virginia Extension Service and aims to support the quality, capacity and sustainability of afterschool care in the state. Network members share criteria for effective programs and what have proven to be best practices among providers and the public.

Membership in the statewide network extends from state agencies to community organizations, after-school programs, schools, businesses and child care providers. It also includes professional organizations, colleges and universities, and families concerned with improving outcomes for school-aged children through co-curricular and out-of-school programs.

“We basically support those who offer after-school programs,” Gamble said.

According to documentation provided at the recent conference, 30,666 West Virginia students are enrolled in an after-school program and there is a waiting list of over 100,000 for an available program.

The WVSAN follows quality standards, Gamble said. The standards were designed to help out-of-school programs adopt high-quality practices while promoting continuous improvement. The standards, Gamble said, are periodically reviewed and updated as needed.

The current standards encompass seven areas of quality which include administration and management, family and community relations, professionalism and leadership, observation and evaluation, child growth and development, environment and program and health, as well as security and nutrition.

“Our network serves to connect us all together,” Gamble said. “Together, we are stronger in our ability to find funding and achieve legislative goals.”

Through after-school programs, students develop many skills and participate in activities they might not otherwise enjoy. Many of the after-school programs available help equip students for success during their daily school time. Additionally, programs often help children develop skills in areas that cannot be easily taught during the school day. They also help reinforce what can be taught at the family level and support the socio-emotional development of young students.

A recent study after 3 p.m. in West Virginia showed that parents in West Virginia report high satisfaction with their children’s after-school programs. Many consider after-school programs a “lifeline for working families.”

Currently, the demand is very high for additional after-school programs, as well as for schools, businesses, and other organizations who wish to be associated with the success of such programs.

For more information, contact the WVASN offices at 304-720-9884.