Advocacy in Harrisburg: Support for Afterschool Programs

By Arwen Kozak – 11th Grade, Pittsburgh CAPA

“Everybody here will become an adult… I can look back and say I know people who grew old but they never grew up,” Pittsburgh Representative Ed Gainey told a room of students at the 2016 after school Advocacy Day. Organized by the Pennsylvania Statewide After school Youth Development Network (PSAYDN), individuals and organizations from across the state came together to, according to PSAYDN, “highlight the importance of after school and out-of-school time programs in Pennsylvania” and it allowed students to meet with legislators and officials to discuss their own experiences.


Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time, or APOST, is advocating for “an active bill to form an after school council that includes representatives from the Department of Education, Human Services, Labor, and after school leaders to find ways to streamline existing funding methods to increase access and improve the quality of [after school] programs.” They assisted students in managing their time and responses while participating in advocacy day, and the students collected information regarding the legislators’ responses, whether they were positive or negative.


When meeting with students, Representative Gainey responded with succinct personal narratives of his own childhood and growing up in Pittsburgh’s East End. He was kind and charismatic, taking time to talk with individual students and take plenty of pictures. The conversation diverged into the broader platform of community development, which he characterized as “more than [the] bricks and mortars” that has been brought to East Liberty.


“I will never put a building before people,” he said in response to the concentration of gentrification in his old neighborhood. To fully develop a community, you must expand opportunities in social service networks, education, human development, and positive messages, according to Gainey. He was firmly supportive that this should include the development and funding of quality after school programs, and when asked about the after school council proposed by APOST, he was very enthusiastic.


Other legislators were more hesitant for financial reasons, such as Senator Valakovich, who was in support after school programs but worried about the feasibility of funding them. Growing up in Etna, he said he regrets not having access to more programs in his own childhood. He was impressed with the Career and Technical Education program in place at Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy in Homewood, and believes that there should be a study focused on the effectiveness of after school programs to ensure that the successful ones can be funded. His support of APOST’s proposal was credited with his assurance that this means money must be spent better, since there is only so much money to go around to a very large group of people wanting to utilize it.


Arwen Kozak

By Arwen Kozak – 11th Grade, Pittsburgh CAPA

Arwen Kozak is an 11th grade student at Pittsburgh CAPA hailing from Friendship. She has been a Youth Reporter for Pittsburgh Youth Media for 2 years and enjoys acting and reading in her spare time.

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