By Malyk Johnson – 12th Grade, Allderdice High School
On April 12, 2016 Allegheny Partners for Out of School Time (APOST) took three buses of students from the Pittsburgh Area to the Capitol building in Harrisburg. Students and staff were brought in to participate in a rally to highlight a bill to form an afterschool council to find ways for streamlining existing funding methods to increase access and improve the quality of afterschool programs. Throughout the day students were scheduled to meet with various representatives and other members of the state’s congress in order to get their opinions on afterschool programs.
During conversations with Senator Randy Vulakovich and Representative Ed Gainey, both discussed their upbringing and why they think afterschool programs are important. “Nobody is against afterschool programs Funding and placement is the mark” Vulakovich told the room of students. Vulakovich, who was raised in Etna Pennsylvania, described going to a YMCA center downtown and the Boys and Girls Club in Lawrenceville. “For us after school activities were always sports of some type, and once you got to school it was whatever activities you were in. Now for most of you, especially if you’re in high school, there are a multitude of activities you can be in, but for certain age groups they don’t have that. So much is revolved around sports but sports aren’t for everybody.” For those who don’t have a YMCA center, Vulakovich recommends churches and community organizations which often create afterschool opportunities for children. ”For me, the churches are a focal point for activities. Usually the families that go to the churches work together and they can do some pretty neat stuff.” “The afterschool programs are important if you don’t have anything to do after school. Some kids might not need them because of the type of home life they have. But the important thing about afterschool programs is you’re communicating with different people and building a strong neighborhood.” Vulakovich continued.
Students from the Grayson Center told Representative Ed Gainey about the different programs they offered and why those programs were important. They discussed the program “Real Rap” telling him about how they vent their problems to an adult for an hour in a conference room, freeing the students from the tension of their problems. Gainey responded positively to the description. He went on to explain why programs like “Real Rap” help young people mature into a man or woman. “At 21 everyone in this room will become an adult. The problem is that 21 isn’t the age that determines whether you become a man or a woman. I know people who I can say grew old but never grew up, they’re living in a second childhood. So when you see people on the corner at 40 they never grew up they just grew old. If you can’t talk about the problems that are bothering you, you can’t grow up.” When asked if he supported an afterschool council to find ways to streamline existing funding to increase access and quality to afterschool program, Gainey replied “Yes, absolutely next time I would like you to go to the head of the Department of Education and Health and Human Services, and ask if there is a bill that already exists, so that the kids can learn to advocate bills.” After his response, Rep. Gainey went on to talk about gentrification and community development. He described the difference between the two and said “Community development is more brick and mortar. Community development is how you expand more opportunities to communities. One of those opportunities is education. The other is Social Service nets that catch people before they fall too far behind in the gap. The other is messaging. Gentrification is when you have homes that are more expensive than the market value. You have to find a balance.” Both talks were positive experiences for everyone involved.