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By Nekia Kemp, Kim Luce and Nora Niedzielski-Eichner

The major investment in after-school programs by Buffalo Public Schools, the Wallace Foundation and Say Yes to Education is an exciting next step in Buffalo’s efforts to improve student outcomes. Research shows that high-quality after-school programs and coordinated support services improve learning and increase graduation rates. The After-School Network of Western New York (ASNWNY), with a 10-year history of fostering excellence in the local after-school field, applauds the recognition of the importance of out-of-school time programming.

More Buffalo families than ever before will benefit from exceptional after-school programs provided by well-respected agencies that offer expanded learning for students from numerous Buffalo Public Schools. Elementary students typically receive academic enrichment, life skills development, physical activity, homework assistance and a snack. Programs for older students often include college and career development and leadership opportunities. In certain schools, where additional resources are available, after-school programming may be supplemented by access to clothing and food, mentoring, mental health services, family outreach and crisis intervention.

The Buffalo area boasts some of the best after-school programs in the nation. Many after-school programs in Buffalo have received highly competitive federal and state funding, such as 21st Century Community Learning Center grants, which typically fund 20 percent or fewer of their applicants. These programs implement continuous improvement processes and ongoing professional development.

To support these efforts, program providers and other stakeholders in the Buffalo region created ASNWNY. The network will provide more than 45 professional development opportunities this year, serving more than 200 organizations.

Through ASNWNY, Buffalo has gained substantial expertise in coordinating services and building partnerships that focus on the needs of students and families. This knowledge is shared among a diverse set of leaders at community organizations, including program providers, school districts, Say Yes, United Way and philanthropic foundations. Together, these organizations will support this expansion of after-school programs and critical related services to develop an even stronger framework for student success.

Outstanding out-of-school time services are a point of pride for our community. Students should be encouraged to take full advantage of these activities that can change their lives and help them realize their full potential.

Nekia Kemp and Kim Luce are co-chairs of the After-School Network of Western New York. Nora Niedzielski-Eichne is executive director of the New York State After-School Network.