School programs

Reviews | I’m a senior from Michigan and after-school programs have changed my life.

But for others, like me, after-school and summer programs came to the rescue.

Having spent years learning through programs offered after the school day is over, I can personally attest to the remarkable things I have been able to learn. From my involvement in robotics to an internship at my local library, I have been part of many amazing opportunities to grow in unique ways.

But the most important things I’ve learned are about myself.

Next year, I’ll be starting my freshman year in engineering at the University of Michigan. I know this is the right path for me because I explored it in after-school programs. I have an interest and ability in this area that I never would have known without my participation in innovative science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs like FIRST, NCWIT, Girls Who Code, and Kode With Klossy.

Without those hands-on opportunities, I wouldn’t have been so certain of what I wanted to do career-wise, and being uncertain would have been a struggle. After all, I’ve seen how competitive college admissions can be. Scholarships are often based on subjects and careers, and if these are unfamiliar to you, getting into a school and paying well will be that much more difficult.

Even more than that, however, I wouldn’t have known who I am as a person. I was able to participate in other programs, such as martial arts, which gave me the opportunity to connect with my inner self in different ways. The journey to becoming a second degree black belt has allowed me to recognize my strength and subvert my personal expectations of what I am capable of.

After-school opportunities allow students to develop skills such as project management or even discover a passion for community service, qualities that will take them far in whatever career path they choose. After-school programs have taught me that there is always more to give. I want to use my time to serve humanity and shape our local community. They allowed me to see my education as so much more meaningful than getting a degree and to break down stereotypes about what a woman of color can accomplish. They helped me find my purpose.

Unfortunately, I am relatively unique. Today, three-quarters of a million Michigan students do not have access to after-school programs. For many, there are simply no opportunities in their communities. For others, affordability is an issue.

Either way, there is something we as a state can do about it.

That’s why I add my voice to those calling on Michigan lawmakers to allocate specific funding for after-school programs.

I believe that all students like me should be able to participate in an extracurricular opportunity if they wish. It shouldn’t be about family income or location – it should be easy and affordable to find the right program no matter what you’re looking for.

Unfortunately, I know young people who do not have access to the opportunities they want and deserve. When the state has millions of dollars in resources, it seems unfair that we cannot invest them in our young people. After all, that’s where it can have the most impact.

That’s not to say that after-school activity providers haven’t been innovative in finding resources on their own. But it shouldn’t be random. It should be structured fairly for all Michigan students, no matter where they live or what they bring to the table.

I am grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me thanks to the after-school leaders who have supported me. My life is so much richer.

But it’s not just about me. It’s about doing what’s right for all children and youth living in Michigan. On their behalf, I call on the leaders of our state to act. Let’s make after-school learning accessible to everyone.