Meeting of the Minds
On February 10-11, Beyond School Bells hosted a meeting of 30 afterschool and summer program professionals from across Nebraska to discuss emerging trends and opportunities in their field. NE Connect, an earlier conference, and Beyond School Bells’ annual conference have provided recent opportunities for Nebraska’s Expanded Learning Opportunity (ELO) leaders to come together and learn from one another and, in this particular instance, meet with their elected representatives at an informal breakfast event.
You may wonder, what are ELOs and why are they important? Jeff Cole, Beyond School Bells’ Network Lead has repeatedly referenced success indicators of afterschool programs. Benefits include data that depicts locations with robust afterschool initiatives experiencing decreased crime, students receiving opportunities to professionalize themselves, and bridging a widening opportunity gap.
ELOs: What are Those?
ELOs are school-based and community-powered youth-development initiatives that take place outside of the traditional school day. ELOs include before-and-afterschool, and summer programs.
Beyond School Bells’ dedication to high-quality ELOs goes beyond supporting learning-rich, engaging educational environments for youth. Recent data from Council for a Strong America’s article, “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids” found the hours of highest risk for kids to get into trouble are from 3 – 5 pm, when left unattended. A quality afterschool program can remedy this issue.
Meanwhile, Beyond School Bells continues to grow, along with its scope. In addition to supporting high-quality ELOs, Beyond School Bells helps provide technical assistance so communities can build support, create innovative programs, and grow their own locally sustainable ELO initiatives.
This year’s breakfast was hosted by Fremont Senator Lynne Walz and focused on the role that Nebraska’s ELO programs play in providing more Nebraska youth, especially youth from traditionally underserved populations, with opportunities to engage in hands-on STEM learning that can lead to deeper career awareness and exploration.
Expanded Learning Opportunity professionals engaged one another and explored topics with Beyond School Bells’ staff. Highlights included the Breakfast Briefing attended by senators and legislative staff.
Senator Lynne Walz, who sponsored the event, gave a warm welcome. Network Lead, Jeff Cole, provided insight into why STEM diversity is important.