Graduation season is a time of year unlike any other. Whether you’re 7 years old or 78, something about this time always brings a sense of pride, community, and connection in a way little else can.
And during this season, a timeless tradition that spans countless generations is that exhilarating moment you get your yearbook… you pull it open as the binding crackles and pops…you anxiously flip the pages… and you quickly and carefully count the number of times you appear in it. Drama club? Check! Football team? Check! Coding camp? Check! “Most likely to be awesome”? Obviously.
For so many of us, it’s these photos, these memories made outside of the requisite class photo, that we cherish our whole lives. Whether it’s diving club or math camp, soccer games or drawing competitions, what we do in our “free” time after school is what helps shape us into the person we really want to be in the world.
The thing about “free” time, though, is that it’s anything but free. We’d put that sentence in bold to emphasize it, but if you’re a parent who just wrote another $127 check for this year’s tennis uniforms, you don’t need any more reminders.
If you are that parent, you also know how priceless these experiences are for your kids. It is well-documented that students who participate in after-school activities have higher grades, are more engaged, and are better connected with both the school and the community. But because after-school enrichment programming is fee-based, many families in Arlington County simply cannot afford to enroll their children in these experiences.
It goes without saying that the student who sees himself 8 times in a yearbook has a lot more reason to feel connected, motivated, and represented than the student who only sees himself once.
These are some of the many reasons why Arlington Community Foundation and the Arlington Sports Foundation have teamed up to raise funds to offset the cost of after-school programming in the eight Title 1 elementary schools in Arlington County, through a Fund called After School Enrichment Matters (ASEM). Title 1 schools have a high number of students receiving free or reduced lunch, which is a generally accepted measure of poverty levels, and in these eight schools, free or reduced lunch is offered to at least half the student population.
The fundraising partnership between these foundations aims to provide equitable access to after-school programming for elementary school students across the county, so that every student has the chance to feel pride, community, and representation come graduation season (and every season).
Over the last few months, the funds have already been doing exactly that. This past April, representatives from the foundations had the opportunity to present a grant to Barcroft Elementary School staff and students that funded after-school enrichment activities for 152 students (read more about how that grant was used).
And just this month, representatives had the distinct honor of presenting another grant to Randolph Elementary in the amount of $4,831. This new grant will provide scholarships for students to attend everything from cartooning art, to magic and mystery, to game design and coding, to science clubs.
No matter the activity, these students are using these moments to find and do what they love, and to feel like they belong in the community, both inside and outside the classroom.
We hope you’ll join us in our continued fundraising efforts to reach as many Arlington students as we possibly can. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the fund and give local students an opportunity to flourish, to connect, and to simply enjoy the wild and wonderful “free” time every child deserves.
To learn more and donate, click here or the button below.