Harrisburg, Pa– Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) honored Arrah Fisher, as an Afterschool Champion in the category of Quality for outstanding work in developing, supporting and promoting meaningful high-quality afterschool/out-of-school time programs to benefit children, youth and families across Pennsylvania. The awards took place on March 14th during PSAYDN’s annual reception, which brought together elected officials, program providers, youth, faith-based leaders, parents and business leaders from across the commonwealth to emphasize the importance of afterschool programs in the state.

Afterschool programs pick up where the school day leaves off. In addition to offering kids a safe, supervised place to go before and after school, on weekends and during summers to get academic help, programs provide a variety of activities—art, music, dance, sports, science, service learning, career exploration and much more—that help kids develop new interests and skills. The Afterschool Champion Awards honor programs, elected officials, youth and individuals for excellence in the service of children, schools and communities.

Arrah works every day to provide a fun, engaging, safe space for middle school students to learn something new, make friends and challenge themselves during The Cooperage Project’s Pop-Up Club, a free STEAM-focused afterschool program for students from Wayne Highlands Middle School as well as cyber and home school students. This program has grown from just once a week to a three-day a week program that is an integral part of the middle school students’ lives. They look forward to seeing Arrah at Pop-Up Club and are eager to learn each day when they come to the club after school. Arrah is dedicated to providing high quality experiences that embody the mission of The Cooperage Project to embrace diversity and celebrate shared experiences. She brings her varied background and perspective to the program that seeks to provide unique real-world learning experiences to her community’s youth.

“As an Afterschool Champion, Arrah leads through example,” said PSAYDN director Laura Saccente. The champions’ outstanding commitment and hard work were recognized by their peers, leaders and community members. We are thrilled to shine the light on these inspiring accomplishments.”

The event also highlighted PSAYDN’s work to promote sustainable, high-quality out-of-school time (OST) youth development programs through advocacy and capacity building to enhance the welfare of Pennsylvania’s children, youth and families. In 2004, PSAYDN began as a 65-member coalition, and now has nearly3000 members representing all regions of the commonwealth.

“Formative, out-of-school hours can be filled with quality youth development programs that not only promote the well-being of our children and youth, but also families,” Saccente said. “Research has shown that increased academic achievement, reduced criminal activity, and positive social development are the results of high-quality afterschool activities.

At the meeting, PSAYDN also introduced the second cohort of the 10-month STEM Ambassador program. Thirty-one individuals from across the commonwealth such as K-12 educators, higher education staff and business partners will help shape the future of STEM education by targeting vital policy conversations to legislative leadership in the areas of computer science, STEM Learning ecosystems, state and federal policy for formal and informal education, and workforce needs, including the PAsmart state budget investment. This program is made possible through PSAYDN, with training support from the Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) and STEM Education Coalition, and sponsorship from the Afterschool Alliance and The Overdeck Family Foundation.

According to the landmark America After 3PM study conducted for the Afterschool Alliance, more than half a million Pennsylvania children need – but don’t have – afterschool programs, even as statewide demand for afterschool programs has increased.

“Data shows that too many Pennsylvania children who need afterschool programs don’t have them, and families are carrying a heavier burden as a result,” Saccente said. “These are barriers we can and should overcome, and Afterschool Champions are critical for building support from all sectors – from the business and philanthropic communities, as well as from the government at all levels.”

Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) promotes sustainable, high-quality out-of-school time youth development programs through advocacy and capacity building to enhance the welfare of Pennsylvania’s children, youth and families. PSAYDN believes all children and youth deserve access to programs that encourage positive youth development and support the successful transition to adulthood. PSAYDN is managed by the Center for Schools and Communities. More information is available at www.PSAYDN.org.