Rep. Alice Miller is an Afterschool Hero

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STOWE - Approximately 285 expanded learning providers, partners, and advocates from across the state gathered for the annual Vermont Afterschool Conference on Oct. 28 to support learning that happens outside of the school day.

The event kicked off with Vermont State Representative Alice Miller, D-Bennington 3, and Melissa Riegel-Garrett, director of statewide systems and community collaborations at the Child Development Division in the Department for Children and Families.

Following their remarks, Keynote Speaker Gayle Danley delivered a powerful performance of slam poetry intermixed with personal story of her work with at-risk youth.

Miller, a champion of afterschool and expanded learning programs and member of the House Education Committee, received the inaugural Afterschool Superhero Award for her support to bring afterschool to all in Vermont.

"Afterschool and summer programs keep our children and youth safe, while making it possible for families to go to work with peace of mind," said Miller. "Without afterschool programs, life for them could be lonely, dangerous, and dismal - a recipe for increased poverty and drug addiction."

The Vermont Afterschool Conference highlighted what's possible when education and afterschool leaders come together to partner and expand learning opportunities beyond the school day.

"We admire and celebrate the work happening across the state," said Vermont Afterschool Executive Director Holly Morehouse. "Everyday program staff step forward to help children in need, provide healthy snacks and meals, serve as role models, share their excitement and enthusiasm for learning, and connect with working parents as they pick up their children at the end of a busy day."

Morehouse emphasized that expanded learning programs are key to youth success.

"Studies have shown that where our students fall behind is not in the classroom but outside the school day and over the summer," stated Morehouse. "That's why access to quality afterschool and summer learning programs is so important and why we need to work extra hard to ensure all Vermont communities offer afterschool, summer, and expanded learning programs."

In Vermont, 24 percent of children in grades K-12 are currently enrolled in afterschool and summer learning programs. Of those children not currently in programs, 33 percent would participate if a program were available. Vermont parents report that one of the key barriers to participation is program cost.

The annual Vermont Afterschool Conference, sponsored by the C.S. Mott Foundation, VSAC, and the Child Development Division, offers six hours of quality training plus time for visiting with exhibitors, hearing from state leaders and special guests, and networking with other programs and providers from around the state. This year participants chose from 25 workshop selections, including full-day strands and a track integrating expanded learning opportunities and personalized learning plans, that focus on best practices in out-of-school time programming, youth development, and expanded learning opportunities.


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