After-School All-Stars Launches New Chapter in Philadelphia

by Ricardo Castillo

After-School All-Stars (ASAS) and the New York Life Foundation are proud to be hosting two formal chapter launch events in Philadelphia today. Philadelphia is the second new ASAS chapter to be launched with the help of a $4 million, four-year grant from the New York Life Foundation. The grant supports expanding after-school programs focused on middle school students to six more cities, beginning with Newark and Philadelphia. This multi-year grant is the largest in ASAS’s 20-year history. The Newark chapter held its launch event in late 2014.

Today’s Philadelphia launch day begins with a service project in which ASAS students from the William D. Kelley school team up with New York Life volunteers to create care packages for homeless Philadelphians. Following the service project is a VIP reception at Northern Liberties art gallery Bahdeebahdu. At the reception, Deputy Mayor Rich Negrin will present a citation from Mayor Michael Nutter lauding the importance of ASAS’ arrival in Philadelphia. The Kelley School in Brewerytown is one of two inaugural schools receiving programming from ASAS’ Philadelphia chapter; the other is the Theodore Roosevelt School in Germantown.

Despite a dramatic increase in participation over the last decade, a recent household survey of 30,000 families conducted by the Afterschool Alliance found that for every child enrolled in a program, there are two more who are not, but whose parents would enroll them if a program were available. According to the same survey, more than 321,000 Pennsylvania children, or 17 percent, participate in an after-school program, up from nine percent in 2004. But the demand for afterschool activities – as measured by the number of children whose parents would enroll them in a program if one were available -- increased to over 811,000 children, an increase of 50 percent. [1] Demand is especially high among low-income, African-American and Hispanic families in urban centers like Philadelphia.

“We recognize that the Philadelphia School District has faced some difficult times lately,” said Ben Paul, president of After-School All-Stars. “There are a lot of good people doing wonderful things for the city’s children, but it’s just impossible to keep up with the demand. That’s why we’re so pleased to add another resource to help address some of the unmet need.”

Notable guests during the afternoon school service project include State Representative Michelle Brownlee, as well as U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s field representative, Imani Johnson, who is presenting a citation honoring the program. Heather Nesle, president of the New York Life Foundation, is also speaking, along with New York Life Managing Partner Rob Recine, who was recently appointed to the ASAS Philadelphia Board. The evening VIP reception will include remarks from National Board Member, and former World Series of Poker winner, Annie Duke. Human Resources consultant company Insperity is partially sponsoring the event.

“Research indicates that boys and girls who are properly prepared for ninth grade are more likely to graduate high school and go on to college. We see After-School All-Stars as a model program that not only reinforces, but augments middle school curricula after regular school hours and during summer months," said Heather Nesle, president of the New York Life Foundation. “Investing in After-School All-Stars' programming was a natural fit because it directly aligns with our priority of helping middle school students get the most out of those critical education years.”

Founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles in 1992, ASAS provides comprehensive school-based out-of-school time programs to nearly 90,000 participants at more than 360 schools throughout the United States. Free for all students, ASAS programs only take place at Title I schools where more than 50% of students qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program. ASAS focuses primarily on middle school children, helping to prepare them for high school, college, and beyond.

After-School All-Stars recently named Reynelle Staley as founding Executive Director of After-School All-Stars Philadelphia. Prior to joining ASAS Philadelphia, Staley managed efforts to promote equal rights and opportunities within Philadelphia as Deputy Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. A native of Harlem, she knows firsthand the impact that high-quality academic opportunities can have for students in the poorest of neighborhoods.

“I am passionate about building more educational and enrichment opportunities to improve the lives of Philadelphia’s children,” explained Staley. “Thirty-three percent of the children here live below the poverty line, and every school in the district meets the federal definition of ‘low income.’ But ASAS has found in cities across the country that by adding high-quality after-school programs, we can increase school attendance and raise graduation rates, while reducing juvenile crime and obesity.”

“After-school is a wise investment but, unfortunately, we’re not investing nearly enough,” said former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, founder of After-School All-Stars. “These programs help kids with homework, teach them teamwork, engage them in community service, pair them with mentors, help them to be physically fit, involve them in activities like rocketry and robotics, and much more.”