VPOST Leadership Advisory Council Welcomes Deanna Reed!

VPOST is thrilled to announce Mayor Deanna Reed has joined our Leadership Advisory Council. Mayor Reed is the first African American female mayor in Harrisonburg’s history. VPOST looks forward to working together alongside Mayor Reed to build a network of quality out-of-school time programming for all Virginia children and youth.

To learn more about Deanna’s accolades surrounding policy and advocacy, check out her page on our website, here. Welcome, Deanna!

Applications Open for 2023-2024 STEM Youth Ambassadors!

Virginia youth ages 13-18 are encouraged to apply to represent teens across the Commonwealth who love participating in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) activities during afterschool and want to share their stories.

VPOST will guide STEM Ambassadors on how to create and tell their unique stories through a series of monthly sessions, virtually, (times to be determined) between June and November 2023 and January-February 2024. Ambassadors will learn about different ways to share their stories and promote more support for Afterschool STEM programs.

To learn more and apply, visit here.

Youth Entrepreneurship Strategies 2023 Pitch Challenge is LIVE!

Youth Entrepreneurship in Virginia has been a focus over the past few years due to the changing workplace landscape. In order to better prepare students for that future, they will need skills related to Youth Entrepreneurship: Critical Thinking, Flexibility, Adaptability, Communication, and more!

Virginia YES Pitch Challenge is a contest for students in Virginia in grades 6-12, participating in out-of-school programs. For information on how you can enter, visit our Pitch Challenge page.

Future Ready, Starts Today: VPOST’s 14th Annual Conference Comes to a Close

On March 27th, 2023, VPOST hosted its 14th Annual Conference, Future Ready, Starts Today, in Blacksburg, Virginia. With over 150 attendees, a bountiful exhibit hall, and a variety of curated breakout workshops, members of the out-of-school time (OST) field were able to gain insight, be inspired, and make connections that will surely be beneficial to their organizations and communities. For more information regarding the details and schedule of Future Ready, Starts Today, visit our conference webpage.

Virginia Budget Includes $4 Million for Out-of-School Programs

VPOST is thrilled to announce that the Virginia General Assembly returned today to pass a budget that includes $4 million in funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers! This is a huge victory for our programs and the children they serve. Thank you to everyone who took the time to reach out to legislators and advocate for this funding. We could not have done it without your help! 

VPOST would like to especially thank Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Roxann Robinson, who carried the budget amendments for our funding. The next step is for Governor Youngkin to make any amendments or sign the budget. The legislature will return before July 1 to act on any of the Governor’s potential amendments.

This additional $4 million will be used to fund additional community-based organizations that provide afterschool, before school, and summer learning programs for school-age children attending high-poverty, low-performing schools. These programs are critically needed.  In Virginia, for every child enrolled in an afterschool program, there are 4 children on a waitlist. Working parents deserve and need reliable, safe, and high-quality afterschool programs for their children to attend, so they are able to work. 

These programs are also able to address the significant learning loss that has occurred as a result of the COVID-19 -pandemic over the last two years. We commend the Virginia General Assembly for prioritizing these programs and expanding access to more children.

VPOST Participated in the Afterschool for All Challenge on May 17th, 2022

Building upon the success of our Youth Ambassadors program, VPOST launched a STEM Youth Ambassadors cohort to share stories with Legislators about the enriching experiences that Afterschool STEM Programming provides. Expanded STEM is a vital component of out-of-school time programming. A survey conducted in early 2021 found that 76% of afterschool programs were providing STEM learning opportunities, which is similar to the rates of STEM offerings before the pandemic. As such, supporting expanded STEM learning is one of VPOST’s top initiatives.

To prepare for the legislative meetings, Aditya of Stafford, Shiv, Medha, and Prachi of Loudon, Carissa of Mechanicsville and Govind of Glen Allen, who range from 13-17 years old, learned about advocacy and were guided on how to craft their unique stories. VPOST Youth Ambassadors program helps amplify the voices of tomorrow’s future, empowering them to take an active role on the issues important to their generation. As STEM Ambassador Prachi shared during her legislative meeting, “Day by day, we see new studies – global warming is getting worse, the oceans are filled with plastic, droughts are taking over the planet. There are millions of scientists all over the world who are working to solve these issues, but soon enough, there will be a next generation of those scientists – us.”

VPOST met with three Representatives’ offices. We would like to say a special thank you to Anderson Hayes of NextUp RVA for sharing his compelling story about the pathway between being a participant in afterschool programs and becoming an entrepreneur. Also, thank you to Peter Holland, the Senior Legislative Assistant for Education Issues in Congressmen Good’s Office, Brendan Nigro, the Staff Lead for Education Issues in Senator Warner’s Office, and Karishma Merchant of Senator Kaine’s Office.

For questions regarding the Youth STEM Ambassadors Program, contact Christine Jones Monaccio at christine.jones-monaccio@v-post.org

VPOST Facilitated a visit from Senator Bernie Sanders to a Virginia Out-of-School Time Program!

In August of 2021, VPOST was honored to facilitate a summer learning program site visit with Senator Bernie Sanders (VT). As a result of his efforts to increase funding for afterschool and summer learning programs via the American Rescue Plan, Senator Sanders visited the Reston YMCA, about 30 minutes outside of Washington DC. Here, he toured the summer learning program, where Senator Sanders heard directly from the YMCA staff, including Executive Director David Rodriguez, on the support kids and families received throughout the pandemic from his programs and others just like it across the Commonwealth.

Out-of-School Time programs are educational leaders in maximizing impact through community partnerships. This is exemplified by the partnership between Reston YMCA and Fairfax County, Neighborhood and Community Services, which operates one of their teen centers out of the YMCA. Senator Sanders was shown a robot made in their STEM program and spoke with the teens on their aspirations for the future. In walking from one area to another on the tour, Sanders noted some food in storage. It was explained that the Y is also a place where food was distributed to community members in need. 

Senator Sanders passionately expressed that he will continue to fight for affordable childcare and afterschool options for working families. On behalf of the out-of-school time field in Virginia, VPOST Professional Development and Quality Coordinator, Christine Jones Monaccio, thanked Senator Sanders for his diligence in the landmark funding for afterschool and summer learning programs in the American Rescue Plan. 

Blaire Denson and Barbara Couto Sipe column: When will we recognize how important afterschool programs are to Richmond families?

VPOST Executive Director, Blaire Denson, and VPOST Advisory Council member/NextUp President & CEO, Barbara Couto Sipe, highlight the dedication of out-of-school time staff since the beginning of the pandemic. The article in the Richmond-Times Dispatch also advocates for the tremendous opportunity through the American Rescue Plan to fund afterschool and summer enrichment programs.