Afterschool programs cannot be an afterthought

The board of directors, staff, and volunteers of Vetri Community Partnership were crushed to hear of a violent incident resulting in the death of a student at Roxborough High School, a Vetri Cooking Lab partner site, after a football scrimmage this week. As a provider of out-of-school time activities, it is our firm belief that afterschool programs and activities should be a place of safety and enrichment for all kids involved.  We are devastated for the family of 14-year-old Nicholas Elizalde and the entire Roxborough and Philadelphia community.  This act of violence is yet another example of the urgent need for investment in our city’s youth.

Philadelphia’s kids are in a state of crisis after several years of upheaval and uncertainty.  Activities and interventions are necessary now in afterschool hours to support the development, health, and safety of our students.  While afterschool activities are not a panacea for the glut of violence plaguing our city’s youth, research shows that out-of-school time activities are part of a multi-pronged strategy to help meet kids’ social and emotional needs.

On September 22, 2022, we joined a coalition of out-of-school time providers in testifying to the School Board of Philadelphia. Our testimony revolved around the urgent need for an Office of Extracurricular Partnerships at the School District of Philadelphia, making extracurricular activities easier to administer at schools and making these programs more accessible to students and their families.

In addition to the creation of this office, Vetri Community Partnership is urging the School District of Philadelphia to distribute funding from the American Rescue Plan that was specifically allocated for out-of-school time programs for kids.

Finally, we are calling on our city’s elected officials to make critical financial investments in out-of-school time programming for kids of all ages as part of their anti-violence strategy. Afterschool programs cannot be an afterthought in planning for student success. This is why it’s essential to dramatically increase the availability of extracurricular and out-of-school time programs.

Vetri Community Partnership believes that Philadelphia can be a place where children can thrive, but they can only succeed with important, thoughtful, high-quality investments in their success.