Engage Every Student was launched by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in July 2022 and is a bold call-to-action to provide high-quality out-of-school time learning opportunities for every child. Through the American Rescue Plan, schools, cities, and states have had access to funding and an unprecedented opportunity to partner with high-quality expanded learning programs to support students’ well-being and academic growth. The Initiative is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Education (Department), the Afterschool Alliance, the School Superintendents Association (AASA), the National League of Cities, the National Summer Learning Association, and the National Comprehensive Center at Westat.

Two students and an educator sitting at a table, examining a double helix DNA model.

Today, the Department announced the 2024 U.S. Department of Education Engage Every Student Recognition Program Champions. Across our country, 13 non-profit organizations and city municipalities, working in partnership with local schools, are being honored for their efforts to expand access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs for students. For this inaugural year of the recognition program, the Department received 57 nominations from 29 states. Each nomination was reviewed by state-level review teams comprised of the 50 State Afterschool Networks and State Education Agencies, and state finalists were recommended to the Department for final review and consideration.

Nearly half of the recognized champions are in under-resourced or rural communities, and they all serve students that attend schools where 40% or more students qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program. All nominees and champions leveraged American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds, in combination with state and local funds, to increase access to high-quality out-of-school time programming rooted in evidence-based approaches to learning.

A group of young students outdoors, playing tug-of-war.

Here are a few highlights from the inaugural Engage Every Student Champions:

Nebraska – Lincoln Community Learning Centers

Lincoln Community Learning Centers partnered with Lincoln Public Schools to expand access to afterschool and summer learning programs for more than 1,700 elementary, middle, and high school students from 30 different schools. They leveraged more than $1 million in ARP ESSER funding to design unique out-of-school time programs based on students’ needs and interests. By collaborating with a variety of partners and subject-matter experts in the Lincoln community, the Learning Centers offer high-quality, creative programming. One such program partnered with the Lincoln Arts Council to match resident artists with school sites based on specific project interests or type of art. Another program allowed students to participate in a year-round indoor gardening collaborative led by Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln.

New Hampshire – YMCA of Greater Nashua

YMCA of Greater Nashua partnered with Nashua School District to expand access to afterschool and summer programming for elementary, middle, and high school students. By leveraging more than $84,000 in ARP ESSER funding, YMCA of Greater Nashua prioritized preventing summer learning loss, and in addition, to fostering physical and social-emotional growth through the Power Scholars Academy. Mornings at the Academy consist of targeted instruction by certified teachers, while afternoons are filled with swimming, games, STEM activities, and content-related field trips. In 2023, 337 students entering grades 1-9 completed the program and averaged a gain of 2.5 months in math and a 3.5 month gain in reading over the course of the 25 days. The program is 100% free to students and 100% of the students served are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Ohio – Ohio Urban Renaissance

Ohio Urban Renaissance in partnership with Youngstown City School District leveraged more than $550,000 in ARP ESSER funding to double their afterschool program capacity. Ohio Urban Renaissance engaged high school students in academic enrichment and experiential learning inclusive of project-based learning, enrichment workshops, career exploration and field trips to foster creativity, critical thinking, and real-world application of academic concepts. The program also includes mental health check-ins and incorporates social-emotional learning activities to help students develop essential life skills such as communication, teamwork, empathy, and resilience. Ohio Urban Renaissance is deeply equity-driven and primarily serves students from economically disadvantaged households or traditionally underserved communities, with 100% of currently enrolled students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals and 89% identifying as Black/African American or Hispanic/Latino.

South Carolina – Boys and Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee Area

Boys and Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee Area partnered with Florence 1 Schools and Florence School District 3 to expand access to after school and summer program for K-12 students. By leveraging nearly $500,000 in ARP ESSER funding, Boys & Girls Club of the Pee Dee Area engaged students in programming focused on academic performance, learning loss, social and emotional learning, STEM, and youth development. The program primarily serves students from economically disadvantaged households or traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, with 82% of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals and 90% identifying as Black/African American or Hispanic/Latino.

South Dakota – Black Hills Special Services Cooperative

Black Hills Special Services Cooperative partnered with Rapid City Area School District and The City of Rapid, South Dakota to expand access to afterschool and summer learning for K-12 students. By leveraging more than $300,000 in ARP ESSER funding, Black Hills Special Services Cooperative engaged students in Discovery Programs, which were designed to meet the diverse needs of students by providing academic support, fostering positive behavioral support and social skills, and offering engaging activities for both students and families. With the recent introduction of early release Fridays, the BHSSC offers STEM camps, extending and enhancing subject-specific services for students and supporting working families.

This announcement comes as the Department prepares to host the 2024 Engage Every Student Summit on July 16 in Washington, D.C. In addition to recognizing this year’s Champions, the summit convenes youth, State and local school leaders; State and city elected officials; afterschool and summer learning program providers; and advocates. It showcases bright spots and their impacts in out-of-school time and provides attendees with an array of opportunities for learning, exploration, and networking.

Visit https://engageeverystudent.org/ to learn more about Engage Every Student (#EngageEveryStudent) and find resources for all non-profit organizations and city municipalities to move towards expanding access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs.