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Politics & Government

Lawmakers Take Tour of Pittsburgh After-School Programs

The United Way along with the Afterschool Alliance and two state lawmakers hosted a “crawl” to after-school programs in the city Wednesday.

The first stop was the Sarah Heinz House on the North Side. There they observed an after-school program for elementary school-aged children and heard from a panel of teens on their thoughts on after-school time.

“Without actually seeing them [the programs], we couldn’t appreciate exactly what’s going on, and we’re going to be asked in the budget to fund after-school programs, so I thought it was a good idea to experience it in person,” said Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny).

The teens on the panel told the lawmakers they enjoy the programs and that they are a helpful addition to the school day.

“They learn to stay healthy, they learn to stay fit, they learn to explore cultural activities they never knew existed before,” Fontana said.

Plus, Fontana said, they offer a safe space for kids sometimes in neighborhoods that can be a little rough.

“No matter what neighborhood we looked at, it was all good. It was all mentors and administrators and teachers and volunteers, parents understanding the value of the afterschool programs and participating in them,” he said.

Other state lawmakers included Reps. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny), Hal English (R-Allegheny), Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), and representatives from the offices of U.S. Representative Mike Doyle and Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey.

“Federal government was represented, state government,” Fontana said. “I think it was good, because that’s where a lot of the funding comes from.”

As funding for public education continues to tighten, Fontana said an emphasis needs to be made on the efficacy of afterschool programs, so they don’t end up on the chopping block.