AfterZones: Creating a Citywide System

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 AfterZones: Creating a Citywide System

From the very beginning of the AfterZone initiative, PASA and the city partners wanted to build a sustainable OST system in Providence. As a result, PASA began developing the core strategies of its plan to sustain the initiative as soon as it was launched. Over the five years of implementation, PASA succeeded in meeting its annual fundraising goals and began building a foundation for the longterm survival of the AfterZones.

Like most programs and initiatives that are started with time-limited funding, securing renewable sources of support has been difficult. PASA’s search for sustainable funding has been particularly challenging because it coincided with, and has been affected by, a severe and prolonged nationwide economic downturn. After a brief review of PASA’s fundraising record, this chapter focuses on how PASA planned to proceed with these efforts at the time the study ended.

Fundraising During the First Five Years

From 2004 to 2009, PASA raised almost $4.9 million to match the $5 million grant from The Wallace Foundation. As the chart above shows, most of these matching funds (60 percent) came from private foundations, with the remainder coming from federal, state and municipal sources. PASA also garnered a substantial amount of inkind support for the AfterZone initiative, receiving $396,480 in 2008–09.

Reflecting the city’s commitment to the initiative, a major portion of the in-kind support came from municipal sources. The Providence Public School District (a city-controlled and city-funded entity) contributed $180,000 for late buses to take youth home at the end of the program, and the police department contributed $100,000 in overtime pay to the officers who ran AfterZone’s popular police sports league programs. In addition, for each of the last two years, the mayor included a line item of more than $200,000 for the initiative in his annual budget. Beyond the importance of the money itself, these funds demonstrate the high level of support that the city—and especially the mayor—has for the AfterZone initiative. According to PASA, it was the first program to win a line item in the city’s budget under Mayor Cicciline’s administration.


The mayor has been a vital resource in PASA’s fundraising effort. As chairman of PASA’s board, he was actively engaged in advocating and raising funds for the AfterZone initiative throughout the first five years (and beyond, as is addressed later in this chapter). He reached out to potential funders and advocated for the initiative at federal and state levels to garner support and raise additional funds.

To position the AfterZone initiative for future fundraising, PASA and the mayor worked hard to focus local and national attention on its efforts. In one year alone, they participated in eight national conferences and forums and began receiving calls from cities across the country interested in learning more about the initiative. Between 2008 and 2009, the initiative gained a national profile. It was featured on The Today Show after Providence was recognized as one of America’s Promise’s 100 best communities for young people. An in-depth description of PASA and the AfterZone model, including a set of videos and a replication toolkit, was featured on Edutopia, a website funded by the George Lucas Educational Foundation to highlight innovative practices in public education (see And PASA was selected as one of 50 semifinalists nationwide for the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government’s Innovations in American Government Award.

In short, PASA completed the first five years of implementation (and reached the end of their $5 million start-up grant from The Wallace Foundation), with a track record of successful fundraising, a mayor who actively advocates and fundraises for the initiative, the support of city institutions, and a growing national profile.

The Search for Renewable Funding

PASA’s early sustainability plan identified three potential funding sources to support the AfterZone initiative during its first five years and beyond: childcare subsidies from the Rhode Island Department of Human Services and 21st CCLC grants, both of which are prominent sources of funding for OST programs, and a fee-for-service charge to parents of participating children.59 PASA anticipated that over a three-year period (2007–10), childcare subsidies and 21st CCLC grants could bring in roughly $3.2 million ($800,000 and $2.4 million respectively) and parent fees could bring in an additional $440,000.

Unexpected Challenges to Securing Sustainable Funds

Three factors that subsequently arose made it unlikely PASA could realize this particular plan: PASA’s board’s unwillingness to charge fees, a reduction in state childcare subsidies and stiffer competition for grants.

Reduced Willingness to Charge Fees

In 2008, PASA’s board did not approve the plan to charge a fee to parents to enroll their children in AfterZone programs. Board members were concerned the costs would increase the financial strains that Providence’s low-income families were experiencing as a result of the rise in unemployment from the deepening recession.

Reductions in State Childcare Subsidy Funds

PASA had planned to use state childcare subsidies to support the work of the site management agencies and estimated that these subsidies could cover 10 to 15 percent of the overhead and administration costs agencies incur from managing an AfterZone program. However, in 2007, the state changed the eligibility requirements for these funds and lowered the rate of reimbursement for the subsidies. These combined changes greatly reduced the number of youth who could qualify for them. As a result, PASA could no longer rely on state childcare subsidies as a major source of funding to support the site management agencies’ work in the local AfterZones.

Stiff Competition for 21st CCLC Grants

PASA has depended on 21st CCLC grants as a funding source for the local AfterZones. When three of the four CBOs came on board as site management agencies in 2007, PASA secured a 21st CCLC grant for each agency and used funds from another 21st CCLC grant it had inherited from the Educational Partnership, PASA’s original host agency, to support the fourth site management agency. The grants funded the site coordinator and support staff in the anchor schools and helped cover the cost of programming and shuttle bus services in the local AfterZones. The grants provided $175,000 a year for three years, or more than half of the estimated $250,000 to $300,000 it takes to fund an anchor school serving 200 youth.60 PASA planned to apply for additional 21st CCLC grants for each new site management agency that came on board, intending to use these grants to support all of the anchor schools.61

By 2009, competition for these grants had become more intense, and PASA realized that it might be able to add only one new grant per year rather than the two or three per year they had been awarded so far. If the competition continues to be intense, PASA’s transition to CBO management of the local AfterZones could slow down. Winning extension or renewal grants may also prove more difficult.

Finally, the worsening economy has made it more difficult to secure renewable funds in general.

The Short-Term Outlook

At the time the study concluded, the initiative appeared to be on sound financial footing for the next two to three years (i.e., through 2011 or 2012), thanks in large measure to a new three-year, $2.3 million grant from The Wallace Foundation and $652,000 in federal appropriations that the mayor secured for the AfterZones by working with the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation. In addition, PASA was pursuing several strategies, discussed below, to meet the initiative’s annual operating budget of roughly $2.5 million, including grantwriting and maintaining close relationships with the mayor and government officials. In his role as chairman of PASA’s board, the mayor was seeking to add members who could contribute to PASA’s fundraising and sustainability efforts and reach out to individual donors for major gifts.

Aggressive Grantwriting

PASA carried out an aggressive grantwriting effort in the fifth and last year of its original grant from The Wallace Foundation, applying for funds from local, regional and national foundations as well as from the federal government. Several grants were ultimately awarded, including the new grant from The Wallace Foundation. At the end of the study period, several proposals were still outstanding.

Continued Support From the Mayor and the City

The mayor planned to continue requesting funds for the initiative from the city budget at a level comparable to that of the last two years. PASA also expected the in-kind support it has received from the police department and the school district to continue.

The mayor, who intends to run for a third term in 2010, has pledged to continue to use his position to marshal city resources for PASA and the AfterZone initiative—and to deepen local AfterZones’ integration into the work of the city’s youth-serving departments and institutions as an “embedded community priority.” He charged a member of his staff, to whom several city departments report, with identifying how existing city resources can help further the initiative’s efforts to support student learning. This staff person subsequently met with school district officials and city organizations that currently offer educational programs (e.g., the zoo and the botanical gardens) to explore how these existing programs can be offered through the AfterZones; they also discussed ways that the programs might be aligned with the school’s new science curriculum, planned for a Fall 2009 launch, so that youth who participate can receive academic credit.

Fundraising for PASA

Just as it had been trying to fundraise to sustain the AfterZones, PASA was attempting to raise money to develop its own capacity as an intermediary. In Spring 2009, the Rhode Island Foundation awarded PASA a three-year capacity-building grant of $50,000 a year, plus the assistance of a strategic consultant, to expand and develop its board and create a funding plan for its own future sustainability.

The Long-Term Outlook

PASA and the mayor share the view that the longterm sustainability of the AfterZone initiative can best be achieved by integrating after-school programming into the fabric of students’ school day, creating a “seamless transition” from one to the other. In the mayor’s view, high-quality after-school programs must be seen as an integral part of education—not as something “extra”—for the public to demand sustainable funding to support these programs. PASA and the mayor have advocated for a “robust day of learning,” in which students apply the academic concepts and skills they learn in their classrooms in experience-based after-school activities. 62 In short, linking the AfterZones to schools in an extended-day learning model is their vision for the long-term future of the initiative.

To bring this vision about, during the 2008–09 program year PASA took steps to strengthen its academic programming and increase the points of intersection between AfterZone programming and the schools’ curricula. Examples of these efforts include adding time during AfterZone programming for homework completion, offering training to AfterZone providers on integrating academic learning into youth development-focused programs, and attempting to get permission from the school district for students to earn credit for participating in science-based experiential after-school programs. With a grant from the Nellie Mae Foundation, PASA began to develop a menu of summer programs that will be taught jointly by a teacher and an activity provider (e.g., a program that integrates sailing in the bay with lessons about wind science).

In Spring 2009, PASA was awarded a three-year, $500,000 grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation that will allow it to continue developing plans for an extended-day learning model. The grant supports a new position, the Director of Extended Learning Opportunities, who will work with representatives from the mayor’s office, the school district and PASA to develop strategies for linking AfterZone programming with the schoolday curriculum. Through this grant, PASA hopes to create additional opportunities for co-teaching and for involving more classroom teachers in AfterZone activities. The grant will also be used to offer joint training that will help teachers incorporate youth development principals in the classroom and help after-school providers to integrate academic learning into their programs. The new grant from The Wallace Foundation will also support PASA’s effort to move toward an extended-day learning model.

The mayor hoped that the Nellie Mae and Mott Foundation grants would better position the AfterZone initiative for whatever federal funding becomes available. He planned to convene a group of mayors to meet with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to discuss the possibility of tapping into the “Race to the Top” fund, a $4.35 billion federal program aimed at school districts considering various school reform initiatives, including extended-day programs.

Challenges and Risks

Although the effort to weave school-day and afterschool programming into a coordinated learning day presents opportunities for innovative and potentially beneficial activities for youth, the effort also contains serious challenges and risks.

First, PASA will need to develop a much closer partnership with the school district than it currently has. The extent to which an extended-day learning model is in line with the school district’s most pressing priorities and concerns is unclear. Although PASA’s and AfterZones’ relationships with the anchor middle schools have improved over the five years and more school teachers actively support their local AfterZone, PASA leaders still struggle to be included in key school district planning meetings. Further, as is common with youth development-focused OST programs, PASA has had difficulty convincing the schools that high-quality enrichment and experiential programs can promote youth’s academic achievement and increase test scores. There are also fundamental differences in terms of school and AfterZone philosophies and approaches to students that will need to be bridged, as the comments of one PASA leader suggest: “Some [school] people think that we’re not as rigorous around discipline as we need to be. And we’re saying, ‘No, these are positive youth development practices that we’re using here. We’re really trying to have young people have a different experience.’”

Creating stronger linkages with the school carries certain risks for the AfterZone initiative. PASA has tried to cultivate the impression that local AfterZones are fun, cool places to be—places that are not like school. As it brings the AfterZones toward a closer alignment with the schools, PASA realizes that it must work to maintain the initiative’s image and not allow the program to become perceived as merely an extension of school. In the words of one PASA staff: “Extended-learning time has to take on a different face after the bell rings at 2:30. Otherwise, kids will sniff it out. And, for some kids, there will be no motivation for them to come at all. They’ll just stop coming if it feels too much like school.”

Finally, it is not clear if or when substantial public funding will become available for extended-day learning initiatives, especially given the current difficult financial times. Although President Obama has called for the expansion of after-school programs and has publicly endorsed extended-day learning programs, it is not clear what funds Congress will ultimately make available. Funding from other public sources, at a time of severely stretched budgets, is equally unlikely, at least until the economy improves. Consequently, the likelihood of securing longterm funding for the AfterZone initiative, whether to support extended-day learning or otherwise, is uncertain.

Planning for a New OST Initiative for High School Students

When data collection for this study ended, plans were underway for an OST initiative targeting Providence’s high school students. Although this effort will be distinct from the AfterZone initiative, PASA intends to serve as the intermediary for both the high school and AfterZone initiatives; PASA will likely grow to meet these new staffing needs. A high school initiative will bring the city closer to its original goal of providing quality supports and services to all of the city’s youth. It will also present opportunities and challenges that will affect the development of PASA and the AfterZone initiative in ways that cannot be predicted.


Consistent with recommendations from experts on building a solid funding base,63 PASA has used a range of different fundraising strategies and secured funds from a variety of sources during its first five years. Specifically, it has:

  • Received dedicated funding from the city;
  • Made good use of a variety of other existing public funding streams, as evidenced by the 21st CCLC grant awards and the one-time federal appropriations;
  • Received several private philanthropic grants; and
  • Garnered in-kind supports from city agencies.

The mayor has played a large role in PASA’s success; he was active in securing resources for the initiative, helping to leverage city funds and in-kind contributions and bringing $652,000 in one-time federal appropriation funds. As a result of these efforts, PASA has been able to cover the initiative’s annual operating costs and is likely to have the funds in hand to sustain itself and the initiative for the next two to three years.

However, the long-term sustainability of the AfterZone initiative, and especially PASA, remains unclear. As long as the current mayor is in office and budget cuts are not too severe, the city and its various agencies are likely to continue to direct resources and support to the initiative. But the extent to which public and private entities will continue to invest in OST system-building once the current mayor leaves office remains to be seen. Finding renewable funding to sustain the AfterZone initiative over the long term will continue to be a major challenge. The sustainability of PASA is even more uncertain. Most funders and policymakers prioritize the funding of direct services—in this case, actual OST programming—above capacity-building needs. This is especially true when funds are tight.

The amount of public funding that will be available for OST programs remains unclear. The recession has decreased private foundation endowments, which has slowed private giving. Lastly, the movement toward an extended-day learning model is still too new to predict whether it will help foster a financially viable future for the initiative—one in which public funds are used to support afterschool learning as well as school-day learning. All of these factors suggest that ensuring PASA and the AfterZone initiative are securely financed will be an uphill battle—at least over the next several years.

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