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  • Adria de Stefano

Unveiling the Power of Advocacy: Inside the CalSac Challenge for Expanded Learning Programs

Adria de Stefano, EXLP Program Manager, captures the essence of the California Afterschool & Summer Challenge (CalSac Challenge) in Sacramento, where advocates, professionals, and youth unite to champion expanded learning programs. Amidst a backdrop of legislative victories, participants march to the Capitol, sharing personal stories and advocating for continued funding. Their voices echo the transformative impact of these programs, underscoring the vital role they play in shaping the future of education and opportunity.

In the heart of Sacramento, a vibrant movement unfolds each year, resonating with the voices of youth, families, and passionate advocates. This is the California Afterschool & Summer Challenge (CalSac Challenge), a dynamic gathering aimed at shaping the future of expanded learning programs across the state

SF EXAPNDED LEARNING TEAM! Left to Right: Brenda Valle (Doordinator, ER Taylor), Mariana Lopez Quintanilla (Industry Director), Nayeli Torres (Coordinator Mission Ed), Allison Bamaca (Coordinator Hoover), Jake Marotto (Coordinator RLS), and Crystal Cervantes (Coordinator APG), Simon Santos (Videographer), Adria de Stefano (EXLP Program Manager), Mariana

At its core, the CalSac Challenge embodies the spirit of grassroots advocacy, igniting a flame within professionals, youth, and families to champion the case for out-of-school time programs. These programs, ranging from before-school initiatives to after-school programming and summer learning endeavors, serve as critical pillars in shaping the success of California's children and youth.

The backdrop to this year's challenge was set by a huge legislative victory - a $4 billion annual allocation to Expanded Learning Programs in California. However, with the ever-shifting landscape of politics, the continuity of this funding remains uncertain. With determination and a collective voice, advocates converged at the California Capitol to ensure the promise made to the youth and families of California would be upheld.

Participants traveled from all corners of the state to Sacramento's streets. They marched in unison, joined by the All-Star Marching Band, their voices calling for the urgency of their cause. Hundreds of participants chanted “After School For All!”, “Keep Your Promise!”, and “After School Strong, All Day Long!” through the streets of Sacramento on their way to the Capitol building. Once arriving at the Capitol Building, marchers were joined by advocates who shared their stories. The heart of this challenge lies in the personal narratives of participants, each a testament to the power of expanded learning programs. Middle and High School students spoke of the doors that opened for them through after-school activities by providing them with experiences and opportunities they don’t receive in the traditional classroom setting like mentorships, youth leadership, sports, public speaking, and more. A mother traveling from Compton rallied up the crowd by passionately advocating for equitable access to these opportunities. She shared her dream of a future where all scholars, from the earliest learners through High School youth, would have equal opportunity to participate in expanded learning programs that are high in quality.

As the rally subsided, the focus shifted to the halls of legislative offices, where participants began their journey of advocacy. Armed with stories from their respective programs and supported by compelling data, they engaged in dialogue with senators, representatives, and assembly members, creating connections that could potentially shape future legislative decisions.

For many, including first-time advocates, the experience was both exciting and nerve-wracking. Yet, within these meetings, voices were amplified and heard. Representatives listened attentively as advocates shared the profound impact of expanded learning programs. BACR employees shared stories about how this funding has provided a lifeline for their programs. Stories about how, thanks to this funding, they’ve been able to foster STEM opportunities like hydroponic farming, nurture social-emotional growth, provide individualized support for students with special needs, and make their programs more accessible to all community members, regardless of income or ability to pay. The representatives were urged to maintain their promise to the families of California - to maintain this annual funding to our ever-growing and ever-important Expanded Learning Programs.

The CalSac Challenge was a testament to the power of advocacy in shaping the future of education and opportunity. Though the event has come to a close, the impact continues as youth workers, parents, and students feel the spark of the power of advocacy.


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