Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) recently honored Barbara Conway, superintendent of Jim Thorpe Area School District, as an Afterschool Champion for outstanding work in developing, supporting and promoting meaningful high-quality afterschool/out-of-school time programs to benefit children, youth and families across Pennsylvania.

State Rep. Doyle Heffley presented Conway with the award during PSAYDN's annual reception, which brought together elected officials, program providers, youth, faith-based leaders, parents and business leaders from across the commonwealth to emphasize the importance of afterschool programs in the state.

Afterschool programs pick up where the school day leaves off.

In addition to offering children a safe, supervised place to go before and after school, on weekends and during summers to get academic help, programs provide a variety of activities art, music, dance, sports, science, service learning, career exploration and more that help children develop new interests and skills.

The Afterschool Champion Awards honor programs and individuals for excellence in the service of children, schools and communities.

Conway has advocated for afterschool programs to state legislators, organized local events for the Lights On Afterschool observance and is an active member on the SHINE 21st Century Advisory Board.

"As an Afterschool Champion, Barbara leads through example," said PSAYDN director Kacy Conley. "Her outstanding commitment and hard work were recognized by the peers, leaders and community members who nominated her. We are thrilled to shine the light on these inspiring accomplishments."

The event also highlighted PSAYDN's work to promote sustainable, high-quality out-of-school time (OST) youth development programs through advocacy and capacity building to enhance the welfare of Pennsylvania's children, youth and families. In 2004, PSAYDN began as a 65-member coalition, and now has approximately 1,400 members representing all regions of the commonwealth.

"Formative, out-of-school hours can be filled with quality youth development programs that not only promote the well-being of our children and youth, but also families," Conley said. "Increased academic achievement, reduced criminal activity, and positive social development are the results of high-quality afterschool activities."

According to the landmark America After 3 p.m. study conducted for the Afterschool Alliance, more than half a million Pennsylvania children need but don't have afterschool programs, even as statewide demand for afterschool programs has increased.

"Too many Pennsylvania children who need afterschool programs don't have them, and families are carrying a heavier burden as a result," Conley said. "Afterschool Champions are critical for building support from all sectors from the business and philanthropic communities, as well as from the government at all levels."

PSAYDN promotes sustainable, high-quality out-of-school time youth development programs through advocacy and capacity building to enhance the welfare of Pennsylvania's children, youth and families.

The network believes all children and youth deserve access to programs that encourage positive youth development and support the successful transition to adulthood. It is managed by the Center for Schools and Communities. For more information on PSAYDN, visit www.PSAYDN.org.