Funding for youth development is key to helping students recover from pandemic setbacks

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Each new wave of the pandemic has brought new challenges for the children, youth and families in our community – challenges that have often compounded previous inequalities. These growing inequalities cloud the outlook for the vibrant economy that is emerging in San Antonio.

This month and next, the city of San Antonio will decide how to spend the remaining $ 229.4 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to target our city’s recovery from the pandemic. . City leaders will decide what investments are needed for our community’s short- and long-term exit from the pandemic. How we use these funds now will set the stage for San Antonio’s future resilience and prosperity and influence the type of city we want to be known as.

It is vital that youth recovery is incorporated as a city’s primary investment priority. Our students are currently grappling with basic academic needs as well as the social and emotional toll of the past two years. As a result, our progress in high school and post-secondary graduation rates – two critical factors for any city’s economic competitiveness – is threatened. Ensuring our youth are in safe environments that provide them with academic and socio-emotional support has never been more important to families, our community and our economic prosperity.

The needs of our students today are too great for a single institution to meet. Local school districts are doing a heroic job of supporting their students, but we also need to adapt youth development programs to meet their increased needs. Quality youth programs are specially designed to help children and youth recover and grow from the many challenges of the pandemic.

Investing in youth development programs has proven to be effective according to national research. These programs actively contribute to the economic development and mental well-being of our city by building strong relationships that support student development, using trauma-informed practices to create safe spaces for students, supporting recovery from learning through targeted tutoring, providing high quality social and emotional support. , and ensure that the inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic do not prevent our young people from achieving their goals and dreams. These programs also provide second support to working parents and are therefore essential in helping parents and guardians re-engage fully in the labor market and related education and training programs.

If invested wisely, today’s federal infusion will allow organizations to expand their programs to serve more children, youth and families. Great gaps of opportunity have always existed, but they have widened because of the pandemic. While youth development and after-school programs have continuously served our youth and their families since March 2020, the economic impact of the pandemic has strained the resources of youth development organizations while simultaneously increasing the need for services.

To best support our young people and their working parents, San Antonio must invest in high quality youth development programs and allocate ARPA funds that will allow organizations to scale their most effective programs to where they are needed most. .

The impact of this investment would put youth development organizations in a strong position to enable our most affected young people to recover emotionally, socially and academically. As local school districts do their best to help students, we know from recent data that the magnitude of student needs is beyond their capabilities. The moment calls for intentional coordination between sectors for the sake of our future – and theirs.

We know the mayor and city council members are wondering how best to use the last of our ARPA dollars and asking our city leaders not to let our young people be left behind. Instead, by investing in it, make it a defining moment for every young person in this city.

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