Student-led virtual event aims to address concerns about COVID-19, schools and afterschool programs
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Today, Pennsylvania youth will lead a town hall meeting with Lt. Gov. and Second Lady Fetterman. The virtual event provides an opportunity and platform for young people to share concerns about COVID-19 effects on their families; and ask questions about the afterschool and out-of-school time programs they rely on for academic help, extracurricular activities, service learning and career exploration.
While the event is targeted to students, families, educators and advocates are able to view a livestream broadcast via ZOOM from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. ET.
Student leaders received and selected questions from their peers across the commonwealth to make the most of their live virtual discussion time. Many want to know the outlook for youth organizations in Pennsylvania, how they can be restructured to reach more students and what lessons can be learned from this crisis. Some students are noting how the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing social justice gaps in education and out-of-school time learning.
Second Lady Gisele Fetterman will participate in the event alongside the lieutenant governor and will also field questions from participants. The second lady is involved in numerous charitable organizations that focus on the needs of youth in western Pennsylvania and across the state.
“This is a time of uncertainty for students in Pennsylvania and across the world, and I’m eager to hear their concerns and brainstorm solutions,” said Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. “These students are the future of the commonwealth, and they deserve our full attention.”
Other youth are expected to ask about the rationale behind Pennsylvania’s response to the pandemic, how schools will operate in fall 2020, and what youth can do to help their peers and make meaningful contributions to their communities.
“From the planning committee to the questions, everything was done by students; we were finally given the platform to be heard, and it’s been incredible,” said YMCA Youth and Government Speaker of the House Jonas Cream. “Every student posed amazing questions that focused on how COVID-19 is impacting our lives. And I hope that our suggestions and concerns will be a priority for the state moving forward.”
Afterschool programs, the facilitators of this event, are a well-documented solution to supporting the academic and social growth of all students; yet, for every student enrolled in a Pennsylvania program, two more are waitlisted. In the time of COVID-19, afterschool and summer programs are actively working to keep kids safe and engaged in learning, provide food for families in need and stay connected with caregivers and parents.
Following the live discussion with the lieutenant governor and second lady, youth will conduct advocacy training during which they will teach peers how to elevate their voices and educate their elected officials about these programs that help young Pennsylvanians take a leading role in their own futures through career exploration, academic support and civic engagement. They will call on legislators to do more to support afterschool initiatives so that every child who needs a program has access to one.
“We have always been told, ‘make your voice heard,’ but it is rare to have an opportunity to do so,” Cream added. “Our representatives are usually too busy – but this town hall and Lt. Gov. Fetterman changed that.”
The Pennsylvania Virtual Youth Town Hall is presented in partnership by Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN), Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST), Pennsylvania School-Age Child Care (PENN SACCA), and Pennsylvania State Alliance of YMCAs Youth in Government Program.
Editor’s note: Press and public can view the live stream via ZOOM on Thursday, May 21, 2020 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET.
The Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (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. PSAYDN is managed by the Center for Schools and Communities, a division of Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit. More information is available at PSAYDN.
Aylissa Kiely, (717) 903-0219