PA Youth Advocate for After-School Opportunities in Harrisburg


High schoolers from across PA gather on the steps of the Capitol rotunda

Sam Bisno, Editor-in-Chief

Nearly every high school has some form of student government. But it’s rare that students have a run-in with real government.

That’s probably why close to 200 high schoolers (including several dozen Pittsburgh Public Schools students) jumped at the opportunity to pile aboard buses and storm the Capitol in Harrisburg this Wednesday to advocate for increased funding for after-school opportunities. It wasn’t just an opportunity to skip school: the Pittsburgh cohort, at least, was on the road before daybreak, and the day was filled with meetings with elected leaders, from state representatives to Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. Students came from across the state and from multifarious schools and organizations; the Eagle’s own Editor in Chief Sam Bisno and Website Director Isaac Degenholtz were on the scene on behalf of Youth Express, a local youth-oriented radio station.

The event, which is held annually, was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) in partnership with the Pennslyvania School-Age Child Care Alliance (Penn SACCA) and Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST). It came on the heels of the announcement of a bipartisan effort in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to bolster after-school offerings after this year’s federal budget slashed $42 million in grants to PA for the state’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers. This collaborative endeavor was formalized by Pittsburgh’s own Jake Wheatley (D-39), who proposed that same morning a House Resolution asking the Joint State Government Commission to investigate the return on investment of dedicated afterschool funding.

The hope, said Wheatley, is that this study will lead to a better understanding of how to most effectively utilize the ever-dwindling pool of resources designated for PA’s afterschool programs. Wheatley’s colleagues in the state legislature echoed this sentiment in a roughly hour-and-a-half-long rally on the Capitol rotunda steps.