MTAA Welcomes New Network Lead

The Montana Afterschool Alliance (MTAA) Steering Council is pleased to welcome Julia Gustafson as our new Network Lead. Julia will serve as the primary contact for the Montana Afterschool Alliance. We appreciate her help as we continue our work supporting and advocating for sustainable, high-quality afterschool programs by drawing together key decision-makers committed to improving outcomes for youth, their families, and communities.

Julia brings strong communication and organizational skills to MTAA and an enthusiasm for our vision that all Montana youth have access to enriching afterschool activities in a safe and healthy environment.  Most recently Julia served as the Organizational Development Director for the Montana Nonprofit Association and has also worked with PacificSource Health Plans and the Governor’s Office of Community Service. Julia is the new board chair for Helena Food Share, Helena's food pantry, and previously served on the board of Helena Community Gardens. She lives in Helena.

You can reach Julia at 406-624-9272 or

Please also note that our mailing address has changed to Montana Afterschool Alliance, PO Box 1952, Helena, MT 59624.


Montana Celebrates Lights On Afterschool!

In October, 2016 over 10 Montana afterschool programs celebrated the Afterschool Alliance's nationwide Lights On Afterschool! campaign by hosting events across the state. Highlights include:

Governor Steve Bullock visited Greater Gallatin United Way kidsLINK Afterschool's event with about 45 Bozeman school children. Events for the day focused on nutritional education, including making a kale salad and learning about the negative impacts of too much sugar. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle featured the Governor's visit to this event at Hyalite Elementary.

Youth make haunted houses out of sugar cubes while Governor Bullock looks on (Photo credit: Louise Johns, Bozeman Daily Chronicle)

Youth make haunted houses out of sugar cubes while Governor Bullock looks on (Photo credit: Louise Johns, Bozeman Daily Chronicle)

Libby Elementary Afterscool Program hosted a Lights On Family Night. Students helped prepare an evening meal for their families, decorated for the event and assembled math game packets. Seventy guests attended. Libby will also be hosting a free Lights On Halloween event on October 31, including Trunk or Treat, a Haunted House, outside games with prizes and refreshments. More than 300 participants are expected to attend

Libby Elementary  Lights On Afterschool!  Family Night, October 24, 2016

Libby Elementary Lights On Afterschool! Family Night, October 24, 2016

Libby Elementary   Lights On Afterschool!   Family Night  , October 24, 2016

Libby Elementary Lights On Afterschool! Family Night, October 24, 2016

The Helena Family YMCA hosted a Lights On event on October 13, 2016. In preparation, Helena middle schoolers addressed invitations to Montana political leaders. Bryant elementary schoolers practiced introducing themselves and inviting guests to join them in activities. Together the students prepared kale chips and decorated cookies for the event. During the event families sampled the snacks made by the students and colored a light bulb to be sent to Montana's legislature to show Helena's support for afterschool funding. A record number of Bryant families attended, totaling 40 students and 25 caretakers.

Helena Middle School and Bryant Elementary School  Lights On Afterschool!   event, October 13, 2016

Helena Middle School and Bryant Elementary School Lights On Afterschool!  event, October 13, 2016

Helena Middle School and Bryant Elementary School  Lights On Afterschool!  event, October 13, 2016

Helena Middle School and Bryant Elementary School Lights On Afterschool! event, October 13, 2016

Although over 18,000 Montana children attend programs after the school day ends, there is still more work to be done to meet the great need for afterschool programs that keep Montana’s kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. Of Montana children not enrolled in afterschool programs, 38% (49,273) would if a program were available. 

“Afterschool programs keep kids safe, help working families and inspire learning. They provide opportunities to help young people develop into successful adults. MTAA promotes Lights On Afterschool!, a project of the Afterschool Alliance, to demonstrate our dedication to ensuring that all children have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs,” says Jan Lombardi, MTAA Steering Council Past President and Executive Committee member.

Thank you to all the Montana afterschool programs who hosted events for Lights On Afterschool! We hope you will join us next year in celebrating the importance of keeping students safe after school!

Annual Afterschool & Beyond Conference Huge Success

On August 15 and 16, 2016 MTAA hosted its second annual Afterschool & Beyond Professional Development Conference for educational professionals. The conference, held at Montana State University (MSU), was a huge success and included 220 participants, presenters and panelists.  There were 20 different workshops to choose from throughout the two-day event that focused on out of school time program leadership, program delivery and program wide enhancement. The Conference was an outstanding networking and resource sharing opportunity for attendees and many participants learned about new funding and training opportunities and gained new tools, both tangible and intangible, for their afterschool programs. 

MTAA would like to thank conference sponsors for helping to create such a successful event:

  • Montana Office of Public Instruction
  • BlueCross BlueShield of Montana
  • NorthWestern Energy
  • Montana Girls STEM Collaborative
  • Montana Education Partnership
National speaker Dr. Ruby Payne provides the keynote address discussing how to break the cycle of poverty.

National speaker Dr. Ruby Payne provides the keynote address discussing how to break the cycle of poverty.

Panelists Jan Lombardi, Shannon Hughes, Chuck Johnson and Chris Seifert discuss Why Your Afterschool Story Matters.

Panelists Jan Lombardi, Shannon Hughes, Chuck Johnson and Chris Seifert discuss Why Your Afterschool Story Matters.

Every Student Succeeds Act

The Every Student Succeeds Act was passed by the Senate earlier today, and it's expected to be signed by President Obama by the end of this week. In addition to maintaining a dedicated funding stream for 21st Century Community Learning Center programs, the new legislation will also make some improvements. 

One of these improvements includes a focus on making it easier for schools, the state, and other community resources to communicate and share resources. In addition, new measurements for helping to keep students on track with college and career readiness will be put in place. Overall, it appears that the legislation is a step forward from the out-of-school time policy viewpoint. 

Press Release: MTAA Seeks New Steering Council Members

Montana Afterschool Alliance Seeks New Steering Council Members

BOZEMAN, MT.: August 26, 2015- The Montana Afterschool Alliance (MTAA), a newly formed organization to promote high quality afterschool and summer programming across the state, is seeking new members. Through building partnerships with schools, afterschool providers, community organizations, elected officials, and other stakeholders throughout Montana, MTAA wants to increase and enhance high quality out-of-school time opportunities for youth.  The Alliance currently has open Steering Council seats to be filled by out-of-school-time providers from central and western Montana as well as business and philanthropic leaders from throughout the state.  

“We need three additional council members to help us strengthen, connect, and expand afterschool programming across the state”, said Director Siobhan Gilmartin. “We know how vital these programs are to both kids and their families -- they keep youth safe during out-of-school time, and enhance academic and social development.”

Over the next several months, the Montana Afterschool Alliance will be conducting a statewide needs assessment, with support from the Department of Health and Human Services, to better understand the gaps and challenges throughout the state. The assessment will include meeting with afterschool providers, families, and community partners, as well as an online survey.   Needs assessment results will be released in 2016 and will help to inform MTAA on future policy to support working families and children. 

Individuals interested in serving on the Steering Committee or becoming involved with the Montana Afterschool Alliance are encouraged to contact the Director Siobhan Gilmartin, at or (406) 587-6390 by October 1, 2015. Further information can also be found at  

About the Montana Afterschool Alliance

The Montana Afterschool Alliance was established in 2014 and is supported by a three-year grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation with matching funding from other partners. The three goals of the Afterschool Alliance are to: improve quality, increase access, and increase sustainability of out-of-school-time programs across the state. The Greater Gallatin United Way, located in Bozeman, both houses and serves as the fiscal agent for the Montana Afterschool Alliance.




Following the Summer Meals Act

Afterschool programs and out-of-school time have received a lot of legislative attention over the past few months. Summer meals in particular have been in the spotlight. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is up for reauthorization soon. Proposed changes to the current act are included in the Summer Meals Act of 2015.

A major focus of the Summer Meals Act is to expand access to free meals during the summer months. According to the Food Research and Action Center’s report,  free and reduced-price lunches are provided to approximately 22 million kids during the school year, but only 3.6 million kids receive meals from a summer meals program. The new act would make it easier for organizations to meet guidelines for summer meal federal funding.

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Childhood Health and Afterschool Programs

The summer months mean more time spent outside for many kids, but that activity level often isn’t sustained throughout the school year. Afterschool programs are one way to help address this issue and improve childhood health. For kids who participate, these programs can help increase their physical activity levels and access to healthy foods. This is an important part of preventing chronic diseases later in life. 

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National Research Council releases long-awaited report on successful out-of-school STEM

The National Research Council (NRC) recently released a long-awaited report, Identifying and Supporting Productive STEM Programs in Out-of-School SettingsThe National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored this report as a follow-up companion study to the Successful K-12 STEM Education report that examined effective approaches to STEM education in schools. 

As afterschool and other out-of-school-time STEM programs have grown in number over the past decade, the interest in measuring their effectiveness and impact has also grown. The recent America After 3PM study revealed that 10.2 million children participate in afterschool programs in the United States, up from 6.5 million a decade ago.  Further, 69% of parents with children in afterschool programs say that some form of STEM activities are included in these programs.

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Afterschool Helps to Close the Opportunity Gap

The achievement and opportunity gaps are a growing concern for educators, policy makers, and community members across the country. Research has shown that consistent participation in high-quality afterschool programs helps close the gaps between students from lower- and higher-income families —but many stakeholders aren’t yet familiar with the transformative effect afterschool can have. 

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