Quality out-of-school time (OST) programs rely on support from families, schools, communities, foundations, businesses and policymakers to offer resources and establish beneficial regulations and policies. It is critical that each of these groups understand the value of OST to their communities and their role in supporting and expanding quality OST programs.

PSAYDN’s Advocacy Efforts

PSAYDN builds relationships with state and national elected and public officials to advocate for out-of-school time funding and resources.

Advocacy Day

For Advocacy Day, we invite OST program leaders and youth to Harrisburg to advocate for their programs. We arrange appointments with their legislators, plan an annual rally with speakers from government, program staff and youth, and provide training and support to get programs and youth comfortable with advocacy work.

Lights On Afterschool

We promote statewide efforts on Lights on Afterschool Day by lifting up programs who are holding events, providing swag to programs, and advocating to the Governor to Proclaim Lights on Afterschool Day statewide.

Afterschool Ambassador Program

The objective of the Pennsylvania Afterschool Ambassadors Program is to establish a coalition of leaders throughout Pennsylvania who possess the necessary knowledge and experience to champion and advocate for high-quality out-of-school time (OST) programs.

STEM Ecosystems

PSAYDN heads Pennsylvania Statewide STEM Ecosystem’s policy committee; has drafted STEM education policy recommendations; and provided training on STEM policy and advocacy.

When requested or as part of certain grant initiatives, PSAYDN has:

  • Helped arrange for government officials to visit OST program sites.
  • Provided advocacy training for program staff and youth leaders.
  • Introduced program staff to policy makers in their regions.
  • Connected OST programs with local education agencies.
  • Provided guidance in how to get started in advocacy work.

If you are interested in any of these supports, please email us at [email protected]. We want to help you to advocate for your programs!

What is Advocacy?

  • Building relationships with policymakers at all levels of government.

  • Cultivating a coalition of voices from youth, school district personnel, OST providers and others, to speak up in support of these crucial programs.

  • Connecting with your public officials on social media and responding to their posts.

  • Introducing yourself to a public official at a community event.

  • Writing a letter, postcard or email to your public official.

  • Visiting a public official in their local, Harrisburg or Washington, D.C. office.

  • Inviting a public official to your program so they can see the effects on children and youth in their community.

  • Providing your elected officials with information from parent surveys so they understand the program’s impact on their voters.

  • Anyone can advocate for out-of-school time (OST)! All it takes is a willingness to tell your story and the story of the children and youth within your programs.

Tips for OST Advocacy

Building Relationships with Your Local and State Policymakers

The first step to building that relationship is like the first step in building any relationship – you need to introduce yourself, or in some cases, reintroduce yourself. Take a proactive approach and realize that legislators meet many new people – they may not remember you until they have met you a few times.

Getting to know policymakers’ staff is as important as getting to know the elected official. Educating a staff member on OST issues is an opportunity to inform a person who has the ear of your elected policymaker every day. That staff member may also have a vested interest in OST– for example, they may have a school-age child or grandchild – and champion the issue with their policymaker. If you take the time to establish yourself as the “go-to” person on OST issues, the staff will reach out to you for your opinion when those issues come up.

Cultivate relationships with your elected officials throughout the year, and you will make a stronger impact on their priorities. If you wait to introduce yourself until you have a specific ask, they may be overwhelmed by many competing priorities.

You can see when the Pennsylvania House and Senate are in session at www.legis.state.pa.us. When they are in session, the lawmakers will be in Harrisburg. When they are not in session, legislators are likely to be in their local and district offices.

Dos and Don’ts for Communicating with Elected Officials


Your homework

Before making contact, learn key background information. Visit their official website. Be sure to know if they are part of the Afterschool Caucus and how they have voted on education and youth development issues in the past.

Be specific

When you call, email or meet in person, tell the official why you are there and what you want. Your interaction might only last a few minutes. Be sure to mention you are a constituent.

Establish yourself as an expert information source

Elected officials have limited time and staff and many competing issues to consider. You can fill their information gap and become their “expert.”

Bring informational materials

Leave your elected official with a one-page fact sheet about your program and any other materials that describe your program’s benefits for youth and families in your community.

Follow up after a meeting

Send a personal thank you note to the official and staff for their time. If you promised information, be sure to send it as soon as possible.


Think you must know everything

It is okay to admit you do not know something. Instead, let them know that you will find out the information and get back to them.

Burn bridges

Work to find some sort of consensus and always leave on positive terms.

Forget elected officials work for you.

You should be courteous but not intimidated.

Setting Up a Meeting

Schedule a meeting with the elected official or staffer to introduce yourself and provide information about your OST program. These meetings are normally scheduled through their website or by calling the office. Remind them that your program is located in their district and that many of your families and staff are their constituents.

Ask if a photo can be taken to share on your website, social media accounts or newsletter. Remember to share the photo with the elected official.

In case you are meeting with a staffer, ask that the information you share be presented to the elected official.

What do I talk about?

Your background

  • How did you come to work in OST?
  • Why is OST so important to you?

Your organization’s background

  • How long has it been in operation?
  • What services does it provide?
  • Where is it located?
  • Has it grown since it was first founded?

Your impact

  • How many children are enrolled in your OST program?
  • How old are they and are they from an under-resourced or underrepresented community?
  • How many families are on your waiting list?
  • What kinds of activities do you focus on (e.g., athletics, arts, STEM, entrepreneurship)?
  • How do parents benefit from the program?
  • Why is it important for your community to retain this program?
  • How does the high school graduation rate of your students compare to the entire school or school district?


  • How many federal and state dollars does your program receive?
  • What federal or state programs do you participate in?
  • How has that funding impacted the quality or size of your program?
  • Has funding suffered over time or grown to meet the need?

Nonprofit and Federally Funded Program Rules of Engagement

If your program is a nonprofit or is federally funded, there are laws that define how you can interact with elected officials as a representative for your program. In general, these programs can advocate for themselves, but cannot lobby.

For more information about the distinction between advocacy and lobbying, please review these resources:

If you need help getting started with advocacy, PSAYDN is here to support you. Please email us at [email protected].

Examples of OST professionals are advocating for their programs

Stacey is a fifth-grade teacher who runs an afterschool robotics program. Teachers from a nearby elementary school would like to run the same program. Stacey invites the principal of the nearby school and the school district superintendent to attend her end-of-year event. They love the passion, excitement and deep learning they see in Stacey’s students and commit the resources needed to start the program at the nearby school.

Jasmine is a director at a private childcare center that provides summer, before- and afterschool care for school-age children. She learned from PSAYDN that the BOOST Act of 2022 proposed to create dedicated state funding for OST care. She wrote a letter to her state officials to show her support for the legislation.

Demetrious runs a summer leadership program for teens. He teaches them public speaking and supports them as they address problems they identify in their community. As part of the program, the teens visit the mayor’s office to share their experiences in the summer leadership program. When they visit, Demetrious makes sure to also tell the staffers about how his program supports youth development and the unmet need for these programs in their community. Because of these long-time relationships, Demetrious is invited to the mayor’s Children and Youth Advisory Panel where he gives recommendations on citywide programs that affect children, youth and families.