Newark’s Cruz Selected as One of Just 15 ‘Afterschool Ambassadors’ in United States This Year

Sarah Cruz Will Work in New Jersey, Nationally to Increase Students’ Access to Afterschool Opportunities

Washington, DC – The Afterschool Alliance and Newark Public Schools (NPS) announced today that Sarah Cruz, Special Assistant for Expanded Learning Time at NPS, has been selected to serve as a 2016-2017 Afterschool Ambassador. She is one of just 15 leaders from across the nation chosen for the honor this year. Each Afterschool Ambassador will continue directing or supporting a local afterschool program while also serving a one-year Afterschool Ambassador term, organizing public events, communicating with elected officials and policy makers, and growing support for afterschool programs in other ways.

“We are thrilled that Sarah will serve as an Afterschool Ambassador this year,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “She is a dedicated champion for quality afterschool and summer learning programs. I know she will mobilize business, community and faith leaders, lawmakers, educators, parents and others to increase resources for afterschool programs, which keep students safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. These programs offer hands-on learning opportunities, homework help, mentors, science and technology, access to healthy snacks and meals, sports and fitness, arts programming, civic engagement, and much more. I’m eager to work with Sarah to bring us closer to the day when no children or youth are unsupervised and at risk after the school day ends.”

“I am delighted to support the Afterschool Alliance’s work to increase resources for afterschool programs, here and around the country,” said Cruz. “In my 17 years working in this field, I’ve witnessed firsthand the many ways that afterschool programs give students opportunities to explore their interests and discover their passions, while giving parents the peace of mind that comes with knowing their children are safe and supervised, with engaging, educational activities, during the afternoons. I look forward to raising awareness and support for the out-of-school-time opportunities all students need.”

The Newark Public Schools serves more than 7,000 students per day in afterschool programming across 56 schools in the city. Through a variety of activities, special events and clubs, students experience academic support and programming in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), delivered by highly qualified teachers and partner organizations such as the Newark Chess Club, Bed Time Math, Just One Soccer, After-School All-Stars, the Newark YMCA and many other community non-profit organizations. These programs are important to the development of a students’ well-being by keeping kids safe, learning and by supporting families. NPS is also a Child and Adult Care Food Program sponsor serving nutritious meals to student’s everyday afterschool.

Each Ambassador will organize a major event for Lights On Afterschool, the Afterschool Alliance’s annual rally for afterschool programming, to be held on October 20 this year. Last year, 1 million people participated in some 8,000 Lights On Afterschool events across the United States and at U.S. military bases worldwide.

The 2016-2017 Afterschool Ambassadors are:

  • Arizona: Jeremy King, Community Services Supervisor, Kid Zone Enrichment Program in Tempe;
  • Delaware: Beth Ohline, Senior Child Development Director, Bear-Glasgow YMCA in Newark;
  • District of Columbia: Daniela Grigioni, Executive Director, After-School All-Stars DC in Washington, D.C.;
  • Idaho: Lissa Hall, School Age Coordinator, Mountain Home Air Force Base Youth Programs in Mountain Home;
  • Illinois: Tammera Holmes, President & CEO, AeroStar Avion Institute in Country Club Hills;
  • Iowa: Nate Clark, Vice President, John Deere Foundation and Manager of Enterprise Citizenship, Deere & Company;
  • Maine: Amy Pichette, Director of Afterschool Programming, LearningWorks in Portland;
  • Michigan: Maria Mitter, Assistant Director, Eastern Michigan University Bright Futures 21st CCLC in Ypsilanti;
  • New Jersey: Sarah Cruz, Special Assistant, Newark Public Schools Office of Expanded Learning Time in Newark;
  • North Carolina: Bill McClain, Executive Director, Guiding Institute for Developmental Education (GIDE) in Winston-Salem;
  • North Carolina: Betsey McFarland, Executive Director, Wade Edwards Foundation in Raleigh;
  • Oregon: Debra Jones, Program Coordinator, Oceanspray Family Centers and Housing Authority of Lincoln County in Newport;
  • Rhode Island: Ayana Crichton, Expanded Learning Program Director, Cranston Public Schools in Cranston;
  • Wisconsin: Eric Vanden Heuvel, Chief Academic Officer, The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay in Green Bay; and
  • Wyoming: Tamra Petersen, Grant Coordinator, 21st CCLC Uinta B.O.C.E.S. #1 Education Center in Evanston.

The America After 3PM household survey of more than 30,000 families, commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance, found that participation in afterschool programs has increased to 10.2 million students nationwide, up from 6.5 million in 2004. But the unmet demand for afterschool programs has increased as well. Today, for every child in an afterschool program, there are two more whose parents say they would participate, if a program were available. Unmet demand is especially high in rural communities and communities of concentrated poverty. One in five students in the United States today is unsupervised after the school day ends.

A large and growing body of evidence demonstrates improvements in attendance, behavior, academic achievement and more among children in afterschool programs. Researchers have also found that afterschool programs encourage increased parental involvement – an important building block for student success.

The Afterschool Alliance is a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality afterschool programs. More information is available at