United Ways of Tennessee (UWTN), the Tennessee Afterschool Network (TAN), and Save the Children will promote two programs that support Tennessee students at their annual hill day, advocating for increased access to afterschool programming and breakfast for Tennessee’s children and youth. The event includes a training session in the Cordell Hull Building, followed by an award ceremony and legislative visits.
“This year, we’re pleased to be collaborating with Save the Children,” said Mary Graham, president of UWTN and lead staff for TAN. “Save the Children is a founding member of the TAN steering committee, and it is a powerful advocacy organization that shares our goals and dreams for our state’s children. We believe more voices from various perspectives will enhance the impact of our advocacy work.”
Advocates will be educating legislators about TAN and the value of afterschool programming in Tennessee. “Research shows that students participating in high-quality afterschool programs earn higher grades, attend school more often, are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and are more likely to advance to the next grade and graduate from high school,” said Graham. “They also have opportunities for physical activity and health snacks, which is so important given the high rate of obesity and diabetes in Tennessee, and afterschool programming gives working parents peace of mind that their children are safe and engaged in positive activities.”
Advocates will also be talking with their legislators about access to breakfast for students. “Eighty one percent of teachers note that hunger is impacting students’ ability to concentrate, and one in five kids in TN struggles with hunger,” said Graham. “We want to access more federal dollars to ensure that at-risk students receive breakfast, as well as lunch. “We’re seeking one-time funding for grants to be provided through the Tennessee Department of Education so that schools can invest in the infrastructure and materials needed to provide breakfast to those who need it.”
UWTN and TAN will recognize two recipients of their annual Legislative Champion for ongoing advocacy for policies supporting children and youth. “We are proud to award Senator Lamar Alexander for his work supporting 21st Century afterschool programming and bipartisan health care market stabilization,” said Ben Landers, UWTN Board Chair and president of United Way of Greater Knoxville, which operates a regional hub of TAN. “We are also honoring Representative Joe Pitts, who is retiring from our state legislature. Over the years, he has been a tremendous and passionate advocate for improving access and quality of education and healthcare in our state.
UWTN and TAN are also awarding Linda O’Neal with a Lifetime Children’s Champion award. “Linda has led the TN Commission on Children and Youth since 1988, where she has been a dedicated advocate for a better life for Tennessee’s children and youth,” said Landers. “She has also been an invaluable UWTN board member and a key player and planner in the launch of the Tennessee Afterschool Network.”