WAMY staff member selected as 2020 Afterschool Alliance’s NC Ambassador￼￼
BOONE — The Afterschool Alliance recently announced that Emily Neff, the director of youth development at WAMY Community Action Inc. was selected to serve as an Afterschool Ambassador for the Afterschool Alliance in 2020-21.
Neff, a Watauga County native and Appalachian State University graduate, is one of just 18 leaders in the United States chosen for this prestigious honor this year. Afterschool Alliance stated that Neff is a highly-accomplished and caring individual with a passionate goal to assist and provide for the children and their families within the community.
Ambassadors will continue their work supporting local after school programs while serving the one-year Afterschool Ambassador term, organizing public events, communicating with policymakers and community leaders while increasing awareness and support for after school and summer learning programs.
“I am excited to join the Afterschool Alliance in their goal to increase support for after school and summer learning programs,” Neff said. “In my six years with WAMY, I have met many children and their families who have honestly told me that WAMY’s youth programs have saved their families.”
Neff added that many families need after school and summer programming so they can go to work or school to provide for their children while school is not in session.
“My heart goes out to every family that I have met in my time so far at WAMY and I have connected with each family so that our organization can assist them with more than just childcare and enrichment,” Neff said. “Being able to see these children grow up over the years and hear about their improvements each year at school due to their care and learning throughout the summer makes it all worthwhile.”
WAMY has operated an after school program located in Avery County for over twenty years. The program focuses on serving at-risk youth from Kindergarten through elementary school with tutoring, mentoring, social enrichment and health/nutrition. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the program is currently serving more than 150 students. Usually, without restrictions, the program serves over 250 students each year.
The mission of ￼the organization reads to “encourage each student and his/her family to reach their full potential by providing all-encompassing enrichment opportunities, hands-on learning and experiential activities in a fun, safe and high-quality learning environment.”
In 2016, Neff, along with her Youth Development team at WAMY, created the Mountain Adventures Summer Day Camp in Watauga County. This program operates out of Cove Creek Elementary School and serves on average 150 students each summer. The summer program provides breakfast, lunch and snacks each day as well as field trips, guest speakers, swimming activities and academic explorations in the outdoors. WAMY is thankful for the opportunity to provide a low-cost summer program in partnership with many private donors and with support from Watauga County Schools.
“Creating the summer program has been an amazing experience and journey,” Neff said. “I have met so many wonderful people and children throughout the years and each summer I am just as excited to be at camp as the kids are.”
Families tell Neff that they drive more than 40 minutes to bring their children to Mountain Adventures, and that the children wake up early to get to camp early each day because they enjoy the staff and spending time with their peers all summer long.
The America After 3:00 p.m. household survey of more than 30,000 families, commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance, found that participation in after school programs has increased to 10.2 million students nationwide — up from 6.5 million in 2004. But the unmet demand for after school programs has increased as well. Currently, for every child in an after school 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, according to the Afterschool Alliance. One in five students in the United States currently is unsupervised after the school day ends.
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. WAMY Community Actionv — representing Watauga, Avery, Mitchell and Yancey — counties has a motto of “breaking the cycle of poverty.”