Continuing the Legacy

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

Twenty years later, After School Matters continues to inspire students in various communities by providing diverse programs through Chicago Public Schools and local organizations. Created by the late Maggie Daley, After School Matters gives students a creative outlet to develop their talents and create community leaders.

For seniors Samantha Galicia and Maricruz Pliego staying home after school was not an option. “I have seen a lot through my neighborhood,” said Galicia, a student at Curie High School. “Not to say my neighborhood was always rough, but I’ve witnessed enough to know that I didn’t want to be placed in certain situations.” Pliego shared the same sentiment. As a student at Juarez High School, Pliego felt compelled to find something that would not only entertain her interest in the arts, but also provide a safe haven. “I am really happy to find a program that feels like a family. The instructors are so happy to have students, meals are provided, and it just feels nice to know I am a part of something special,” said Pliego. Although Galicia and Pliego have never met, their drive to develop their character, voice their opinions, and stay out of harm’s way seems to be a common thread for many students involved in the After School Matters program.

Placing a spotlight on the concerns of teenagers was the culprit for then-Chicago First Lady Maggie Daley who founded the program 20 years ago with the help of former Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Lois Weisberg. The primary goal behind After School Matters was to give teenagers a platform to develop their talents in a time when most of them were not being given the chance. “It is hard to believe that just twenty years ago we started out with a little over 200 students,” said Angela Amankwa, After School Matters Regional director for the Downtown Region. Amankwa, who worked closely with Maggie Daley and After School Matters since its inception, described the organization as being one that was extremely close to Daley’s heart and one that continues to provide a plethora of opportunities for students in various communities. “She [Maggie Daley] was very dedicated to the teens and had a wonderful ability to be able to sit back and listen to the teens and what they were thinking and what they wanted to see. Their concerns helped drive the organization in the direction it is today,” said Amankwa.

Having started out with a small space in Gallery 37, After School Matters has grown to encompass diverse classes ranging in photography, mural painting, dance, science, and much more by partnering with Chicago Public Schools and various local organizations across the city. “Being a part of the sports 37 program, I’m able to not only learn about the rules of the sports and interact with kids, but the program helped become a better student,” said Galicia, who is now entering her fifth cycle with the organization. According to After School Matters, every 26 seconds a student drops out of high school. Studies have shown teens who participate in programs had a better school attendance, fewer course failures, and higher graduation rates than. In its 2010-2011 program, African-American students made up 61 percent of enrollment and Hispanics 27 percent. Prior to joining After School Matters this year, Pliego declared herself as not being as open-minded as her fellow classmates. “It changed when I joined the Aztec dance program. It was something that I really enjoyed doing. I love dancing, learning about the culture, learning the history behind the instruments. And it’s a great feeling to know that we have a chance to showcase our knowledge through our performances,” said Pliego.

After School Matters is currently accepting applications for high school students who are interested. If you would like to learn more about the history of After School Matters or its programs, visit “It is an incredible feeling to know that what we teach our students go beyond high school walls,” said Amankwa. “Maggie Daley was a true champion for teenagers and with the growth of the organization you can definitely see the fruits of that labor.”

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