For 100,000 children and teens across Los Angeles, public libraries are a safe haven after school. Providing a quiet place to study, computers for completing homework and staff who can help with college and financial aid applications, the Los Angeles Public Library provides an invaluable resource for students, serving as the largest after-school program in the city. Libraries are especially crucial for students who need them most: homeless children without a place to go after school and low-income students whose families may not be able to afford computers or internet access.
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation awarded a $1 million grant to endow free afterschool homework centers in 34 branches of the Los Angeles Public Library across the city, ensuring the centers will continue to have the technology and computer equipment to support students most in need. The grant builds on a $250,000 gift to the Library Foundation last year that expanded the number of homework centers—called student zones—to more library branches, and a book drive by staff of the foundation, The Broad Center and The Broad museum that brought 100 books to the Central Public Library in downtown Los Angeles.
The endowment comes at a time when communities across Los Angeles and the country, particularly low-income communities, are lacking in safe, educational afterschool options for their children. An August 2016 study by the Afterschool Alliance found that in low-income communities, 25 percent enroll their children in afterschool activities. For families who don’t enroll their children, more than half said they would use an afterschool program if one were available.
Teachers are particularly aware of the need for afterschool options for high-needs students.
“We are asking our students to do so much more these days—to think critically, to solve complicated problems, despite all the distractions and challenges happening in their lives,” said April Bain, a Los Angeles Unified School District high school math teacher. “You can’t think critically and solve complicated problems if you can’t hear yourself think or get internet access to complete an assignment. I love that this is providing an essential need for students—a safe, quiet space to learn.”
Phina Ihesiaba, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at KIPP Academy of Opportunity, agreed.
“Many of my students don’t have computers or Internet access at home, so I encourage them to go to the public library after school to do their homework,” she said. “It’s great to have a safe space with the free tools and help they need.”
Student Zones Across Los Angeles
Students Served by Los Angeles Public Library
Percent of Low-Income Families Who Want Free Afterschool Programming