San Francisco Celebrates the 23rd Annual Lights On Afterschool


Many of the photos in this article feature San Francisco youth, DCYF staff, and City employees in “Lightbulb” poses for the Lights On Afterschool Lightbulb Challenge. You will see a lot of these images on social media on Thursday, October 20 — the official Lights On Afterschool Day — and DCYF will release a video compilation of San Francisco’s Lightbulb Challenge images on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages on Friday, October 21!

Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco

DCYF is proud to join the entire nation to recognize the 23rd annual Lights On Afterschool celebration. Lights On Afterschool draws attention to the many ways afterschool programs support students, and sends a powerful message that millions more children and youth across the country need quality afterschool programs.

Chinatown YMCA

If you walk by any San Francisco school as the final bell rings, it may be natural to think that the learning day is done — after all, schools are the primary place where children receive their education, and children and youth spend more time at school than nearly anywhere other than their homes. But the programming for children and youth that takes place in the hours after school ends, particularly from 3pm to 6pm, are a crucial component of education for children and youth.

Cross Cultural Family Center

Celebrating Lights On Afterschool inspires us to reflect on the myriad ways after school programs contribute to improving the lives of the children and youth in our city, their families, and our communities as a whole. After school programs build and nourish excitement about learning, they help children and youth develop critical skills, they support working families, and they ensure that children and youth stay on track for a bright and successful future.

DCYF staff

As the San Francisco City Department responsible for distributing the Children and Youth Fund, DCYF is dedicated to giving our children and youth the opportunities they need to live lives of fulfilment and happiness. In June of 2022, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved DCYF’s Community Needs Assessment (CNA), the first phase of our planning cycle and the guiding star we will use as we determine our path toward funding services for children, youth, and families. In the process of developing the CNA, our team rallied around four result areas that reflect fundamental conditions that all children, youth, disconnected transitional age youth, and their families deserve, and that we believe DCYF and our grantee agencies can bring to fruition. These result areas are:

· Children and youth are supported by nurturing families and communities.

· Children and youth are physically and emotionally healthy.

· Children and youth are ready to learn and succeed in school.

· Youth are ready for college, work, and productive adulthood.

After school programs are an essential element of all of these result areas.

District 5 Community Ambassadors — Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs

Children and youth are supported by nurturing families and communities.

What happens when families don’t have after school choices? According to the Afterschool Alliance, parental concerns about their children’s activities between the times that school ends and when they leave their jobs in the evening results in lost productivity at work, costing U.S. businesses up to $300 billion annually. San Francisco families know that after school programs are the safe havens their children need: after school programs help young people avoid risky behaviors — online and offline — from 3pm to 6pm, which is the time of day when juvenile crime peaks due to youth being alone and unsupervised. When families have afterschool choices, they can be assured that their children are with caring adults, are safe, are learning, are trying new things, and are having fun.


Children and youth are physically and emotionally healthy.

In San Francisco, children and youth who are enrolled in after school programs get away from screens and participate in physical activities. They learn how to manage interpersonal relationships, and they receive free, healthy snacks — and in some cases, even free healthy suppers. They are less likely to smoke, use alcohol or other drugs, or become teen parents. They connect with caring adults who won’t let them slip through the cracks.

Handful Players

Children and youth are ready to learn and succeed in school.

Over the years, research has shown that children and youth who participate in after school programs attend school more often, get better grades, and are more likely to graduate from high school. After school programs do not only help children and youth with their homework: they make learning fun and engaging, particularly in integral subjects such as literacy and math, and they help nurture a lifelong love of learning.

Mission Graduates at Bessie Carmichael Elementary School

Youth are ready for college, work, and productive adulthood.

After school programs offer opportunities for children and youth to explore their interests, express themselves, connect, and have fun. They help youth build skills like teamwork, communication, and critical thinking: skills that they will use every day, especially when they enter the job market. After school programs can inspire interests in growing fields like S.T.E.M., they can expose children and youth to a variety of careers, and they can help children and youth understand what they want their paths to be post-high school and into adulthood.

Mission YMCA at Monroe Elementary School

San Francisco prospers when children, youth, and families are thriving, and supporting after school programs is one of the best ways to bring that about that prosperity and make San Francisco a great place to grow up. The next time you hear that afternoon bell and see kids scattering out of their school building, we hope that you see what DCYF does: children and youth on their way to learn, connect, have fun, be inspired, and find paths that will lead them to become the healthy, happy, fulfilled San Franciscans of the future. The light shining on after school programs burns bright in our City, and we’ll do everything we can to ensure that it always does.

Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs
Richmond YMCA
SF ARTS Education at Glen Park Elementary School
SF Office of Economic & Workforce Development
YMCA at West Portal Elementary School