Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Florida Afterschool Network wishes everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving. For your reading pleasure, below are fun Thanksgiving Facts from the History Channel.


In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn't until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of each November.

Thanksgiving Over the Years

Though many competing claims exist, the most familiar story of the first Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth Colony, in present-day Massachusetts, in 1621. More than 200 years later, President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving. Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day an official national holiday in 1941.

Sarah Josepha Hale, the enormously influential magazine editor and author who waged a tireless campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in the mid-19th century, was also the author of the classic nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

In 2001, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative Thanksgiving stamp. Designed by the artist Margaret Cusack in a style resembling traditional folk-art needlework, it depicted a cornucopia overflowing with fruits and vegetables, under the phrase "We Give Thanks."

Thanksgiving On the Roads

The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimated that 42.2 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2010.

Thanksgiving On the Table

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Minnesota is the top turkey-producing state in America, with a planned production total of 46.5 million in 2011. Six states—Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, and Indinia—account for nearly two-thirds of the  248 million turkeys that will be raised in the U.S. this year.

The National Turkey Federation estimated that 46 million turkeys—one fifth of the annual total of 235 million consumed in the United States in 2007—were eaten at Thanksgiving.

In a survey conducted by the National Turkey Federation, nearly 88 percent of Americans said they eat turkey at Thanksgiving. The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds, which means some 690 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the U.S. during Thanksgiving in 2007.

Cranberry production in the U.S. is expected to reach 750 million pounds in 2011. Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington are the top cranberry growing states.
Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and New York are the major pumpkin growing states, together they produced 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkin in 2010. Total U.S. production was over 1.5 billion pounds.

The sweet potato is most plentifully produced in North Carolina, which grew 972 million pounds of the popular Thanksgiving side dish vegetable in 2010. Other sweet potato powerhouses included California and Mississippi, and the top producing states together generated over 2.4 billion pounds of the tubers.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 2,020 pounds and measured just over 12 feet long. It was baked on October 8, 2005 by the New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers in Ohio, and included 900 pounds of pumpkin, 62 gallons of evaporated milk, 155 dozen eggs, 300 pounds of sugar, 3.5 pounds of salt, 7 pounds of cinnamon, 2 pounds of pumpkin spice and 250 pounds of crust.

Thanksgiving Around the Country

Three towns in the U.S. take their name from the traditional Thanksgiving bird, including Turkey, Texas (pop. 465); Turkey Creek, Louisiana (pop. 363); and Turkey, North Carolina (pop. 270).

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Originally known as Macy's Christmas Parade—to signify the launch of the Christmas shopping season—the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade took place in New York City in 1924. It was launched by Macy's employees and featured animals from the Central Park Zoo. Today, some 3 million people attend the annual parade and another 44 million watch it on television.

Tony Sarg, a children's book illustrator and puppeteer, designed the first giant hot air balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1927. He later created the elaborate mechanically animated window displays that grace the fa├žade of the New York store from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Snoopy has appeared as a giant balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade more times than any other character in history. As the Flying Ace, Snoopy made his sixth appearance in the 2006 parade.


The first time the Detroit Lions played football on Thanksgiving Day was in 1934, when they hosted the Chicago Bears at the University of Detroit stadium, in front of 26,000 fans. The NBC radio network broadcast the game on 94 stations across the country--the first national Thanksgiving football broadcast. Since that time, the Lions have played a game every Thanksgiving (except between 1939 and 1944); in 1956, fans watched the game on television for the first time.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Panel of Champions Profile: Douglas Sessions

Douglas Sessions, Jr. is President and CEO of the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida.  The Ounce of Prevention Fund is a private, non-profit founded in 1989 to identify, fund, support and evaluate unique and innovative prevention and early intervention programs and community initiatives to improve the development and life outcomes of children and to preserve and strengthen families.  He has served in this capacity for 16 years.  

Prior to joining the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Mr. Sessions served as a senior aide in the administration of Florida Governor Reubin Askew, as a Vice President for the New York Yankees, as a senior partner in various business ventures, and as a private business and governmental consultant.

Mr. Sessions is a fifth generation Floridian, a native of Jacksonville, a product of the state’s public school system, and holds BA and MS degrees from the University of South Florida and the Florida State University, respectively.  Mr. Sessions resides in Tallahassee with his wife Cynthia Lee.  The Sessions have three married daughters and four grandchildren.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Board Spotlight: Joe Davis

Joe Davis serves as Chair of the Florida Afterschool Network and is also Chief of the Bureau of Family and Community Outreach at the Florida Department of Education. 

Davis began his career teaching English, exceptional student education, and American History at Augusta Raa Middle School, in Tallahassee, for nearly ten years. 

As a teacher, he enlisted the services of parents, families, businesses, government agencies, and community leaders, and encouraged them to become more involved in the educational process in order to positively impact student achievement. 

Davis has worked nationally as an education consultant, primarily assisting schools with the school improvement process, and has served the Florida Department of Education since 2002.  During his time at the Department, Davis has coordinated family literacy programs, conducted parent involvement trainings, and directed afterschool programs.  As Bureau Chief, he currently oversees the offices of Safe Schools, Dropout Prevention, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Faith and Community-Based Outreach, Parental Involvement, Awards and Recognition for Community Outreach, and Volunteer Coordinators.

Davis’ commitment to Florida’s children and families has resulted in several awards, including a statewide “Award of Excellence” from the Florida Afterschool Alliance, an Honorary Life Membership in the Florida PTA, and Fellow status with the Florida Supreme Court Justice Teaching Institute (JTI).

Davis attended Florida State University.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How Afterschool Programs Impact Juvenile Delinquency & Gang Prevention

Quality afterschool programs offer more than just supervision. Quality programs offer a variety of activities and curriculum to meet most every kids interests and abilities. Not only do quality afterschool programs have an impact on educational achievement, social development, and child  safety, these  programs have been found to positively impact the behavior and social skills of children and youth who attend.

Studies have found that afterschool participants are more assertive, less aggressive, and better at resolving conflicts. Participants tend to have better peer interactions, and less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking alcohol, taking illegal drugs, smoking, and teenage sexual activity. In addition, they are less likely to hang out in gangs or participate in serious crimes than their unsupervised peers

With all these studies showing the benefits of afterschool programs, one would think every child would have the opportunity to participate. Not the case! Not even close! Almost 25% of Florida’s K-12 youth are responsible for taking care of themselves after school? These children spend an average of 15 hours per week unsupervised. What are the consequences?

A Fight Crime: Invest in Kids study found that violent juvenile crime “suddenly triples” in the hour after school lets out. In addition, the study discovered that between the hours of 2-6 p.m., kids are most likely to become victims of violent crime; be killed in a car accident; be killed by household or other accidents; get hooked on alcohol and cigarettes; experiment with other dangerous drugs; and engage in sexual activities.

In an economy where ever organization is fighting for funding, quality afterschool programs should be a priority. A 2008 Presidential Campaign poll found that 76% of voters want state and local officials to increase funding for afterschool, believe afterschool is important to curbing the dropout rate and think afterschool programs are important to preparing our future workforce. 83% believed there should be some type of organized activity or safe place for kids to go afterschool every day.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) in a study of 73 afterschool programs found that that afterschool programs succeeded in improving youths’ feelings of self confidence and self esteem. They also reduced problem behaviors (e.g. aggression, non-compliance and conduct problems) and drug use. In sum, afterschool programs produced multiple benefits that pertain to youths’ personal, social and academic life.

There are so many benefits of quality afterschool programs. Investing in afterschool programs is investing in our children’s futures. Is there any better investment?