Understanding and Funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers

21st Centurty Community Learning Grant

What is a 21st Century Community Learning Center?

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program is a federal initiative designed to provide students from low-income families with academic enrichment and an activity-filled safe space during non-school hours. The program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education seeks to help young people meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects such as reading, math, art, music, physical education and technology education; additionally, programs can provide mentorship opportunities and drug and violence prevention activities. Application for funding is competitive and details on how to apply can be found on the Department of Education website. It is important to note that this funding is subject to change based on the US budget meaning it might not be available every year or have various amounts distributed each year.

Understanding Eligibility.

To be eligible to apply for 21st CCLC funding through the program, an organization must be: 

  • Local educational agencies
  • Community-based organizations
  • Public or private non-profit entities
  • Faith-based organizations
  • For-profit entities that partner with a public or private non-profit entity

Organization's must demonstrate that it is capable of providing services that are aligned with state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math, and that it can provide children with a safe place to learn and grow during non-school hours. Also be able to show the capacity to provide services to children and families, such as academic and enrichment activities, counseling, and mentoring, and to involve parents and families in the program. It's also important to note that priority is given to organizations that serve high-poverty areas and serve a significant number of children from low-income families.

Explore 21 CCLC Program Funding Streams.

The 21C Program is primarily funded through two streams – State Education Agency (SEA) Grants and direct competitive Department of Education (ED) Grants. SEAs awards grants through formula or competitive activities that are focused on providing high quality, educationally enriched outcomes for students attending their respective schools. ED grants are offered directly through a competitive application process and designed to provide expanded learning opportunities that meet the needs of local communities in low-income rural and urban settings.

Identify Resources to Help with the Application Process.

Applying for the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant can be a major undertaking, so it's important to be prepared. Start by researching student outcomes in your district and understanding the needs of the community for additional learning opportunities. Develop relationships with educational and business leaders, and create a plan that outlines how a 21 CCLC grant can meet those needs. Here's a few resources to help get you started: 

Learn Best Practices for Writing a Successful Application.

When writing the 21st Century Community Learning grant application, you should include best practices such as setting measurable goals and objectives, designing a budget that is realistic for your district’s needs, and providing detailed information on implementation strategies. It’s also important to create an evaluation plan to assess the impact of the services provided and ensure long-term success. Additionally, you should ensure that all required documents are submitted in full and that your answers have clear and concise language. Lastly, be prepared to answer any questions or provide additional information during the interview phase of the application process.

Learn Best Practices for Writing a Successful Application.

Winning a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant is just the beginning for school districts. To be successful throughout the grant cycle, it's really important to plan ahead and allocate resources correctly. Districts must manage their finances and documents in accordance with state regulations, customize their programs to meet student needs, and involve stakeholders through consultation to ensure they are getting feedback and input. Taking these steps will ensure that 21C grants are managed properly and with success.


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