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Hundreds Gather at the State Capitol to Protect After-School Programs

SACRAMENTO -- Hundreds of young people joined advocates and lawmakers on the steps of the State Capitol Tuesday, demanding the state take action to save after-school programs in California.

Students and advocates say the state programs at risk of losing federal funding in President Donald Trump's proposed budget.

"I just feel it's unfair," said Emily Cordero, who is in an after-school art program.

Cordero came to Sacramento from the Los Angeles area. She says her art program keeps her safe and focused.

"It's a very gang-related environment that I've been exposed to since I live in the projects. And this program, which is ARC, it's allowed me to spend more time and focus on school and things that interest me," she said.

"All these events and activities they're providing for us it's giving more people to bring out their personalities," said Marcus Aguirre, who is also in an after-school art program.

Advocates are calling on the state to step in by setting aside $76 million to save the programs under threat.

"We're really concerned because there could be no summer learning programs or no high school programs if we lose our federal dollars," said Jessica Gunderson of the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance.

Students from across the state also delivered thousands of letters, asking for state funding to keep the programs alive.

Some lawmakers are fighting alongside students and advocates, determined to find a way to save the programs.

"We have hope that some way, somehow we will get the money," said after-school program advocate, Nathan Houston.

Advocates say 860,000 students benefit from state after-school programs.