GOOD AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAMS CAN KEEP
HOOSIER STUDENTS HEADED ON THE RIGHT PATH
A lot can happen between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
As final school bells ring on any given weekday across the nation, 15 million students have no parents waiting for them at home and no supervised activity to keep them busy. Some students may not go home at all, but make city streets their afternoon playground. It may not surprise you that juvenile crime is at its peak during that three-hour unsupervised period.
According to a one recent study by Afterschool Alliance – a coalition of public, private and non-profit as groups committed to raising awareness and expanding resources for afterschool programs – as many as 30 percent of all school children in Indiana are on their own during the afternoon hours from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Another 15 percent is in the care of brothers and sisters.
This means nearly half of Hoosier students have no parental supervision after school.
That’s why quality afterschool programs are so important. Hoosier students need a meaningful, structured environment when school dismisses for the day. Yet, a new survey finds no progress in availability of afterschool programs for Indiana youth over the last five years, even as statewide demand for afterschool programs has increased.
Indiana’s rate of participation in afterschool programs is holding steady at 10 percent, trailing the national average of 15 percent. But there are many parents seeking to get their students involved in afterschool programs, if they could find them. Afterschool Alliance reports 36 percent of parents with children not already in an afterschool program would enroll their kids if one were available.
Debbie Zipes, executive director of the Indiana Afterschool Network, shared some eye-opening facts and figures when describing the power of post-school-day programs. She said if you multiply three hours of afterschool program time by 180 school days, it equals 540 extra hours of education – or 32,400 minutes. That would be the equivalent of 72 additional school days, giving Indiana 252 instead of 180 – more than Japan’s 243 days.
In today’s economic environment, we may never get back to the days when one parent was always at home to greet a child after school. But we can do better than leave half of our Hoosier students unsupervised – or perhaps even worse – uninspired. More than one study shows children who participate in afterschool programs are less likely to use drugs or become teen parents. Chances are also good they won’t fall victim to crime or participate in criminal activities.
Studies also show when young people are supervised after school, it’s good for business. Working parents are more successful and productive when they know their children are safe in the hours after school. On average, working parents miss eight days per year due to lack of afterschool care.
What’s the best of kind of after-school program? Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett believes it’s one combining enjoyable and enriching activities with reading skills. If after-school mentoring is mixed with literacy, the results not only produce a safer young person, but a smarter one as well.
An interactive map of afterschool youth programs across the state can be found by visiting www.indianaafterschool.org/map/
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