Afterschool in Your Community
Communities need citizens that are connected to their community in order to thrive. In multiple ways, afterschool and out-of-school (OST) time help children and youth, in urban, rural and suburban areas, build positive connections with adults and their peers. These supportive relationships with staff, counselors, volunteers, older youth serving as leaders, etc., solidify a young person’s bonds the community. Besides strengthening academic skills, quality OST helps youth of all ages appreciate their culture and neighborhoods, build self esteem and leadership skills, stay in school, and explore college or careers while learning from positive role models. As a result, their OST experiences (or the unfortunate lack thereof) greatly influence the goals they set for themselves as happy and productive citizens in your community.
Pennsylvania’s children and youth spend 20% of their waking hours in school. It is important to know How Are They Spending The Other 80% and its potential impact on your community.
26% of Pennsylvania’s K-12 youth are responsible for taking care of themselves. These children spend an average of more than six hours per week unsupervised after school. A lack of adult supervision is linked to lower grades and test scores, higher levels of tobacco and drugs, an increased likelihood of accidents and injuries and a greater likelihood of early sexual activity. (Afterschool Alliance and National Institute on Out-of-School Time, 2004)
In Communities across the Country
The Afterschool Alliance offers national research on the need for OST and its impact in communities, large and small, across the country:
Keeping Kids Safe and Healthy
Afterschool programs are proven to reduce risk behaviors and cut crime. Teens who do not participate in afterschool programs are nearly 3 times more likely to use drugs and 37% more likely to become parents. (U.S. Department of Education, 2000) Studies show that juvenile crime and other risk behaviors like smoking, drinking, doing drugs, and sexual activity are more likely to occur between 3 and 6 p.m. (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2000) Afterschool Programs Keep Kids Safe and Healthy through health and wellness education, encouraging physical activity, and providing a safe stable environment to learn.
Children and youth who regularly attend high-quality OST programs have better grades and conduct in school; more academic and enrichment opportunities; better peer relations and emotional adjustment; and lower incidences of drug-use, violence and pregnancy. (U.S. Department of Education, 2000)
Afterschool programs help students succeed and stay in school. Frequent attendance in quality OST programs improves grades and test performance, increases school attendance, improves homework completion and quality, reduces grade retention and increases the likelihood that students will graduate from high school and go on to some type of post secondary education. (Afterschool Alliance and Harvard Family Research Project 2004) In Making the Case: How Good Afterschool Programs Improve School-day Attendance, research shows that good afterschool programs can not only improve academic performance but also influence school-day attendance.
The strongest predictor of whether students will dropout of high school is poor academic performance. Other risk factors include repeating grades, low socioeconomic background, speaking English as a second language, becoming pregnant, and being frequently tardy or absent from school. (U.S. Department of Education, 2004)
Investing in the Community
Bottom line, Afterschool Programs Make a Wise Public Investment for the community. All sectors of the community – schools, business, health and safety, government and especially working families benefit from a consistent investment in afterschool. These community stakeholders should continue to invest and work together to sustain affordable and accessible high-quality OST for all children and youth in need.