What does your child do during their “out-of-school time”?

Was your first question when you saw this headline “what is out-of-school time?” The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (www.niost.org) reported: “In the hours after the school bell rings, violent juvenile crime soars and the prime time for juvenile crime begins. The peak hours for such crime are from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. These are also the hours when children are most likely to become victims of crime, be in an automobile accident, smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs.”

42-15646869One quarter of American youth (over 14 million kids) take care of themselves after school. They have three hours of time to fill and no caring adult to encourage them towards positive activities. NIOST reported a recent poll which indicates that the number one concern of working parents is the safety of their children during the afterschool hours. “Afterschool programs that connect children to caring adults and provide constructive activities during afterschool house are among the most powerful tools for preventing crime.”

There is an incredible amount of research, studies and reports that have all come to the same conclusion: kids who are in afterschool programs thrive. Research from an eight-state, three-year study known as the Promising Afterschool Programs Study suggests that disadvantaged elementary and middle school students who regularly attend high quality afterschool programs for at least two years are academically further ahead of peers who spend more out-of school time in unsupervised activities. The more engaged students were in supervised afterschool activities, the better they did on a range of academic, social, and behavioral outcomes. Other studies have shown a correlation between frequent attendance in out-of-school time activities and positive outcomes, including an increase in academic achievement, school attendance, time spent on homework, extracurricular activities, improved effort in school, and better student behavior.

CB104391Middle Earth’s Community Youth Centers and 21st Century Learning Center are designed to provide positive alternatives to gangs, drugs and crime during our children’s out-of-school time. The centers are supervised by caring adults and offer access to activities that teens consider “cool.” For example, our centers offer recreational equipment such as a pool table, ping pong table, TV, VCR, stereo, exercise equipment, basketball courts, board games, video games, and a bulletin board full of activities. The staff also provides equipment for youth to expand and develop their creative talents, such as arts and crafts materials, camera and film, digital camera, video camera, computer and printer, keyboard, microphone, and sound booth equipment. What kid wouldn’t want to visit the centers to get access to some of these resources? But when the kids come, our staff is also helping them with homework, teaching them respect, and offering support – many times the kids don’t even realize they’re receiving “support.”

By drawing kids in with caring adults and engaging equipment, we keep their hands busy with positive activities so that there’s no room left for self-destructive behavior. By teaching kids to make positive decisions, we are setting them up to become responsible adults.

So, what is your child doing with their out of school time?

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