'Lights On Afterschool' Stresses that America's Afterschool Programs are Critical

October 9, 2003 - Posted at 10:30pm

PARAGOULD, AR -- A group of Region Eight students got to stay out later than usual Thursday night. They were at school, and said they were happy to be there.

The kids and some adults were taking part in what's called 'Lights On Afterschool.' It's an awareness campaign to promote the importance of afterschool programs across America. Brian Boyer and the ASU Women's Basketball team took part in the activities.
"This is one of those give and take type deals," said Boyer. "It's the young kids, they look up to our athletes, you know, as they should. They're great role models, but you know these players don't forget this too."

Students attending the program at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School were excited about hanging out with the players. Laci Chambers, a 4th grade student, said, "Getting their autographs and seeing them up there."

"Just to talk with them and kind of let them know how we got to where we are," explained Brooke Shelby, a senior on the team, "and kind of give them a little bit of advice for the future, so and they respond well."

More afterschool programs like the one at Brooke Shelby's former elementary school are starting across the U.S. More people are supporting them, and more money is becoming available to fund them.A $125,000 grant has allowed the SAFARI (Student Activities for Acceleration Remediation and Intervention) afterschool program to expand.

Vicki Shelby is the Director at School of the 21st Century. Her school along with others in Greene County participate in the program.

Shelby explained, "We had about 30 children in our school here and about 30 or 40 at Baldwin Elementary. We had two different ones going on. With the grant, we're gonna be able to serve 100 at this school."

The kids take computer, math and music classes. They get fed and receive help with homework as well as participate in other activities.

"You get to speak Spanish and play games," added Laci Chambers.

Education professionals say not only do parents need to make sure their children have afterschool programs.. but also that those programs meet certain quality standards. "Everything that we look for in a quality program is always based on the developmental needs of children, in that being their physical needs, their social needs, their emotional needs and their cognitive or intellectual needs," said Woodie Sue Herlein, a Director in the ASU Childhood Services Department.

Three years ago, 5 programs went through voluntary accreditation through the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Now 50 afterschool activity centers have reached that status. Parents can get an additional 20% state tax credit if their child attends a state approved program.If you would like more information about childhood education issues, contact Woodie Sue Herlein at (870) 972-3055.