After school programs are discussed

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)-A Regional Youth Summit took place at the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

This event, called "After school is Key", was geared towards raising the bar with after school incentive programs around the state.

Executive Director for City Youth Ministries in Jonesboro, Rennell Woods, says many have been working hard for some time to make things better.

"This work has been going on for about seven years," Woods said. "And recently last year we passed Bill 138, for the Youth Positive Development Act, to really give Arkansas a chance to look at our future and our children. Not only just to look at, but start investing in the lives that are going to shape our future."

Woods says the bill is a framework stating after school and summer programs are key in a child's hours from three to six.

"We know the hours from three to six," Woods said. "That children, if it's committing crimes or being able to prevent crimes from being committed. We know it helps working families. It decreases individuals having to leave work and be able to take care of kids and gives the opportunity to the parent to be productive on their jobs, but also it gives children a safe place. After school programs inspire children to learn."

Community leaders, educators and after school providers gathered together to discuss supporting the communities children, especially those in at risk situation.

School Age Program Coordinator for ASU Childhood Services, Woodie Sue Herlein, says the event was a chance to get the ball rolling.

"This summit is an opportunity for us to begin a conversation," Herlein said. "As a community that is interested in the positive outcomes for our youth."

Woods says the doors of communication need to open between community leaders and those who work with kids on a day to day basis.

"It's very crucial for our community to start to come together," Woods said. "We'll talk about the next steps here in a couple of weeks, but it's crucial that we have opportunities for our community to respond to the needs and concerns. Also, that we put an action plan together that we can submit to our city leaders and city officials that lets them know what we see in our community and that we have to take charge of the future of our youth."

Herlein says after school programs need to be not only high quality, but available.

"If we want to continue to keep youth safe," Herlein said. "And inspire students to learn and support working families, it's crucial that these high quality programs are accessible to our youth in our state."

The group went over the Arkansas Out of School Network's youth policy agenda and held a panel discussion with local leaders.

The summit lasted until one o'clock and around fifty people were in attendance.

For more information about the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce and the events that take place there, log onto their website.

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