CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A majority of voters in Kanawha County voted against additional levies that would have provided more than $1 million per year to our youth for extra-curricular activities and additional services for students. During this challenging economic time, it is understandable that people don't want their taxes raised, yet the services that school systems are providing come at a cost. One of those services is quality after-school programming.
While this year has seen many education reform initiatives, one area that has received little focus, but has a major impact, is after-school education. Whether your children attend a child care facility, a school-based program, or one sponsored in the community, rest assured that quality educational programming is occurring. Accessibility to after-school programs allows children the opportunity to engage in fun projects that have the potential to complement school day activities.
Most visitors to after-school programs are pleasantly surprised at the number of activities and resources available for children. In almost every after-school program in our state, children are receiving at least a nutritious snack, supper and in a lot of cases both. We know that in our state child poverty is a tremendous issue and after-school programs are stepping up to provide our children with an evening meal/snack that they may otherwise not receive. Many students go home to families who are unable to help them with their homework or studies because of a lack of education. In after-school programs, children receive help with homework and are given additional tutoring and support on subjects that are challenging.
Enrichment activities are vital components to after-school programs, too. Our next generation of engineers and scientists are being developed as children work with rockets and robots. Many children plant gardens or learn how to cook and eat healthy fruits and vegetables. Lastly, with the reduction in physical activity/recess, after-school ensures that children are up and moving.
Participants have said how much they love going to after-school programs and it is the reason why they attend school. Surveys administered to regular day teachers of children in after-school programs show a significant increase in homework completion, attendance, attitude toward learning, and cooperativeness.
Pivotal parts of after-school programs are the fun, engaging experiences that teachers and community members bring to the programs. Most after-school programs have on average at least five community partners who come in and provide different programming. We truly are blessed in our state to have so many people and organizations step up to help our children.
Lastly, after-school programs are providing services for parents of children enrolled. Many programs provide parents with classes, from how to cook more nutritiously to GED preparation. Many times, these programs are assisting parents to be better parents.
While the primary focus of after-school programs is engaging children in safe and enriching activities, the benefits to communities are profound. All participants, volunteers, parents, community partners and after-school employees are deserving of recognition for their contributions.Kimes is the director of the West Virginia Statewide Afterschool Network.