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After School Celebrates "Lights On Afterschool"

Ethan Broadway, a student at Porter Ridge Elementary, shovels dirt to help with the "Lights On Afterschool" project. Porter Ridge ASP has adopted an area at the front of the school and will maintain it throughout the year as a community service project.

For the 12th consecutive year UCPS After School Program will celebrate "Lights On Afterschool" during October to focus attention on the importance of afterschool care in our communities and the need for additional afterschool resources. "Lights On Afterschool" is a project of the Afterschool Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all children have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs.

In North Carolina, the state's public school systems are the largest provider of afterschool programs followed by Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and religious organizations. Not surprisingly, North Carolina ranks in the top ten states for afterschool programs in a study that was completed in 2009. The state benefited from funding from the Save Our Students (SOS) Program which was given to each county with the stipulation that the funds be used for youth programming to reduce juvenile crime and help students succeed. In addition, the state legislature approved a program for afterschool support that provided multi-year grants for implementing afterschool programs.

Locally, Union County Public Schools has been in the forefront of providing quality afterschool care. Beginning in 1986 as a pilot program at Indian Trail and Wesley Chapel Elementaries, the UCPS After School Program quickly expanded to Fairview, Shiloh, and Waxhaw schools. Currently, the school system operates 27 programs with an enrollment of over 2,300 children in afterschool and Early Bird care.

Although UCPS ASP is not supported by State or Federal funding, but by tuition paid by families in the program, we feel that we meet our goal of providing afterschool programs at convenient locations at an affordable cost. The state average for weekly afterschool care is $51 with the participants attending an average of 10 hours per week. UCPS ASP provides care at most sites from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. each weekday, including full-day care on teacher workdays,  for $50 per week. Since the programs are located in the elementary schools across the county, children are in familiar surroundings that are convenient for working parents.

The importance of afterschool programs cannot be debated. Studies have shown that children who are in afterschool programs have improved personal, social and academic skills, as well as greater self-esteem. Regular participation in high-quality afterschool programs have been linked to significant gains in standardized test scores and better work habits. Studies have shown that there are more children in afterschool programs today than five years ago and that demand for programs has also increased.

Each one of the UCPS After School Programs will have special programs and projects to celebrate "Lights On Afterschool" during the month. Some programs will help to beautify the host school, while others will reach out to senior citizens and other groups within the community. Each program will positively involve the children, keep them safe, and inspire a sense of learning and community spirit--all attributes to make a stronger, more responsible adult in the future.

Join us during October as we celebrate all afterschool programs and recognize their benefits to enrolled children. For more information on the importance of afterschool programs, please visit the Afterschool Alliance website:  http://www.afterschoolalliance.org 

Written by: Karen Smith (statistics from www.afterschoolalliance.org)
Posted: Sep 30, 2011 by Karen Smith

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