After-School Programs Are Game Changers For Students

The hours after school — from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. — can determine a child’s fate. These are the hours when kids are most likely to get in trouble. The school day is over, but many parents are still working so children are often unsupervised. Vandalism, drug use and other risky behaviors rise during this time. But the hours after school can present life-changing opportunities for students engaged in effective after-school programs, like those supported by Advantage After School.

Advantage After School funds several safe, affordable programs for students in underserved communities in our region, including those run by the YWCA of Jamestown. Governor Cuomo has proposed a $2.5 million reduction to the Advantage After School Program in each of his last two executive budgets, putting 3,600 students across the state at risk of losing their after-school programs, including 115 children at the YWCA of Jamestown.

Families who lose after-school care for their children face difficult choices. Some are forced to leave young children home alone or abandon their jobs. Parents who can’t work may need to rely on public assistance, which is far more costly than providing after-school care.

Without a restoration to $22.3 million, a new RFP for Advantage After School is not guaranteed, meaning providers whose grants expire in June 2018 may not have an opportunity to apply for a new five-year grant until 2019. This would cause many programs to close, directly impacting the students and families who have come to rely on these vital programs for after-school care and academic support.

Advantage After School programs, like those run by the YWCA of Jamestown, not only help to keep kids from developing bad habits, they encourage them to develop good ones. Quality programs provide homework help, healthy snacks and opportunities to exercise. Research shows that consistent participation in after-school programs over the elementary school years effectively eliminates the gap in low-income and high-income children’s math achievement at grade 5. After-school programs have also been shown to improve school attendance and grades and reduce behavior problems.

Studies have also shown that attending after-school programs can help to reduce risks associated with alcohol and other dangerous drugs, as well as teen pregnancy. Instead, students can participate in enrichment activities that improve confidence, social skills and decision-making that foster academic and career goals.

Every dollar invested in high quality after-school programs saves taxpayers approximately $3.14. When benefits from crime reduction are factored in, that savings rises as high $12.15 for every dollar invested in an at-risk child.

It’s no surprise that so many people support public funding for after-school programs. Yet, in New York state there is a well-documented need for a better funded and coordinated system of youth programs that operate outside of school. Children and families need and deserve quality after-school programs. Governor Cuomo must restore funding for Advantage After School in this year’s state budget.

Shane A. Monroe is director of after school programs at the YWCA of Jamestown.

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