Students Shine Light On After School In Kalamazoo

100_6497Did you know that throughout our nation, 15.1 million school-age children are alone and unsupervised in the hours after school? I knew it. But only because Melissa Holman shared that statistic with me. As the CIS Coordinator of Extended Learning, Melissa works behind the scenes with licensing, programming, and basically doing all-things-after-school for CIS. She says after school programming “gives kids a safe and supervised environment in which they have exposure to a broad range of things they might otherwise not have. It can be spending some time with a caring adult, a member of the community who provides academic support, or participating in an enrichment activity like karate or dance. It can be the safe space they need to complete homework, to make friends, to learn more about their strengths and talents.”

In conjunction with Lights On Afterschool events across the nation, Kalamazoo Public School students who participate in CIS afterschool programming—a resource available thanks to the support of the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers)—have once again been coming up with their own unique ways to shine the spotlight on quality, after school programming. Students have been busy researching and posting after school facts, creating public service announcements, working on posters, creating chants, a movie, and preparing to march through downtown.

20131021-_DSC4061Last year, more than eighty student representatives filled the Chamber of City Hall and shared with their commissioners the importance of extending the school day. “The afterschool program provides us with food, clothes, and other things we need,” said one fifth grader. “The afterschool program helps us stay away from drugs and off the streets. The staff help us with our homework and any issues we struggle with. The staff will do anything to make sure we are respectful, responsible, and safe so we can grow up to be anything we want to be and are treated equally. This helps us so we can do the same for others who need help and think they can’t find it.”

100_6490This year, through a variety of creative approaches—speech, dance, poetry—students are sharing the importance of having after school support in their lives and how they think it impacts the community. Thanks to the talented Ja’male Jordan, former CIS Youth Development Worker turned CIS Volunteer, some of their messages have been made into a short movie. Students, along with their parents will soon have a chance to watch Afterschool: The Movie on the big screen, downtown at the Alamo. In preparing for the project, students emphasized different aspects of after school which Melissa didn’t find surprising “because every child is special and has their own unique strengths and needs, so the benefits resonate differently for each student.”

One Woods Lake student who participates in the Kalamazoo Kids in Tune program (a joint partnership between the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools and Kalamazoo Public Schools) recognizes how “fortunate I am to be learning an instrument, a skill that will be with me the rest of my life.”

100_6491For many middle school students at Maple Street it’s the opportunity to get their homework completed. “Ms. Emily and her staff make sure I get my homework completed. No excuses!”

For an Arcadia student, after school is a chance to develop friendships. “You love your family but sometimes you just need to see your friends.”

Melissa says students “attend programming because they appreciate the support and supervision as well as the range of activities they get to do every day after school.” What keeps Melissa showing up day after day? ”Just seeing the impact,” she says with a smile. “We are literally changing lives. As a child, I had that happen for me when a caring adult changed my life. I want that for all of our kids in Kalamazoo.”

#LightsOnAfterschool

 

Lights On Or Lights Off? You Decide.

Last week, our CIS students—along with students who benefit from nearly 8,000 afterschool programs—called attention to the importance of out-of-school structured activities as part of a nation-wide advocacy event called, “Lights On Afterschool (LOA).“  LOA is a project of The Afterschool Alliance.

At all Kalamazoo Public middle schools and at Loy Norrix High School in which CIS 21stCentury programming is in place, student-planned events were held to explain why they find afterschool programming important. During parent teacher conferences at the middle schools, students reached out to parents and guests, explaining what they get out of afterschool programming and why it is important that it continue to be funded. These students—success stories in the flesh—manned information tables and collected signatures in support of afterschool programming nationwide. Our Loy Norrix participants collected 70 signatures during their parent-teacher conferences. In total, across the five secondary after school sites, students obtained over 400 signatures on their petition to support afterschool programming.

Kalamazoo Kids In Tune students at Woods Lake (a partnership we have with theKalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and Kalamazoo Public Schools) also recorded a song. Other projects and petitions will be coming out of the elementary sites over the next few days.

Here are a few facts about the need of afterschool programs nationwide:

  • 15.1 million children take care of themselves after the school day ends.
  • Just 8.4 million children are in afterschool programs—but the parents of another 18.5 million children say their children would participate in afterschool if a program were available.
  • A report on 21st Century Community Learning Centers (afterschool programs receiving federal funds) showed that 45% of all participants improved reading grades, and 41% improved math grades.
  • On school days, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. are peak times for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and sex.
  • Teens who don’t participate in afterschool programs are nearly three times more likely to skip classes than teens who do participate. They are also three times more likely to use marijuana or other drugs, and they are more likely to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and engage in sexual activity.
  • Parents with children in afterschool programs are less stressed, have fewer unscheduled absences, and are more productive at work.

Thanks for helping us keep the lights on here in Kalamazoo.