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After school program moves forward, seeks coordinator

Posted: October 19, 2011 - 11:04pm

The Juneau Afterschool Coalition has secured enough local funding to start up an after-school program and is now seeking a coordinator.

Coalition member Kevin Ritchie said the after school programming could start in Juneau middle schools in as soon as four to six months.

The idea is to offer activities for students after school in middle schools, but there will need to be a coordinator — who will not be a district employee — to work with all the school principals and different agencies and organizations in town that work with youth. Ritchie said the long-term goal is to be able to offer “sustainable community-based” after-school programming at all schools.

“We’re looking for a mature person who’s had some experience coordinating with organizations and developing programs,” Ritchie said. “This is a significant coordination process. We’re looking for a well-rounded person in the community with a lot of experience with groups and putting programs together.”

Ritchie said they aren’t the first community to think of offering after-school activities in schools. He said the platform is incredibly cost effective because the facilities already exist and things like heating are already going on. Some schools already have after-school offerings and this could enhance those offerings. A press release from Ritchie adds the coalition “intends to support traditional school clubs as well as provide a place for agencies and community organizations to provide after-school activities with their own resources.” Some organizations include the 4-H Clubs, Zach Gordon Teen Club and Junior Achievement.”

“We hope to pique their interest and have positive impacts in them,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie said the coordinator will help develop a high quality program, which is why it will be another four to six months before students will have more after-school options.

Ritchie said the coalition has talked with the schools about busing home from activities and he said it looks like it will be an option. Ritchie said there may eventually have to be tweaks.

The group has raised $100,000 from 10 sources including the city and school district for the first year’s budget.

“The funding — we raised approximately $100,000 and all through local sources, there are no federal grants,” Ritchie said. “That’s been a problem in the past, there’s been after-school programs in the past and they’ve all ended when the federal funding did.”

Ritchie said the group is passionate about coordinating and offering more after-school opportunities for youth because of a survey conducted with the assistance of the school district and because of national research.

Research has shown, Ritchie said, the time between when students are released from school and when parents typically arrive home from work is crucial.

“That is a really critical time in terms of developing a young person’s personality, hobbies, habits,” Ritchie said.

He said youth who aren’t involved in after-school activities are more likely to get involved with drugs or alcohol or make other bad choices. Youth who are involved in an after-school activity, he said, are more likely to have successful relationships with adults and an interest in a positive activity.

“While some after-school activities are directly academic, national research has shown that any activity that makes a young person feel successful, or develops a positive interest in something, also benefits overall academic achievement,” Ritchie’s release stated. “According to national statistics developed by the National League of Cities Youth and Family Institute, youth crime rates for the first hour after school is triple, and youth not in after-school programs are three times more likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex.”

Ritchie said the activities will be geared toward catching the interest of youth, because a 2010 survey of Juneau middle-schoolers showed “more than two out of three students reported they ‘hang out at home’ or ‘hang out with friends’ three to five days per week after school.”

Ritchie said activities aren’t necessarily based on academics, but are more concerned with holding the student’s interest in an activity.

“There are activities that might be better able to succeed academically,” he said. “We really want to focus on looking at the different needs of various groups of youth. Make sure we have something that’s attractive to as many kids as possible.”

Ritchie said they do want to document how effective the program is, as well as the activities offered. He said they aren’t sure yet how to do that and said that’s one reason why having a coordinator will be important.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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