Juneau middle schools and the Zach Gordon Youth Center joined more than 8,000 other venues Thursday in promoting after school activities for middle school students.
The Lights On Afterschool event is sponsored by the National Afterschool Alliance and strives to encourage middle school students to get involved with extra-curricular activities happening after the day’s final bell.
“We want to connect kids with interesting projects, because we know when they are engaged in after-school activities, their attendance during the regular day and academic performance improves,” said Terri Campbell, the afterschool ambassador in Alaska for the national organization.
Campbell also serves as a volunteer for the Body and Mind program, the program being highlighted during Thursday’s events, which occurred at Dzantik’i Heeni and Floyd Dryden middle schools and the youth center.
“This is our opportunity to engage kids who might not be involved in B.A.M. or other after school events,” Campbell said.
The Lights On program serves to raise awareness amongst middle schoolers about opportunities available to them at their schools, but also to make the public aware of programs they could support, Campbell said.
Some of the activities being highlighted this week included art, dance, yoga, judo, music and even a junior police academy.
“This is a critical population,” Campbell said of middle schoolers. “If we don’t catch them here, and they don’t think there’s anything for them here, they may not feel the need to continue [their education].”
That’s why the program also includes components like the junior police academy, designed to show students the connection between school and the real world, Campbell added.
Other opportunities include homework help, teaching interviewing techniques, getting certified to be a trained baby sitter and even preparing students for the tests to get their driver’s licenses.
“After school activities inspire kids to learn, helps working families and betters them in social development,” Campbell said. “We’re moving them back to the place we want them to be — connected to caring adults and connected to school.”