If you go
• What: Lights on Afterschool, which will put students and parents in touch with extracurricular programs and resources
• When: 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday
• Where: Shuman Recreation Center, 800 Tupelo Trail in Hinesville
• Get involved: Call Chris Stacy at 912-695-0481 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
During this year’s local election primaries, each Liberty County candidate stressed the need for increased youth programs, and a developing local Afterschool Alliance aims to shine light on the resources already available.
The group, spearheaded by recently-appointed Afterschool Ambassador Chris Stacy, who also serves on the Riceboro City Council, will host a Lights on Afterschool rally Thursday evening to showcase extracurricular activities.
“It’s basically trying to get the community to understand how important keeping kids safe is,” Stacy said.
Though the event is the first of its kind in Hinesville, this marks the 13th year of rallies nationwide coordinated by the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public-awareness and advocacy organization that aims to ensure all students have access to afterschool programs.
“The three things that afterschool programs talk about are keeping kids safe, academic awareness and improvement, and helping working families …,” Stacy said. “Kids that are in afterschool programs tend to do better, tend to miss less days at school and are more active — and the other thing is they’re in a safe environment.”
The Liberty County Recreation Department, 4-H, Girl Scouts of the USA, Boy Scouts of America, Riceboro Community Churches, Project Reach GANG (God’s Anointed New Generation), Grow-a-Girl Network, the St. James Sports Center and karate and dance organizations are among the participating organizations.
Snelson-Golden Middle School parent coordinator Linda Cooke is helping to coordinate the event.
Organizations there provide services to different age groups and include a variety of funding and transportation requirements, Cooke said.
More than 15 million school-aged children are on their own after school, and more than 1 million are in grades K-5, according to a factsheet from the alliance.
“We are addressing the issue, and we want to let the community know that we understand there’s a problem and we are doing something about it,” Cooke said.
Stacy said the group currently is collecting local data on unsupervised children, but the group even advocates supervision for teens.
Only 8.4 million K-12 children participate in afterschool programs, and studies show an additional 18.5 million would participate if a quality program was available in their community, the factsheet said.
“Teens who do not participate in afterschool programs are nearly three times more likely to skip classes than teens who do participate,” a YMCA of the USA 2001 study concluded. “They are three times more likely to use marijuana or other drugs and are more likely to drink, smoke and engage in sexual activity.”
Stacy added that the peak time for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, sex and cigarettes is between 3 and 6 p.m.