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ACCESS TO AFTERSCHOOL

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by Nancy A. Cavanaugh

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  If kids look brighter this month, the Afterschool Alliance may just get the credit. For the past decade, the Alliance has been holding Lights On Afterschool rallies around the country. This year, more than 7,500 events ? open houses, fun runs, street fairs and carnivals, sponsored by nearly 200 national organizations ? will be held mid-October to celebrate and educate about afterschool programs, including more than 300 in New York State.
   And the New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN) is helping lead the charge. NYSAN is a statewide public-private partnership dedicated to increasing the quality and availability of programs that promote young people's safety, learning and healthy development during non-school hours.
   "Afterschool programs provide critical services for students," says Suzanne Goldstein of NYSAN on the importance of afterschool programs. ?Afterschool programs give students an opportunity to access enrichment and recreational activities including arts, sports and community service opportunities they might not have access to in school or elsewhere in their community.?
   Rachel Sabella of The After-School Corporation (TASC) in NYC agrees. ?Working parents have come to depend on afterschool programs as a primary means of child care during the hours after the school bell rings until they get home from work."
   Evaluations by the Afterschool Alliance indicate that approximately 27% of the children in New York State are home alone afterschool.
   Beyond enrichment, afterschool programs have a wider impact on participants. "Evaluations of afterschool programs have found that programs keep kids safe by reducing youth crime and violence, drug use and teen pregnancy; and students who regularly attend quality afterschool programs have better school attendance and do better in their classes," says Sabella.
   Lights On gives afterschool programs an opportunity to showcase their own success as well as inform the community about their programs. "Lights On draws attention to afterschool programs and informs the community about the services available for parents and kids," explains Sabella. "For those communities that don't have enough programming, we hope that Lights On will serve as an organizing effort to encourage the community to ask for these services."
   To find a local Lights On Afterschool event, visit the Afterschool Alliance website, www.afterschoolalliance.org.


Lights On, NYC

 The New York City Department of Youth and Community Development will host "A Celebration of Arts and Culture" at the Boys and Girls Harbor on October 12 from 4-5:30pm. The event will be open to the public and will feature performances by the Boys and Girls Harbor of East Harlem. For more information, contact Kenneth Scott, Department of Youth and Community Development, (212) 442-3136.
   On October 12, the Abyssinian Development Corporation will hold Open Houses at two locations highlighting several afterschool programs. More than 300 students will participate in the two events. For more information, contact Afterschool Ambassador Kima Reed, Abyssinian Development Corporation, at (646) 442-6543.
  Young people from five program sites will visit the Henry Street Settlement House afterschool program site at P.S. 134 in lower Manhattan on October 12 to celebrate Lights On Afterschool. The programs will host a joint open house for family and community members with the theme, "If we are not in our seats, we are in the streets." Elected officials representing the area are expected to attend. The event is being coordinated with support from Henry Street Settlement, University Settlement, The Coalition for After-School Funding and The After-School Corporation. For more information, contact Katha Cato, Henry Street Settlement House, (212) 766-9200.


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