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WA Works to Keep Teens Out of Trouble After School

August 25, 2008

Randle, WA - As kids start school this week in Washington, many parents must also concern themselves with what their children are doing after school.

Those midafternoon hours can make all the difference for teens. Law enforcement studies say juvenile crime rates, drug use and other risky behaviors spike between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. However, there are safe, supervised after-school options around the state, and more parents are choosing them for junior high and high school-aged students.

For 16-year-old Kayla Lowe of Randle, her after-school program offers homework help, cooking lessons, volunteer opportunities, and even some career planning. But mostly, she says, it's a place where she feels supported.

"All the adults there, they help you - not only with your schooling, but they're people you can go talk to, and not have to worry about them telling everybody what you said."

After-school programs for older kids focus on teaching them to make good life decisions, but they also help fight boredom and reinforce the school curriculum. Nicole Carlton of Mossyrock, also age 16, says that means getting a jump on the evening's homework.

"I know it helps me a lot, because my parents don't 'get' my math or my biology or whatever, and (at the program) they'll sit down and help me with it."

Nicole and Kayla are in the program at White Pass Junior-Senior High School. The after-school advocacy group School's Out Washington estimates about 38,000 teens attend such programs - although that is only a fraction of the 628,000 teens (ages 13 to 18) in the state.

After-school programs in more than 150 sites around the state depend on a combination of state and federal money, and School's Out Washington reports that both are always in short supply. Congress is considering a bill that would increase funding, but isn't expected to vote on it until next year.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA