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South Dakota “Lights On Afterschool” Rally This Week

October 13, 2008

Watertown, SD – More than 50 after-school programs in 30 South Dakota communities will take part in a nationwide rally this week. The goal of "Lights on Afterschool" events is to bring children, parents and community leaders together to raise public awareness about the critical need for after-school activities for kids.

Jay Johnson, regional director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, says programs like those offered by his organization give kids the chance to participate in a wide range of activities, while helping keep them out of trouble.

"We see some communities in South Dakota that, when they start an afterschool program, see as high as a 50 percent reduction in juvenile crime. Some of the programs provide kids with a hot nutritious snack or meal. You know, with roughly four out of five mothers in South Dakota in the work force having school-age kids, it's a real issue. Kids need a place to be after school until their parents are off work."

More than 12,000 South Dakota kids, from kindergarten through eighth grade, participate in after-school programs daily. Dr. Susan Randall, executive director of South Dakota Voices for Children, says these activities are especially important in a state like South Dakota, with one of the highest national rates of working parents in the country.

"We know that, in those hours when parents are at work, children are at risk. We see higher incidence of risky behaviors - getting involved in drugs, in wayward behavior. Those kinds of risks escalate when children don't have positive, supervised programs to develop their talents and direct them on the right path."

The national rally, to be held on Thursday, October 16, is sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance. A complete list of South Dakota groups holding events in conjunction with "Lights On Afterschool" can be found at www.afterschoolalliance.org/loa.cfm.

David Law/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - SD