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Kids’ Choices: Home Alone, or “Lights On After-school”

October 15, 2008

Olympia, WA - Nearly 100 events are taking place across Washington State on Thursday to call attention to the importance of keeping kids safe and busy in the hours after school. Nationwide, 1 million Americans will participate in the "Lights On Afterschool" celebration. In Washington, one event will be in Olympia at Sylvester Park from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Miss Washington, Janet Harding, is this year's spokesperson for "Lights On Afterschool." She says the celebration is also a reminder to state lawmakers that there aren't enough after-school activities for kids.

"More than 14 million school-age children in our country are on their own after school, including 40,000 kindergartners. No child that age should be on their own when they get out of school."

Harding says the current shortage of programs for teens also is troublesome, because teens without positive after-school options are nearly three times more likely to skip classes and get into trouble.

Harding, an education major at Western Washington University, says teachers see firsthand the importance of after-school activities.

"Teachers care about the overall well-being of our kids, not just their education. After-school programs create lifelong benefits and short-term protection for children who would otherwise be home alone."

In 2007, for the first time, the Washington Legislature dedicated funding to after-school programs, but advocates worry that support will evaporate next year in the budget crunch.

More information on "Lights On Afterschool" events is available at www.afterschoolalliance.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA