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Programs in Ohio Make Hours After School Count

PHOTO: After-school programs in Ohio provide extended learning opportunities for children after the school bell rings. Photo courtesy of Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Center Association.
PHOTO: After-school programs in Ohio provide extended learning opportunities for children after the school bell rings. Photo courtesy of Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Center Association.
October 23, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - After-school programs offer educational activities for children in a safe place, but only an estimated 15 percent of Ohio kids are participating in one.

As part of Thursday's nationwide Lights On Afterschool event, students, teachers and parents from around the state will participate in meetings with legislators to bring awareness to the critical role of after-school programs. A statehouse rally is also planned.

Allison Wallace, executive director of the Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Center Association, says these programs can help close the achievement gap and ensure that disadvantaged children have access to additional educational enrichment.

"Unfortunately, Ohio really lacks efficient, quality, affordable and accessible after-school programs," she says. "One in three Ohio children go home without adult supervision. The demand is significantly greatest among African-American, Hispanic and low-income families."

Funding for after-school programs in Ohio comes from money allocated through a 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant, and publicly funded child-care development. Wallace says much more is needed, noting that after-school programs give parents "peace of mind" their children are safe after the school bell rings.

"Quite often, kids who are left unsupervised can get into trouble," says Wallace. "We really want to make sure those kids have learning opportunities available to keep them fully engaged and to support them."

After-school programs are held in a variety of places, including school buildings, community organization locales and churches. Wallace says they extend learning beyond the classroom into a fun, relaxed environment.

"Most of them offer hands-on activities to create enriching educational opportunities that can spark students' curiosity, their interests, and strengthen talents they might have," she says.

Wallace adds there are approximately 850,000 children in Ohio that would ordinarily be enrolled in an after-school program - if one were available in their community.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH