After-school celebrations start tomorrow

On Oct. 14, after-school programs across the Valley will participate in the fifth annual national Lights On After-School rally.

Events will take place at more than 6,000 sites across the nation designed to help send the message that after-school programs are key to a child's success and that lights and doors should stay open after school.

Students at Rocky Hill Elementary School will create paper light bulbs with a message about the importance of after-school programs written on them and send their creations to state officials in Sacramento.

Local parents, employers and neighbors are invited to help rally for safe, stimulating after school programs. The fifth annual Lights on After School is a project of the After-School Alliance. In May the After-School Alliance released "America After 3 p.m.," the most in-depth study ever to explore how America's children spend their afternoons. It found that 14.3 million kindergarten through 12th graders care for themselves after the school day ends. The parents of more than 15 million children say their children would participate if an after-school program were available. A fact sheet provided by Pro-youth, a Tulare County not-for-profit organization which sponsors the HEART after-school program, states that on school days the hours between 3-6 p.m. are the peak hours for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex.

The fact sheet also states that more than half of voters say there are not enough after-school programs available to children and teens. As of December 2001 19 states were reporting an average of 26,000 children on waiting lists for childcare.

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