We must fight for our after-school programs

BY BARBARA ANNE GREENE

Our after-school programs are more important than ever. Gone are the days when almost every student would come home after school to a mom and a safe place.  Gone are the days that those of us that lived in the county came home to farm chores that had to be done before homework and supper.

When I was on the board of The SHACK I learned a lot from today’s youth. For some the after-school programs like The SHACK was where some kids felt safest. Some didn’t want to go home to an empty house. Not only was it not welcoming, they also had access to drugs, alcohol, porn and boredom. That Bible verse about idle hands is the devil’s workshop is true. They were trying to be “good” but got into things they shouldn’t because they were bored.

Some didn’t want to go home to a full house.  Parents aren’t always safe anymore. One boy told me that his parents were often high. Other kids talked about the fighting, the neglect, and the mental and physical abuse. One girl said that she liked coming because she knew she was loved and would get her only hug of the day.

In our communities we have a lot of after-school programs the students can choose from. There are The SHACK, sports, Destination Imagination, 4H, FFA, etc. Last month we had an editorial in this paper about how President Trump wanted to cut funding to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21CCLC) and increase money to charter schools.

There are five charter schools in the State of Wyoming. The 21CCLC program reaches far more students across the state than charter schools do. The benefits to the 21CCLC programs run in Big Horn County School District Four are numerous. Our students work on their homework first. They get help on their homework if needed. While many of us grew up with a parent helping us with our homework, that isn’t always the case anymore. Our after-school program helps further our children’s education not only through homework but also through what they do in the program. They have STEM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

After-school programs are shown to raise graduation rates, help students become successful and build their confidence. District Four 21CCLC coordinator Amber DeGraw says.

I have seen a direct impact in student social, emotional, and academic improvement of those that attend our 21CCLC programs. Students are more likely to turn in their homework, which increases their academic skills and helps improve test scores. They receive a healthy snack, which may be the only food they receive that night. They are able to interact with friends and increase their social skills in a more relaxed environment than the school day.  Finally they are able to participate in a hand on STEM activity,  which further improves their academic skills. These programs are vital to our community to help parents keep their jobs and for students to continue to excel in school.

Rural America elected President Trump. Rural America doesn’t benefit from private charter schools like the larger cities do. Please call the White House and ask him to not cut 21CCLC funding. To support public schools and the after-school programs that benefit the most students. Call 202-456-1111 and leave a comment about how those of us that supported him are asking him to support us by not cutting the budget for the 21CCLC programs.

Call our U.S. Wyoming Senators and Representative to ask them to support 21 CCLC and to educate the president on how important it is to Wyoming students. You can reach Senator Enzi at 202-224-3424.  Senator Barrasso 202-224-6441. Representative Cheney 202-225-2311.

You can make a difference. Don’t let this opportunity to have your voice heard slip past you. It is important to our schools, to our community and to our country.

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