Do you remember how important afterschool programs were to you as a child?
For many children, afterschool programs focused on sports, arts and crafts, technology, leadership, performing arts, and academic support are an essential extension to the school day – and the school year.
And at a time when budget shortfalls at every level of government are threatening the availability of quality afterschool programs, it’s time to fight for continued and increased investment in out-of-school enrichment for Denver’s kids!
Research shows that the hours between 3 and 6 p.m. are the most dangerous for youth, and afterschool programs provide a much needed safe and enriching place to go after school for thousands of children who would otherwise go home to empty houses and no supervision.
The importance of quality afterschool programs, which keep the school lights on long after the school day ends, is in the spotlight this week as Denver prepares to celebrate National Lights On After School Day on Thursday, October 20.
Mi Casa provides comprehensive afterschool programming for 500 students annually on the Lake Middle School campus in northwest Denver, now home to three separate but co-located schools. And on Monday, Mi Casa’s Director of Youth & Family Development Programs, Karen Fox Elwell, took a group of Lake students to the City Council meeting to make sure Denver’s city leaders understand the importance of quality afterschool programming.
“I am one of over 175 youth service providers from over 60 organizations throughout the greater Denver area providing essential out-of-school time programming to over 25,000 youth each year,” Karen told the City Council members.
Then she turned it over to three youth from the Mi Casa Neighborhood Center afterschool program. Students Isaac, Miguel and Maya spoke candidly to the City Council members about the impact afterschool programs have on them and their families. Miguel spoke of the new things he learned in Mi Casa’s afterschool program.
Maya had her remarks written down: “Hello City Council. I am very happy to be here. I think that it is good to have afterschool programs because it gives kids a chance to hang out and do your homework, play, do projects, and even break dancing. It helps our families because we have somewhere to go after school.”
City Councilman Paul Lopez then read a proclamation out loud at the meeting celebrating Denver’s afterschool programs and affirming the City’s commitment to supporting working families by keeping kids safe and engaged in the afterschool hours. Councilman Lopez then visited briefly with the Mi Casa students and congratulated them.
The events leading up to National Lights On After School Day continue throughout the week and culminate with a celebration to decorate the City and County Building with handmade luminaria bags crafted by children in Denver afterschool programs.
For the Mi Casa students who got to address the City Council, Karen said, it was an unforgettable experience. “It was a thrill for these students to see government in action and have the opportunity to address the City Council on issues that are important to them.”