by Megan Attermann, SLCo Youth Services Afterschool Coordinator, Lake Ridge Elementary
Salt Lake County’s afterschool program aims to increase academic achievement, parent engagement and community engagement, while decreasing behavioral issues. Our sites are work with elementary, junior and senior high schools in Kearns, Magna and West Valley City. A combination of academic support and enrichment activities, our afterschool programs remind students that learning is a joy, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.
Were it not for afterschool programming, many of our students would be heading to empty homes when the bell rings. It’s no secret that this makes kids vulnerable to dangerous situations. Our programming provides a safe space for students to be with their friends, learn new skills and take advantage of leadership opportunities – at no cost to the parents.
In the month of October, The Afterschool Alliance, a national afterschool support organization, facilitated Lights On Afterschool – an event that is meant “to draw attention to the many ways afterschool programs support students by offering them opportunities to learn new things—such as science, community service, robotics, Tae Kwon Do and poetry—and discover new skills. The events send a powerful message that millions more kids need quality afterschool programs.”
Squeals of delight erupted from the sixty-some students sitting in the auditorium. They were directed to sit on their pockets, but that didn’t last long. Kindergarteners and first graders popped up, trying to catch the smoke rings our friend from Clark Planetarium was dishing out into the crowd. When the smoke ran out, the students applauded. “Do it again!” they cried. “Blow smoke this way!” suggested another.
When I pulled our scientist friend aside after his presentation, he remarked, “They were excited – just the right amount of rowdy.”
If you drove by your neighborhood school on your way home from work and see the lights on, you may have wondered what was happening in there. If you ventured inside, you may have witnessed the scene above.
But inviting guest presenters is just one of the fun activities we do in Salt Lake County’s Afterschool Program. This time it was an educator from Clark Planetarium. In a few weeks, it’ll be an actor from Magna’s Empress Theatre. At another site, it might be the Drum Bus or a field trip or a friendly game of quidditch. Our Youth Leaders and teachers provide tutoring, engage students in government and leadership practice, teach STEM classes, practice artmaking, read books, cook, create, mentor, laugh and learn alongside our students.
Afterschool programs around the nation organized events to highlight the varied and enthralling work being done in these afternoon and early evening hours. Instead of merely being curious about why the lights are still on at your neighborhood school, feel free to stop in at a local event. And be ready to have fun learning new things – with just the right amount of rowdiness.
For more information about the Afterschool Programs and SLCo Youth Services please call 385-468-4500 and ask for Danielle Latta. Or visit slco.org/youth