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Making A Case For After School Programs

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America After 3PM
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Over the past decade, much progress has been made nationally to increase enrollment in afterschool programs – programs advocates say keep children safe, inspiring them to learn and supporting working families between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m.  Vermont and Massachusetts have made the list of Top 10 States for Afterschool, prepared by Washington, D.C.-based After School Alliance.

"Kids get into trouble not because they get up in the morning and say, Today I want to make trouble.' Kids get into trouble because they don't have adult supervision."   Afterschool Alliance member former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler, other officials and educators on a conference call advocating for more after school programs.  The discussion was partially in response to the newly-released "America After 3 p.m." survey, showing more and more parents understand the benefits of afterschool programs.

Fowler is convinced the programs are lifesavers for troubled youth.   "And I attend every high school graduation in the city of Syracuse. And the kids that come across the stage, and the hands that I shake, are those who were involved in those after school programs, that were involved in those athletic programs."

Afterschool Alliance has found African-American, Hispanic and low-income students among those who need these programs the most, as in both two- and single-parent households, the adult authority figures often work into the late afternoon. This troubles Fowler.    "Kids want to feel safe. They want structure. If it's there, they're gonna migrate toward it. And most of their peers will be in these programs also. And keep in mind, we're going to have adults in these young people's lives."

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Albany City School Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard says her district has recognized the need.    "Albany High School itself has what one could consider a typical club list from the development of the yearbook to robotics, to theater and drama, and there's a wealth of opportunities for them."
Some 200 clubs are available for students in the Albany system to join. Figures the Alliance has for New York state show 21 percent of kids participate in after-school activities, eclipsing the national average. When there's a crack in the structure, Vanden Wyngaard says the district reacts strongly, as it did Wednesday when two security guards allowed a student with a gun into school even after that student tripped the alarm on a metal detector:   "Those people have been removed. New protocols and training are being put in place right now to make absolutely sure all staff knows what's required. And then we also engage in heightening alert for all of our staff. Safety is not just the responsibility of the people at the door. Safety is the responsibility of all within the system."

Vanden Wyngaard says schools face daily challenges from issues such as implementation of the Common Core education standards and social media. She notes Common Core is an “adult conversation at this juncture.”    "But that doesn't mean that we're not going to be holding forums within the student body, especially at the secondary level to see how they're faring with that."

The district keeps an eye on social media like Facebook, SnapChat and Yik Yak.   "We do that in multiple ways, and I'm not going to divulge those, but we do pay attention."

Meantime, a Facebook page has the attention of Schenectady School officials: with nearly 1,500 likes, "Schenectady Fights Community" has become an embarasment to the school district. Facebook has so far refused to take the page down, ignoring requests from parents, students, and Schenectady City Schools Superintendent Larry Spring, who told Time Warner Cable News:   "It lets the wind out of your sails a little bit that you've got kids who think this is an entertaining thing."

Spring didn't respond to several requests for comment from WAMC. Facebook has told local media it will not take the page down because it doesn't violate the social network's definition of community standards. Spring told the news channel his district is working on how to respond to the students appearing in and posting fight videos.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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