Many young people find themselves without supervision on weekdays between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
In 2009, the Afterschool Alliance conducted a national survey to learn how many school-age children are in afterschool programs and how many spend their time unsupervised. In Wisconsin, 33 percent of children are responsible for themselves after school.
Afterschool programs not only keep kids safe, they also help improve students' academic performance, school attendance, behavior and health, and support working families. Overall, the research shows that children who are supervised and engaged in structured activities are less likely to participate in high risk activities than those who are unsupervised. For middle school students, being supervised after school reduces by half the risk that they will smoke, drink or abuse drugs. At a time when families and communities are struggling financially and kids are falling behind academically, after-school programs are needed now more than ever.
This is why the After the Bell program was created and has been provided for more than 480 different youths to go during the after-school hours for the past nine years. Many of the youths who have participated have come to the program for all three years they attended the middle school.
Past participants have indicated that the After the Bell program provides them with a safe place to go after school where they felt a sense of belonging, provided them with opportunities to learn new skills, develop more independence, and allowed them to participate in service opportunities. Youths indicate they have fun while learning new things to do.
For the 2013-14 school year, After the Bell will begin on Sept. 9. This program is available for all middle school students whether they attend public or parochial school from 3:05 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays in Room 111 (enter the school through Door 13) at the Prairie River Middle School on regular school days.
The program offers participants a safe, easily accessible place to go after school where they have the opportunity to participate in positive enrichment activities and learn new skills. Participants are supervised by an adult supervisor(s) with assistance from community volunteers and/or high school students. Each day the program offers students a place to choose to participate in enrichment activities, do their homework, play board games, visit with friends and/or have a snack.
If students are interested in participating, they can pick up information and required forms in the Prairie River Middle School office, T.B. Scott Free Library or the UW-Extension office or on the first day they attend the program. Forms are also available on the Lincoln County UW-Extension website at http://lincoln.uwex.edu/, click on 4-H Youth Development, then After the Bell Program. Completed forms must be turned in the second time a student attends the program. Students do not need to attend every day but can choose which days they wish to attend.
To keep the cost free to participants, the program relies on the generosity and support of the local community to cover expenses. Money is needed for supplies and paying staff who provide daily supervision of this year's program.
In trying to keep the budget low, the program is seeking volunteers to help supervise or lead enrichment activities for participants, whether a one-time or a regular basis. If you are interested in volunteering or in making a donation to the After the Bell 2013-2014 school year program, please contact Holly Westberg, program coordinator at 715-218-7384 or email@example.com or Debbie Moellendorf at the Lincoln County UW-Extension office at 715-539-1077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.