This is a guest post by Jason D. King, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications & Marketing, Clear Channel Outdoor Americas.
Many working families would agree that lengthening the typical school day by up three hours would better align with the typical 8-5 workday. That school day extension may not be music to the ears of some, but this strategy could be game-changing considering there are millions of kids without adult supervision during afterschool hours.
These children are missing the opportunities to learn and develop their skills in afterschool programs, which provide a great deal of benefits to the youth, such as homework help, mentors, healthy snacks and meals, computer programming, collaboration with peers, job and college readiness, sports and fitness activities, team-based learning, and more.
That’s why partners of the Afterschool Alliance, including Clear Channel Outdoor, the National League of Cities and the National Summer Learning Association, collaborated to support Lights On Afterschool, a nationwide rally for high-quality afterschool programs. This year marked the 20th anniversary of this effort, which underscores what afterschool programs can achieve to improve children’s lives across the nation.
According to a recent report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, an organization made up of more than 5,000 sheriffs, police chiefs, and prosecutors, there are 11 million children nationwide who still find themselves in an environment lacking adult supervision during the afterschool hours. An analysis of FBI and local law enforcement data found that in a majority of states, juvenile crime peaks during the afterschool hours from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
These data points foster a strong case for the need to invest in afterschool programs. At one of the 21st Century Learning Centers (CCLC) located in Texas, a federal funding for programs serving high-poverty schools not only improved standardized test scores and reduced absences of students, but it also created afterschool programs that specifically catered to their kids. To further extend, research found these kinds of programs helped reduce the likelihood of participants using drugs or alcohol and being involved in crime.
Afterschool programs, if funded adequately, hold the power to prevent crimes in our local neighborhoods. This completes a full cycle of reducing juvenile crime among the youth, while keeping the community safe for the same group of kids. The America After 3 PM found that participation in these programs has increased to 10.2 million students nationwide. However, there is still a struggle for those in rural communities and communities of poverty. For every child in an afterschool program, there are two more waiting to get in.
To dissipate this obstacle for working parents and their children, partners and city leaders took part in Lights On Afterschool to advocate for better learning opportunities for kids. On October 24, more than one million people joined in solidarity at more than 8,000 events across the country and at U.S. military bases worldwide. This included open houses, science fairs, fun runs, student showcases, academic contests, community service activities, sports competitions, and more.
By celebrating and showcasing the skills and talents each student attained during their afterschool program, supporters illustrated the positive impact these programs actually have among participating children.
And to further “shine a light” on this plight, afterschool-themed messages ran on Clear Channel Outdoor’s digital billboards nationwide, including in Los Angeles and Times Square. For a symbolic “Lights On” moment, Boston’s South Station, the Empire State Building, along with many other structural icons, were embellished in blue and yellow hues: the signature colors of Lights On Afterschool.
By coming together across the nation to illuminate the need for investment in afterschool programs, we can help keep kids safe, healthy and inspired to learn during school, after school, in summer and beyond. And I look forward to continuing this discussion at City Summit next week when the Afterschool Policy Advisors Network comes together in San Antonio to share best practices from municipalities across the nation.
Jason King, Vice President of Corporate Communications, Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, oversees and executes communications and media strategies for Clear Channel Outdoor’s 38 markets in the U.S., plus over 200 airport advertising contracts operated by Clear Channel Airports. An accomplished media strategist, Jason has developed innovative PR campaigns for new Outdoor media assets including; Sunset Millennium, Penn Plaza NY, Boston’s South Station, Reagan and Dulles Airports.