By Pam Jolliffe
As an estimated five million elementary and secondary students head back to school, Canadian families are focused on classroom supplies, course schedules and new teachers. But for 15 percent of children between six and 12, an essential element is missing from the conversation.
For these children, back to school means back to fending for themselves after school. This can be a concern for their safety, but it’s also a concern for their future. We know that how children spend their time between 3 to 6 p.m. is critical to achieving their full potential in life. Those who are unsupervised after school are more likely to engage in risky behaviours, do poorly in school or be victimized.
On the other hand, programs offered in the out of school hours can boost grades, lower dropout rates and reduce the opportunity gap. The positive effects of after school programs also tend to persist for years and help young people stay on the path to success.
Giving children a safe and fun place to go, where they feel accepted and supported, can mean the difference between a healthy, successful life or potential squandered.
After school, young people need a safe place to experience new opportunities, overcome barriers and develop healthy relationships and skills for life. A structured and enriching environment keeps children out of harm’s way and points them in a positive direction.
Boys and Girls Clubs offer children and youth a range of opportunities in more than 650 locations nationwide and our programs are accessible and affordable for all children. Other community organizations are doing this important work too.
After school programs can change futures and transform communities.
Kids need school supplies, but they also need a place to go after school for guidance, mentors and role models to help them to stay on track. Every afternoon, we have a chance to change Canada’s future.
Pam Jolliffe is President and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, a non-profit organization representing 98 Boys and Girls Clubs that provide after school programs and other services to 200,000 children and youth in 650 service locations across Canada.