Philly students participate in nationwide effort emphasizing importance of after-school programs

Paul Kurtz
October 25, 2019 - 6:04 pm
Lights On Afterschool

Paul Kurtz/KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A nationwide event that draws attention to after-school programs is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week with thousands of activities, and hundreds of Philadelphia students took part.   

More than 1 million people participated in about 10,000 different events across the country as part of the Lights On Afterschool initiative on Thursday. The program emphasizes the importance of having a place where kids can go after school to be safe, supervised and engaged.

At Science Leadership Academy Middle School in West Philly, activities director Kat Kushin arranged a cooking class for students and parents. 

“They're going to learn with their parents how to make tortillas and basically cook and eat with their families,” she said.

Fifth-grader Cassidy Thomas was among the 32 kids who stick around for a few extra hours every day.

“They make everything fun,” said the 10-year-old. “We do work, but it's fun at the same time. Not too long ago we did a 3-D printing thing and that was fun. We had to learn about how 3-D printers work.”

Justin Ennis, executive director of the Philadelphia-based After School Activities Partnerships program, or ASAP, said after-school programs play a vital role in the lives of children, families and communities. 

“Imagine if families across the city or the commonwealth didn't have places where their kids could go after school, where they can't finish out the work day, and they have to come home and take care of their children’s needs,” he said. “Or, if they don't have those opportunities, the kids are left unsupervised after school.”

According to a recent report by the organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, the hours immediately following school are prime time for juvenile crime. FBI data shows that most see spikes in crime between 2 and 6 p.m. 

The report suggests after-school programs are one of the best crime-prevention strategies among adolescents and an effective way to guide them toward success.

Ennis echoed that a lack of access to programming is a key factor that contributes to risky situations kids may participate in, creating systemic issues.

“Part of this Lights On Afterschool event is to highlight how important this is as a safety net for our workforce and working families,” he added. “It's really a failure of our ability as a society to serve those families and to give children enough opportunities after school that leads to these unfortunate problems.”