PICS: Afterschool Programs Reduce Youth Crime, Drop Outs -

PICS: Afterschool Programs Reduce Youth Crime, Drop Outs

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Kids learn Zumba in a Greenville County outside-of-school program. Kids learn Zumba in a Greenville County outside-of-school program.

Where do your kids go when they're not at school?

It's a question many working parents were struggling with Thursday and Friday as Greenville County schools were out for teacher work days.

On Friday, outside-of-school time programs from across Greenville County got together to raise awareness about the importance of keeping kids engaged outside the classroom.

Greer 7th-grader Tyrek Johnson said he was headed down the wrong path.

“I was with the wrong people. I wasn't listening to my teachers and all that," said Tyrek.

He says his afterschool program helped set him straight.

“It helped me with my grades and with my teachers. I respect them more," said Tyrek.

“Out-of-school time programs do keep kids off the streets and keep them safe and engaged in a learning environment," said Erica McCleskey, who directs BOOST, which stands for Building Opportunities in Out of School Time. It’s an initiative of United Way that supports afterschool programs in Greenville County.

McCleskey points to statistics out of Los Angeles, which show kids in afterschool programs there are 30 percent less likely to commit a crime and 20 percent less likely to drop out.

For younger kids, these programs can strengthen their reading skills and teach them how to have an active, healthy lifestyle.

Older students can learn how to do college applications, tour college campuses and get connected to mentors.

But not all afterschool programs are created equal, which is why the South Carolina House K-12 Education Subcommittee is mulling over a bill to set standards for those programs across the board.

“It sets a minimum standard, sets a minimum expectation. So when a parent drops their kid off in an afterschool program, they know they're going to get at least a basic quality afterschool program," said State House Majority Leader Rep. Bruce Bannister.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Community Psychology, afterschool programs reduce problem behaviors by 12 percent, improve attendance by 6 percent and increase test scores by 8 percent.

To find out more about afterschool options in your community, click on this link to a database of programs across the state.

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