Elementary school, middle school, and high school students have long days, lots of homework, and extracurricular activities on hand. Few would argue that students have too much time on their hands. However, there’s no doubt that spending extracurricular time in after-school programs is not only helpful, it’s important for youths, families, and communities.
According to a national evaluation, over 40% of students attending after-school programs improved their academic performance, reduced drug use, improved classroom behavior, and increased their physical activity and good dietary habits. Participation in after-school programs has even been associated with positive health outcomes, including reduced obesity. In other words, the benefits of enrolling in an after-school programs aren’t only academic; in fact, they can be holistically valuable in a variety of ways.
These reasons, among others, are why the Lexington Academy–Multiple Choices in Lexington, Nebraska, is succeeding in their programs offered in all four elementary schools in Lexington, Nebraska. Held Monday through Friday between 3:30pm and 6pm, the program lets community partners come in to share crafts, interact with students, and offer different career options. “I’ve been actually looking forward to being an electrician and trying to, like, get some help on how and where I should I get some help,” says Caden Neben, a student in the Lexington Academy in an NTV report.
The program is funded by a grant, but is also dependent on community partners for assistance. “Anyone can come in as any background virtually, very basic things. Say in the elementary, we can have people come in and teach children table manners, so any activities that anyone has as a hobby would probably be something that they can come in and share with our students. We have students who are very hungry to learn and anyone who has a talent or skill will be most welcome. And it can be someone that is retired, just something they like to do that they can come in and share,” explains community liaison Cynthia Boyd.
The academy also supports STEM education, continuously working to integrate STEM skills and technical careers into their vocation options.
If you have a program like the Lexington Academy available to you, here are just a few of the reasons you should take it:
- Experience at a Young Age: Particularly for children who might be apt to succeed at STEM, studies show that children exposed to STEM educational resources at a very young age perform better in science and math than students who are not. According to Ohio House Representative Marcia Fudge, “Numerous evaluations found that quality STEM after-school programs increase the likelihood of graduation and the pursuit of a STEM career.” If participating in after-school programs can increase graduation rates and fuel the workforce of STEM workers, the extra time spent outside of school may be immensely rewarding.
- Broaden Views of Potential Careers: After-school programs help shift and expand thinking in terms of future career goals. Rather than only understanding the potential of being a doctor, or a lawyer, or a teacher, these types of experiences that may not be available in traditional classroom settings can help students discover passions they didn’t know they had. Boyd explains, “As he [Caden] was saying, some of the activities they’ve had, there is a robotics class that some of the students have participated in, we’ve even had someone from the State Patrol come in with his service dog, and we’re just kind of trying to enlighten the kids that they can see that the thing of ‘what will I be when I grow up,’ we are trying to give them a broader view.”
- Support the Underserved: As the After School Alliance explains, after-school programs can go a long way in the efforts to close the opportunity gap that exists between children and youths in underserved and underrepresented communities. Because girls and ethnic minority children generally participate in numbers higher than the national average, opportunities for hands-on education can enrich the academic development for these generally underserved groups.
There are many reasons to participate in after-school programs, and we appreciate all the work they do to supplement traditional education. Questions? Comments? Want to learn more? Leave them in the section below, any time!