Coordinator: After school programs promote success

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Jaydrien Urias, 12, gets his face painted Thursday at the Lights on Afterschool program at the Lincoln-Jackson Family Center. The event was held to inform parents and students of the importance of after school programs.

By Eric Butler: CNJ Correspondent

Clovis students had something to do Thursday afternoon in the form of games, prizes and food. However, the purpose of the event held at the Lincoln-Jackson Learning Center was to interest the young students in after school activities.

The event was held as part of the Lights On Afterschool project. Organized by the Youth Opportunities Center, the event included several organizations distributing information on their activities.

The goal of Lights On Afterschool is to call attention to the importance of after school programs for America’s children, families and communities.

“Studies show that youth (who) have participated in after school programs tend to become more successful adults in the future,” said Andrea Barela, career coordinator at YOC.

In America today, one in four youth — 14.3 million children — are alone and unsupervised after school, according to Lights On Afterschool Web site.

“I believe that a child that goes home and does nothing but watch TV and does PlayStation and has no mental interaction, they are less successful because they need that stimulation,” she said. “With after school programs, they’re constantly working the brain and motivated. And it’s also social — you get social skills out of that.”

Aside from martial arts, which was featured through an exhibition to start the event, Barela said other groups that provide after school activities included the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts as well as those organized through the schools.

Among the many prizes given out through drawings and games such as musical chairs, were paddleballs, yo-yos and balloon-propelled plastic cars. One special prize was a pair of gloves worn by Hank Baskett III, a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, at an NFL game and autographed by the Clovis native.

Baskett’s father represented the Oasis Children’s Advocacy Center at the event.

“When I was growing up, we worked — so we had after school things to do,” Hank Baskett said. “Now, there’s so much stuff out there that can turn children to the wrong thing after school. People need positive things for them to do. When you have programs like this, it’s awesome.”