AUSTIN EDITION - After-school programs seek to fill at-risk time

By Roxana Orellana

Students, on average, have 20 to 25 hours a week between the time they get home from school and their parents get home from work.

That's "the prime time for trouble," says Ann Walter, a University of Minnesota Regional Extension Educator specializing in community youth development.

Walter spoke to the Austin School Board on Monday, emphasizing the importance of programs for "out-of-school" time.


"Studies show that effective programs consider youth holistically and not just prevent the problem," Walter said. "The best programs are flexible and focus on the needs of the youth."

A coalition called the After School Partnership will provide after-school programming for Austin Public Schools students in grades three through five. The group includes the district, community education, the city's park and recreation department, and United Way.

Amy Baskin, executive director of the local United Way, invited Walter to further illustrate to the school board why it is important for the district to have such programs.

Walter told the board that most programs are designed for younger students, and more need to be designed for the older ones. Studies have shown that students 12 and older are most at risk of getting into trouble. Also, most school programs meet as little as 20 percent to 25 percent of student demands.

"But the school cannot do it alone," Walter said. "The whole community -- churches, business, other organizations -- can help."

Walter said that how youths spend their free time is a more powerful predictor of risky behavior than that of demographic factors such as race or income.

"Youth are most vulnerable when not in school and when parents are at work," she said.

The coalition's goal is to offer a variety of positive programs, fun activities and learning opportunities for students, according to the group's brochure.


Five after-school sessions are scheduled for the next school year. The first one will run from Sept. 20 to Oct. 15.

What To Read Next
Caitlin and Jason Keck’s two-year term on the American Farm Bureau Federation committee begins next month.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission met on Jan. 5, 2023, to consider the application for Summit Carbon Solutions.
Qualified Minnesota farmers will receive dollar-for-dollar matching money to purchase farmland.
Wanda Patsche, new Farm Camp director, has farmed with her husband near I-90 in southern Minnesota since the 1970s and shares her passion for farming on her blog.