October 27, 2023 by HCDE Communications
Amid the iconic backdrop of the Houston City Hall Legacy Room, city officials, educators, and youth advocates gathered for the 24th annual Lights on Afterschool celebration, which emphasizes the vital role out-of-school-time programs play in bolstering youth learning and safety. Their unified message echoed through the hallways: afterschool programs are not just extracurriculars—they are lifelines for the city’s youth.
“Afterschool initiatives support working families, help children excel academically and personally, and ensure their safety during vulnerable afternoon hours,” said Dr. Lisa Caruthers, the senior director of the Center for Afterschool, Summer, and Enrichment for Kids (CASE for Kids). “This event underscores the pressing need for further investment in these programs.”
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Data from the Afterschool Alliance reveals that most juvenile crimes transpire between 2-6 p.m., a window when many children find themselves unsupervised. Extracurricular activities allow youth to enhance academic skills, explore new hobbies, nurture creativity, and interact with positive role models.
The event, held on Oct. 26, was one of thousands taking place around the country this month as part of the nationwide Lights On Afterschool awareness campaign spearheaded by the Afterschool Alliance. The initiative aims to afford every student the opportunity to access quality, affordable afterschool programs. In Houston, more than 300 local afterschool program sites opened their doors during the evening hours to welcome community members and advocate for and celebrate the value of such programs.
Locally, the Greater Houston Lights On Alliance (GHLOA) hosted the rally at City Hall. Every year, the GHLOA serves more than 50,000 students throughout Harris County. Alliance members include the Alief Independent School District; Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston; CASE for Kids, a division of Harris County Department of Education (HCDE); Harris County; Houston Independent School District; Houston Parks and Recreation Department; Out 2 Learn, a United Way of Greater Houston initiative; and the YMCA of Greater Houston.
Research indicates that for every child in Texas benefitting from afterschool activities, three more await a spot in a program, and the demand is notably higher among Latino and Black children. However, students who consistently attend high-quality afterschool programs exhibit increased school engagement, superior grades, and a higher likelihood of advancing to the next grade level.
As the event drew to a close, GHLOA representatives acknowledged a proclamation from Mayor Sylvester Turner for 2023 Lights On Afterschool Day. They also encouraged attendees to visit one of 11 pre-selected afterschool sites that evening to witness firsthand the invaluable supports and experiences afterschool programs provide to Harris County youth.
To learn more about CASE for Kids, visit www.hcde-texas.org/afterschoolzone.