Filling After-School Voids

A national survey by the YMCA supports a common perception - that participation in after-school activities often leads to better grades and better behavior of teens. It follows another study that found the biggest indicator of school failure of teens is the amount of unsupervised time spent with peers.

Unsupervised teens, says the survey, are four times more likely to be D students. Some 79 percent of teens who are involved in some kind of supervised after-school activity on a daily basis are A or B students.

The survey also links the lack of supervision of teens after school to increased at-risk behavior. The problem: not enough after-school activities to include all the teens who could benefit from them. The average teenager between ages 14 and 17 is left alone after school, either on the streets or at home, two days a week.

Teens want more programs, says the survey. Educators, school administrators, parents, and youth service providers should pay attention and help get teenagers out of the 3 to 6 p.m. "danger zone" - when unsupervised teens are most likely to get into problems with drugs, sex, and crime.

Recently, the mayor of Boston and a range of local leaders announced a $23 million public-private partnership to serve children after school.

YMCAs currently serve 1 in 10 teens, some 2.4 million across the country. Other communities can follow the Y's, and Boston's, lead in creating or improving afterschool programs for teens.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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