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Pennsylvanians Advocate for Afterschool Programs

Wilkinsburg High School students want an afterschool program -- but they can’t afford one.

About two years ago, the students created the Gym after Dark program but lost funding and had to cancel it after only a year.

That is why they joined a group of 58 children and adults in Harrisburg Tuesday as part of the United Way’s Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST) for the first Afterschool Advocacy Day.

The event aimed to raise awareness of the importance of academic afterschool programs for students of all ages in the commonwealth.

“Afterschool programs in general help youth identify their strengths and develop their skills and hopefully their pass-way into college or secondary education or into careers that they may not have pursued,” Mila Yochum, Director of APOST, said.

APOST and their partners also worked to gain support for State Representative Karen Boback’s (R - Luzerne) House Resolution 589, which would direct the commonwealth to establish an advisory committee to survey youth development programs across the state.

Yochum said a lot of work has been done with afterschool programs for elementary school children, but middle and high school kids have been forgotten.

“Youth development programs - especially for the middle and high school kids - are really important, especially during the transitional years,” Yochum said. “And so this House Resolution will look at the environment to see what opportunities are there for youth across the state to really support their growth and development.”

According to America After 3 PM, 26 percent of Pennsylvania’s K-12 children spend an average of seven hours each week unsupervised after school.

“What we’re hoping for is just some attention around the need for quality after school programs across the state,” Yochum said. “And having more effort and more support around the programs in Allegheny County.”

The Wilkinsburg Police Department decided to donate time to help the community’s students keep the gym open after hours, and the students hope to receive some funding in Harrisburg.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.
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