"Too many kids are locked out after school," said Donna Queen, director of Storm Lake Middle School After School Program.
On Thursday afternoon Storm Lake Schools celebrated Lights On After School, a gathering aimed at making people aware of the importance of after-school programs which allow kids to be safe, help working families and improve learning.
Youth crime rates are generally highest between 3 and 6 p.m. - the hours when school children come home to empty houses and wait for a parent to return from work.
Fortunately, Storm Lake parents such as Larry Wells don't have to worry about their children being home alone. After-school programs such as ETA and TLC provide a little bit of extra academic and recreational activities along with supervision.
"My daughter is a fifth grader who attended ETA through grade school and is now in TLC. I am a single dad and this helps so she does not have to come home to an empty house. She can start her homework and do other activities such as music and computer. I know where my daughter is and I am thankful," Wells said.
Along with a couple of parents, and special speaker State Representative Mary Lou Freeman, students such as Yesenia Rojas also recognized the importance of such programs at a short program at the middle school. "The After School Program is important because I can finish my homework and there are teachers that can help. We get to do activities that we normally would never do. It is a good way to make new friends."
Students at the elementary schools also recognized Lights On After School. First-grade students at East School made a scarecrow surprise snack to share with fellow students and parents. Along with special snack and sandwiches, students and parents were able to make several crafts together including painting pumpkins, doing shape puzzles, and making a pumpkin man decoration.
Storm Lake Principal Ron Brown closed the middle-school program in saying, "I would like to publicly thank all of the volunteers for their time. I am thankful for the funding sources and happy we have this program to support our kids."