For the first time in history, our children are expected to be worse off than their parents. And it’s no wonder: the U.S. ranks 22nd in high school completion among 28 countries; three out of 10 kids are obese or overweight; and one in five youth live in poverty. The consequences of these staggering statistics are felt not just by our next generation, but also across the nation.
The issues facing kids today also impact our nation’s economy, costing as much as $209 billion in lost taxes and higher government expenditures over the lifetimes of those who fail to graduate. Nationally, healthcare costs to treat issues related to childhood obesity are $14.1 billion annually. Additionally, states spend an average of $7.1 million a day locking youth up in juvenile justice facilities.
How do we reverse the most negative trends facing young people today? One way is by recognizing the importance of out-of-school time. The out-of-school environment—after school and summer—plays an essential, yet often overlooked, role in transforming kids’ lives and America’s future.
What happens during the hours between school and home have a dramatic impact on a child’s future, especially in the areas of education, health and character development. By providing access to positive, productive programs and caring adults after school and during summer, we can help change the future for our youth, our community, and our country.
The Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay is recognized throughout the community, primarily for its gym and sports leagues. The importance of play cannot be understated. It helps children learn, problem solve, follow rules, communicate, and experiment in a failure-free environment. However, many forget the educational enrichment programs the Club provides. Whether it is hands-on STEM activities, sophisticated digital arts programs, college readiness or workforce development initiatives, youth are learning all of the time. It’s a critical component for helping our kids achieve the great feature they all deserve. When developing our curriculum, there are four main questions we ask:
- Is it safe?
- Is it fun?
- Is it educational?
- And above all, what impact will this have on our kids?
Nobody is required to come to the Club. Because of that, kids can, and often do, “vote with their feet.” If we cannot engage them here, they will find other activities to engage in. Whether that is at the mall, on the streets, or elsewhere. Each day, the Club serves approximately 750 children throughout Green Bay. When the community told us that transportation was an issue to bringing children to our two Clubhouses, we responded. In partnership with our friends at the Green Bay Area Public School District, afterschool programming is available at six elementary and middle schools.
Despite the transformational impact of out-of-school programs, every day 15 million kids nationwide leave school with no place to go7, putting them at risk of being unsupervised, unguided and unsafe during these critical afterschool hours. Furthermore, during the summer, an alarming 43 million kids in America lack access to expanded learning opportunities, increasing their risk of learning loss and falling behind before the next school year begins.
If the next generation and our nation are to succeed, it is imperative we redefine the opportunity equation for all kids by elevating the critical role that out-of-school time plays in a child’s future success. Through the Kampaign for Kids, the Campaign for kids, The Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay is asking our community to make out-of-school programs a priority and empower the next generation to achieve a great future. We are advocating on behalf of kids and convening public, private and nonprofit partners around our goal of ensuring every child and teen has access to a safe, engaging and productive environment during the out-of-school time. Together, we can provide access to life-changing programs after school and during the summer that enable kids to be successful in school and in adulthood, to be healthy and active, and to develop the strong character skills needed become America’s future leaders.
Eric VandenHeuvel, Chief Academic Officer