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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Why After-School Programs Matter

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert
In this time of international financial crisis, it is even more imperative that opportunities that assist students academically, economically, and emotionally rise from grassroots efforts.

Liahona Youth Empowerment is a Polynesian organization doing exactly this. Nate and Linda Dudoit have given freely from their hearts to create a multifaceted service program for special-needs and at-risk youth.

The word liahona refers to a holistic approach, or navigational direction, based on personal empowerment through proper physical, spiritual, and life-skills training. Their chosen vehicle is after-school programs in Hawaii held in local parks and community centers.

In fall 2009, nearly 700 students will apply to participate in the five Liahona programs: Strength/Condition, Healthy Bodies Education, Performing Arts, Dance and Music, Vocational and Computer Programs and Life Enrichment, and Senior Volunteers. It is the design and delivery of these programs -- not the labels -- that has drawn students to the organization for three years.

The young people come to Liahona programs because they know they are valued as individuals who have something to contribute to the team, or dance troupe, or fitness group. Their efforts are rewarded intrinsically -- a new experience for many of them -- as they heal feelings of isolation, fear, anger, frustration, and failure.

They interact with local football heroes from the University of Hawaii who serve as volunteers, mentors, and role models. Athletes who go on to mainland universities return to talk story about their journey in reaching their goals.

These role models give the youth a purpose and a passion that is real. The children get to see for themselves that the volunteers, who grew up in the same communities, have carved out a space for themselves while retaining the uniqueness of their own Hawaiian culture and values such as teamwork, responsibility, and humility.

Liahona believes that setting a direction with specific goals and objectives is essential for each youth prior to enrollment. It is mandatory that each child meet with a program counselor prior to enrollment and that they see the counselor to assess their progress quantitatively.

The organization works closely with community youth organizations, local fitness experts, and Hawaii public and private schools. Liahona's popular Strength and Condition Program consists of one-on-one and group training for children and young adults up to three times a week for one- to two-hour sessions.

Liahona and SPARQ (Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction, and Quickness) teamed up to develop a unique program that includes lifting free weights, machine apparatus, ply metrics, cardiovascular, yoga, Pilates, and other modalities to help develop their physical, psychological, mental, and emotional well-being.

Volunteers with expertise in areas of health, fitness, and sports hold age-appropriate workshops and classes for kids on topics that support the organization's goals, expanding into areas like safety in sports, how to avoid injuries, proper nutrition, and calculating calories.

Liahona's mission is to build multiple pathways for all kids to be successful. Indeed, the long-term vision includes growing large enough to serve youth in Polynesian communities all around the Pacific Rim.

For Liahona, youth empowerment starts with visualizing success, and, like a rainbow reflecting the light of many prisms, stretches across valleys of time and space to hopefully inspire other grassroots efforts in other communities.

Are you inspired? Has your school or community empowered children in ways similar to this after-school program?

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert
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Comments (22)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Dr. Katie Klinger's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you, Christina, for your feedback...we know Liahona Youth Empowerment is making a difference in the lives of young people in Hawaii...Warmly, Katie

Dr. Katie Klinger's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Larry, maybe we should think about putting THINK and LIAHONA YOUTH EMPOWERMENT together? You both have the same mission in life. Warmly, Katie

Carol Bauer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This sounds great! Thanks for sharing.

Tia's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The Performing Arts Workshop provides after school arts programs to children in Northern California schools and communities. Founded in 1965, the non-profit continues to bring arts education to "at- risk" children. Our programs help students that others refer to as low-income and at-risk develop critical thinking, creative expression, and basic learning skills through the arts. To learn more about the Performing Arts Workshop please visit www.performingartsworkshop.org for more information regarding programs and ways to get involved.

Tia's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The Performing Arts Workshop provides after school arts programs to children in Northern California schools and communities. Founded in 1965, the non-profit continues to bring arts education to "at- risk" children. Our programs help students that others refer to as low-income and at-risk develop critical thinking, creative expression, and basic learning skills through the arts. To learn more about the Performing Arts Workshop please visit www.performingartsworkshop.org for more information regarding programs and ways to get involved.

Carrie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that after-school programs are extremely important for students in all areas, but especially students who are at risk or in high poverty areas. I started an after school art program at my school last year and the benefits were so obvious it amazes me that there was no programs before then. I held an art club for fifth and sixth graders two days a week and it was so much fun. I really got to know my students and although the subject was art, the topics of discussion often turned from just everyday talk to very serious subjects. It broke my heart to know that my students, ages 9-12, had to deal with issues like drugs, gangs, pressure and violence. At the same time it made me so happy that they trusted me enough to open up, and also that my two hours a week with them was two hours that they were not getting into any trouble. As Kottler (2005) says:

It is the warmth and nurture of human relationships that we all long for and that children most easily respond to. Learning most easily takes place in the context of a safe environment in which people feel secure enough to experiment, to take risks, to venture beyond their capabilities into the great unknown. (p. 48-49)

These ideas are exactly with an after-school program can do for impressionable kids; the benefits are life changing for the students as well as them mentors involved.

reference:
Kottler, J. A., Zehm, S. J., & Kottler, E. (2005). On being a teacher: The human dimension (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Gillian's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think After School Programs are important in ensuring that children have a safe place to go after school.

We have a program at the school I teach at, but unfortunately it is required for parents to pay for their child to attend. As I work with children in a high poverty area, not many parents can afford to pay these fees. Many children are left unattended at home, and I worry about their safety, or whether they are really responsible enough to be left alone at elementary school age. Luckily places like the YMCA provide some scholarships for disadvantaged students, but there are still many children who do not qualify for these scholarships.

I love that the Liahona Program will be held in local parks and community centers. Even though I think our After School Program is essential, I can not help but feel sorry for the children who come to school from 7:45am and leave at 6pm each evening. In the program they have an opportunity to work with a volunteer to aid them with their homework, and there is some time allocated for outdoor play, board games, or movies. But still, they spend the whole entire day on the school premises, having to follow all the same rules and regulations. I feel that children need more time in their day to be children, relax and participate in physical activities as offered by the Liahona Program.

I agree with Carrie's response, in that by having fun, relaxed clubs promotes excellent relationships with students. Instructors may even have better opportunities to form meaningful relationships with the children than teachers do, who have a rigorous schedule and curriculum to adhere to, and sometimes don't get the opportunity to really listen to and speak with their students. Maybe teachers should be more involved in managing after school clubs in order to get to know their students better outside the regular classroom day?

Cheryl's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have seen the value of after school programs as a teacher in New Jersey. In my school, most of my students go home to empty houses where they do not get parental support. Many of their parents work long hours to pay the bills and do not spend much time with their children. Others come from single-parent households where they, at 10 years old, are responsible for younger siblings. Whatever the case may be, our after school programs have become a safe and caring place for many of our students. It is no longer just a babysitting service. Last year we added a homework club where students could go to get extra help with homework from a teacher in the school. This upcoming year we are adding new programs, run by our teachers, in addition to homework club. There will be clubs featuring intramural sports, art, cooking, computers, etc. I will be starting off with the computer club in my building, but may come up with something new for the second half of the year. Seeing the joy the children get from your time, help, and creativeness makes it a very rewarding experience. They are grateful to receive help with their homework because at home they would be struggling with it on their own. Getting them involved in these clubs is better than having them sit home in front of the TV or out on the streets where they could get into trouble. The Liahona program sounds great. The one downfall to our program is that we are limited by finances because we only get a small amount of assistance for this program and our resources are limited. Nevertheless, we make the best out of what we have and the children are able to have fun and educational programs in their community.

Lauryn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with Carrie,
After school programs are imperative for students. Especially students who live in a diverse area. I worked in a school district that had very wealthy children, and very poor children. I was heavily involved in student council at our school. The school I taught at was of the high SES, but I think that student council opened their eyes and allowed them to see that there are plenty of other people who are not as fortunate as they are. The students and I were involved in community fund raising, soup kitchen's, Alex's Lemonade Stand, and other various activities that allowed the children to become active members within their community. After school programs must be preserved, because not only do they benefit the child but also the future of the community!

Molli's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe after school programs are important. At the school I am teaching at there are a lot of programs ranging from athletics to teen counseling. These programs are there for the children. Recently our school district had financial problems. Our levies did not pass and the district had to make budget cuts. They warned the teachers, students, and community if they did not get a levy to pass then they would cut the funds to the extra curricular activities. They also made other cuts. The levy did not pass the first time and the school district was true to their word. The students had to pay to play sports and they also did away with some of the clubs. The students did pay to play and participate, but it didn't last long. the levies past at the next election. I hope no one else has this problem because it is not fair to the students.

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