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Thursday, Oct. 20 marks the annual nationwide National Lights On Afterschool campaign.
The West Virginia State Capitol is recognizing the occasion by shining blue lights on the building from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday night. The governor’s office has also proclaimed Oct. 20 as Lights on Afterschool Day.
The event is organized by Afterschool Alliance, a group that advocates for more access to after school programs for students across the country. More than 8,000 organizations have been involved since its creation in 2000.
Loren Farmer of the West Virginia Statewide Afterschool Network said these types of programs are important because they help keep kids safe and give them more opportunities to learn and build social skills.
“Afterschool plays a huge role in making sure we keep our kids safe in hours when they’re out of school. The peak for juvenile crime is typically between 2 and 6 p.m.,” Farmer said.
The network is housed within WVU Extension, which has helped organize the campaign in West Virginia alongside the Salvation Army’s Boys and Girls Club of Charleston.
Research from the Afterschool Alliance shows that 86 percent of parents in West Virginia support public funding for after school programs. Farmer says with more funding, they could accommodate some of the demand for after school programs, particularly in rural communities.
“In West Virginia, we don’t have any dedicated state funding for after school,” Farmer said. “We do have the federal 21st Century Community Learning Center’s grant, which is administered through the Department of Education. But we do not currently have any state level funding specifically for after school.”
The same study says 12 percent of West Virginia students were involved in after school programs in 2020.
That’s a seven percent decrease since the group’s previous study in 2014, though 46 percent of children also say they would participate in such programs if they were more readily available.