After-school programs keep youth alive

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A national study conducted for the Afterschool Alliance discovered that 4 million African-American children are in need of after school programs. The study also found that the lack of programs leaves 2.8 million of those children without adult supervision for several hours everyday.

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YOUTH ALIVE— From left: Maiaya Franklin, Leslie-Ann McDermott, Sarah Garrett, Kyle Buzard, Jennifer Garrett and Justen Thurmond are just some of the kids involved in the youth a live program.

For the 10th year in a row, the Afterschool Alliance sponsored a nation-wide rally to shed light on these statistics and gain support for an increase in afterschool programs. The local rally on Oct. 22 was held at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, which has been a part of the national movement for the past five years.

“We started to really look at the statistics of how after-school programs help families and as soon as we saw that, we knew we really wanted to get behind this movement,” said JuWanda Thurmond, Youth Programs manager. “We really believe in our program. I think it does tremendous work.”

Over the years, Thurmond has seen the benefits of the museum’s Youth Alive After School Club firsthand. She referenced one student who has been involved in the program since middle school and is now set to pursue a degree in early childhood education from Point Park University.

“I think the impact is definitely felt in the community,” Thurmond said. “The statistics show that those students who are not involved in afterschool programs, because those hours are the most vulnerable, they can get involved in sex and drugs, but I know for the kids who are involved in our program, that’s not an issue.”

As part of this year’s rally, Chris Moore, WQED co-producer and host of “Black Horizons,”  took the time to talk to students from the Youth Alive program. He encouraged them to use the museum as a resource for finding their future career.

“This is a place where you can find your voice or interest. A lot of programs here can get you interested in something you can do for life,” Moore said. “You have to surround yourself with people who are doing whatever it is you want to do. I want you to seize the moment.”

Moore also cautioned the students to consider the consequence of each choice they make. He shared stories of how choices have negatively affected the lives of other students and his own personal experience of getting into a stolen car in his youth.

“I tell you all of this just to let you know you have choices. Instead of making the choices that can take you in the right vein of life, you can make the wrong choices,” Moore said. “I think how close my life came just because I made the choice to jump in that car.”

Justen Thurmond, 17, has been a mentor with Youth Alive for two years, serving as a role model for middle school students from Pittsburgh Allegheny. He has been involved in planning several activities including field trips to Artist Image Resource, Robots 250 and the New Hazlett Theater.

“Because Allegheny is a diverse school, you get to work with a lot of diverse kids,” Thurmond said. “I like being able to give advice. I like being able to talk to them about life situations.”

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