Deanne Stein, News9.com
DEL CITY, Oklahoma – Each weekday, millions of children are left unsupervised after school in the United States. Oklahoma is one of only 14 states that do not budget for out-of-school time programs for children between the ages of 5-18.
"In Oklahoma, 29 percent of our kids are completely on their own afterschool," said Sonia Johnson, OKAN Director. "Students left alone are more likely to have lower grades and test scores, higher levels of juvenile crime and a higher likelihood of dropping out of school."
Governor Mary Fallin has declared October 20, "Lights On Afterschool Day in Oklahoma." Del City Elementary received national recognition for its plans to shine a spotlight on the importance of afterschool programs in their community. The plan includes a rally Tuesday evening from at 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on the school playground.
"I want to commend Del City for doing such a great job of involving parents and community members in afterschool programs," said Dr. Janet Barresi, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction. "Congratulations for having the only program in the state to be chosen as a spotlight winner."
Around 7,500 "Lights On Afterschool" events will take place across the nation and emphasize the importance of keeping the lights on and the doors open for afterschool programs. Del City Elementary is asking everyone in the neighborhood to turn on porch lights and other outdoor lighting in support of the national event. In fact, businesses are expected to light up marquees and all outdoor lighting.
"Afterschool programs keep kids safe, healthy and learning," said Johnson. "Now is the time for policymakers to realize that afterschool programs mean more kids stay out of trouble and stay in school. Investing in afterschool programs now translates to a healthier economic future for Oklahoma."
The school is also hosting a celebration during the 5:30 p.m. event. It's free and open to the community. A hot air balloon will light up the night, along with other lighting. The celebration will also include a petting zoo, food, inflatable toys, a fire truck, archery, Tae Kwon Do and many hands-on activities for the students.
Find out more about the Oklahoma Afterschool Network.