Help for ‘Latchkey’ Kids


    By Deborah Skousen

    At 3 p.m. the bell rings, letting students and teachers know the school day is over.

    As some students throw on their backpacks, many others remain in their seats ? the best part of their day is about to begin.

    Music, crafts and science experiments are all part of Timpanogos Elementary School?s after-school programs. Whether it is extra help with homework or spending one-on-one time with an adult mentor, Timpanogos offers a wide range of activities for students who may not have anyone to go home to.

    ?A lot of these kids would go home to a T.V., a babysitter, or end up on the streets,? said program director Estela Bradley.

    An estimated 15 million children nationwide return home from school to an empty house any given day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau?s 2000 Urban Institute report.

    Of the school?s 580 students, 213 participate in after-school programs.

    The programs at Timpanogos are divided into three categories: mentoring, enrichment and academic. Students must be referred to participate in either the mentoring and academic programs. Those referred to the mentoring program often come from single-parent homes, are new immigrants or come from a low-income household, said Derek Moulton, a BYU student assisting the mentoring program.

    ?Mentoring is about being a friend and having someone to talk to,? Moulton said. ?If their parents work a lot of hours and a child doesn?t feel like he or she fits into the culture, that is when they end up getting into trouble.?

    In addition to teachers and parents, many volunteers and interns come from BYU. Currently Timpanogos has 35 BYU volunteers, but, at its peak, 200 BYU students were volunteering at the elementary school, according to Moulton.

    ?The way we look at it is that we make it possible because of all of our volunteers and interns,? director Bradley said.

    Any elementary school student can be involved with enrichment activities. In addition to arts and crafts and music, Timpanogos Elementary School participates in ?Destination Imagination,? a national program that promotes critical thinking. Students work together in teams to solve challenges. Activities include building two structures that fit inside one another or planning skits. Students come up with props, scripts and costumes themselves, said Jamie Beck, one of the team managers for ?Destination Imagination.?

    ?It is really fun,? said Carmen Juarez, a fourth grader at Timpanogos.

    A majority of the funding for the school?s after-school programs comes from state grants. Parents are given the option to either pay $10 a semester or to volunteer themselves with the after-school programs.

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