After-school program grows

RAD observing Lights on Afterschool! today

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Craig residents are asked to turn on their porch lights today during the day in recognition of after-school agencies throughout the country.

"We're asking them to turn their porch lights on if they support after-school programs," Recreational After-school Doorway Director Diane Gould said, "and just to be aware that the need is out there."

Lights On Afterschool! is a nationwide event celebrating the role of these programs in the lives of children. The effort is a project of After-school Alliance, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide all children access to after-school programming by 2010.

More Craig youths have access to these activities thanks to RAD, which serves fifth- to eighth-graders. Gould says enrollment this fall is up significantly from past semesters, with 175 registered now. Last spring, 125 participated.

"This year, we're serving 347 kids per week," she said. The number includes students who attend on multiple days.

Gould attributes the increase in enrollment to the kinds of courses available to students. Youths are invited to participate in a variety of activities, including cosmetology, theater, kayaking and horseback riding. They meet at Craig Intermediate and Craig Middle schools for a snack before splitting up and participating in their choice of activity.

"They're too old for day care and too young to stay home alone," Gould said. "This gives them new talents they can find and new hobbies they can find."

Students also receive assistance with their homework, and Gould said the tutoring has helped raise grades of many RAD youths.

RAD was founded in 2001 and is completely grant-driven. All activities are free to the students and open to any child. RAD no longer is accepting new students this semester, though new participants are welcome in the future.

"We will start another (enrollment period) in January and another one in April," Gould said.

With 31 staff members, including paid employees and volunteers, Gould said she relies heavily on the community for support. Many businesses donate services and time to the agency, and she always needs more help.

"We're looking for anyone in the area with talents they'd like to share with kids," she said.

Parents of children who want to enroll and community members interested in helping should call Gould at 826-0199.

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