Taking care of our youth with after school activities

Taking care of our youth with after school activities

Editor’s Note: MAPP, Mobilizing for Action through Planning &Partnerships, is a local coalition that aims to use and build upon our strengths to improve our individual, family and community health. Health is defined broadly to include cultural, economic, educational, environmental, mental, physical and spiritual health.

The start of a new school year is just around the corner with the first day for kids Aug. 22. This year, in anticipation of my youngest starting kindergarten, I am also anticipating new and earlier start and stop times. Established at the end of last school year, we have yet to experience these changes. Whether starting and stopping earlier or later than in the past, these changes will present a challenge for many in the community, especially working parents.

Fortunately, we have a community that mobilizes in the face of a challenge and is willing to assist those in need. This close-knit community is one of my favorite things about Homer, and one of the reasons my husband and I chose to move here from Eagle River five years ago. In classic Homer style, a local coalition has come together over the past few months to proactively discuss and address the challenges presented by these changing school start and stop times.

The KBay Community Youth and Activities Coalition (CYAC) has been meeting over the summer discussing ideas for after school programs and transportation. Currently, the coalition is compiling a comprehensive list of all existing youth activities in one place, making it easier for parents and caregivers to find offerings that meet their needs. All are encouraged to input information on their programs by completing a form located online at www.myhsmd.com/kbay-cyac .

This conversation is ongoing and all interested parties are invited to join. People can do so by joining the Facebook page (search KBay Community Youth and Activities Coalition) and attending their upcoming Youth After School Activities & Programs event, similar to the Paul Banks Elementary School summer activities fair that occurs every spring. This event will take place in the Homer High School commons on Wednesday, August 16th from 5-7 p.m. There is still an opportunity to have a table at the fair and folks can “register” online via the link above.

It warms my heart to see members of our community coming together to proactively address these changes and meeting the after school needs of our youth and their families. Organizations such as Harbor School of Music and Dance and KBay Martial Athletics are stepping up to meet these needs by offering new after school programming, but more is still needed.

I ask myself, what else can we do to support our youth and expand recreational opportunities? A fascinating and promising case study has occurred in Iceland. This entire country managed to drastically curb teen substance abuse through an understanding of teen brain chemistry, expanded recreational opportunities and curfews.

I believe we have the power to do something similar on a local level, and KBay CYAC is a great place to begin having the conversation. For those interested in this movement to support recreational opportunities for our youth, please plan to attend the event on Aug. 16. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child and we are blessed with an amazing village here in Homer.

Hannah Gustafson is a life-long Alaskan, mother of Ella and Gunnar, and the MAPP Coordinator.