Thursday, June 2, 2005

In 56572, this is indeed a problem; what can be done here?

Many Minnesota teens rudderless after school: U study
Mary Jane Smetanka
Star Tribune
Published June 3, 2005

Minnesota has a higher proportion of teenagers alone at home after school than any other state, according to a University of Minnesota study made public this morning.

The report also urges more organized activities for school-age children and more coordination among groups that offer those programs.

The report of the Minnesota Commission on Out-of-School Time, released today, suggests setting up Internet sites with lists of activities that parents and children could search by zip code. It also proposes setting up "youth opportunity zones" where participation fees would be waived for poor children.

Created by University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks, the commission wants to provide a vision for the state on what constructive youth activities could be, said Dale Blyth, associate dean for youth development at the university's Extension Service.

Budgets at many nonprofit agencies have been cut, Blyth said, and while some students from affluent families feel over-scheduled, in many rural and urban areas students either don't know about activities or don't have programs to go to.

"It's not that every kid should be kept busy by being in a program, but we need to think how every kid is engaged," Blyth said. "That could be in the family, in the home, it could be a pick-up softball game, but in other communities it has to be something more organized and planful."

The report suggests establishing a $12 million fund, collected from state, organizational and individual donations, to help pay for increased coordination and things like student scholarships.

The commission set a goal of having 80 percent of school-age students involved in high-quality, non-school activities by 2010. The report now goes to the newly formed Minnesota Out-of-School Partnership, which includes public and private organizations involved in provide out-of-school time programs, which will do strategic planning this summer.

Bruininks commissioned the report last fall as part of his initiative on children, youth and families.

Mary Jane Smetanka is at
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