Trump and opponents say the programs provided under the grants do not produce results. Some contend the programs don't make a difference in student performance nor do they make a difference in behavior. Advocates for the programs share a different view. Camdenton and Eldon are just two of the districts in the lake area that offer 21st CCLC.

On any given day, more than 1,500 students in lake area schools are taking part in programs designed to enrich their academic performance, teach life skills, play intramural sports and provide a much-needed safe haven for many who would be spending hours alone at home after classes dismiss through 21st Century Learning Center grants.

Instead of going home to an empty home, or just hanging out with friends, students are enrolled in an after school program, they are engaged, challenged and taking part in a positive social environment. And for some, the programs provide snacks and dinner, meeting nutritional needs that otherwise might go unmet.

The funding for the programs is now at risk. The 21st Century Learning funds are among a list of education, arts and other programs that President Donald Trump is pushing to end.

Trump and opponents say the programs provided under the grants do not produce results. Some contend the programs don’t make a difference in student performance nor do they make a difference in behavior.

Advocates for the programs share a different view. Camdenton and Eldon are just two of the districts in the lake area that offer 21st CCLC. The districts have developed model programs that serve not only meeting the needs of those who may be academically and economically challenged but all students. Several programs place an emphasis on STEM learning, (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), preparing students for future educational and career opportunities.

”The proposed budget cuts to 21st Century Community Learning Centers will hurt our most needy students.  The thought or suggestion that our Afterschool programs do not make a positive impact is incorrect.  A program like Camdenton's changes the lives of our students through academic assistance, tutoring, ELL and STEM classes,” Camdenton Superintendent Tim Hadfield said. “We are able to provide high quality extended learning opportunities like FIRST Robotics, Project Lead the Way and numerous other academic offerings for our students.  In addition, through our programs we offer students hot meals nightly.  We know Afterschool programs help keep students safe and positively impacts their academic performance."

Camdenton serves approximately 950 students per year. While academic assistance is a priority, the district offers programs that challenge students to learn new skills and develop new interests. PASS, FIRST Robotics, and Project Lead the Way are examples of going beyond the typical classroom academics.

The Project PASS program primarily serves students who need extra academic support. Participation by these students is determined by grant requirements. However, Open Library, enrichment activities and Fantastic Fridays are available to all students.

On its main campus, six school buildings participate in Project PASS. Dogwood Elementary houses kindergarten through second grades, Hawthorn Elementary houses third and fourth grades, and Oak Ridge Elementary houses fifth and sixth grades. The middle school includes seventh and eighth grades, and the high school includes ninth through twelfth grades.  At the Lake Career and Technical Center English Language Learners classes take place daily for students and adults.  In separate locations, Osage Beach Elementary and Hurricane Deck Elementary each offer PASS to kindergarten through fourth grade students.

In Eldon, the 21st CCLC the impact of the program, has changed lives, according to administrators and staff.

On any given school day, Eldon averages 320 students per night (three sites PK-8th grade) and provide some sort of morning or afternoon programming for over 750 students PK-8 grades.

Superintendent Matt Davis said he believes a key to the after school program is their focus on the on the early STEM activities that are a part of the larger district and community economic development picture. Students first learn about and get hooked on robotics and science and engineering in our afterschool program.

“With the encouragement of our staff and AmeriCorps tutors, these early interests are nurtured into goals and then into life changing career choices. Along with these experiences and positive staff and peer relationships, students learn the teamwork, resiliency , and conflict resolution (social/emotional) skills that are also necessary to be successful in the workplace,” Davis said. “Through our partnerships with the Eldon Chamber, Vernon Publishing, and many other business leaders, students hear firsthand about careers and the education and skills needed to obtain those skills.”

Davis said at Eldon, the afterschool  program prepares all students of all backgrounds.

“We help students, but not by treating them like they are needy, but by recognizing they have additional skills we must teach them in order for them to be successful,’ he said. “Students also need additional positive adults who believe in them and help them to believe in themselves to set and achieve positive goals for their future.”

Called LEAP, Learning Enriched Afterschool Program, Eldon staff has witnessed specific examples of students becoming engaged in the program through intramural athletics, STEM activities like FIRST Robotics, or in the nightly activities or homework help teachers provide.

The engagement has led to better test scores, better grades, and an improvement in regular day attendance. The other piece that is key to the program are the relationships our afterschool program provides for students and families, according to Colleen Abbott, Director of Afterschool Services.

The district encourages family involvement, she said. They see many families at afterschool engagement nights that do not attend other school events.

“We also create an environment where students from a variety of abilities and a variety of backgrounds are together and work to reach goals and learn from one another. We have heard positive remarks like these from parents of all social classes and income brackets, most recently in our Mustang Ranger program,” she said.

Mustang Rangers are a group of young men in fifth and sixth grades who are learning basic life skills like sewing and car maintenance, but also social skills like how to demonstrate respect and honor. Many of these students need the positive male role model in their lives as their fathers are incarcerated. Others come from a traditional family, but have expressed how much they have learned from each other and better understand some of the struggles of their fellow classmates. These types of interactions and student reflect are witnessed often in the after school programs, Abbott said.

 Over 80% of the students Eldon serves int he program do qualify for free and reduced lunch, and the majority of the parents are both working parents. Many of these families do have a high need for after school programming that does not include the high price tag that other after school programs require.

In Eldon there is only one agency that offers after school programming and it is limited in the age and number of students it can accommodate. The other option for students is to go home alone and wait for their parents to arrive hours later. The hours of 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm is the time when juvenile youth crime skyrockets, when other risky behaviors occur, and when the work productivity of the parents takes a nosedive because the parents are texting or calling or otherwise distracted worrying about their child. When these children are safely supervised and engaged in learning, the parents are able to focus on the last hours of their work knowing where their student is and what he or she is doing – actively engaged in an after school program, Abbott said.

“Many of the programs cut in this version of the budget have been labeled as ‘entitlement’ programs. If this is true for our program, this would be the only time these students and their families would ever be considered entitled,” she said. “The families we support are hardworking individuals who strive to provide for their kids in order to give their children opportunities for to succeed. The LEAP program as a 21st CCLC is one of these opportunities.”

Trump’s budget is only a proposal. It will be up to Congress to make a final decision. Districts are hoping Congressional members focus on what the programs provide across the county. Districts could not continue the programs without the funding.

According to the National Afterschool Alliance, research shows that high quality afterschool and summer programs have a positive impact on attendance, behavior, and coursework at school. It also shows that afterschool programs can reduce juvenile crime rates during the hours of 3:00 p.m. to 6 p.m. Afterschool and summer programs provide support for working families and build skills in children and youth that contribute to the shared prosperity of our country. Cutting out 21st CCLC funding not only affects young people, their families, and our future, but also would take away an estimated 100,000 jobs from the afterschool professionals who run these programs in local communities. 

•Every $1 invested in afterschool programs saves $9 by

increasing kids’ earning potential, improving kids’ performance at school and reducing crime and welfare costs

•Participation in afterschool programs has consistently increased over the past 10 years, rising by nearly 2 million children in the last five years alone.Today, 10.2 million children 18 percent) participate in an afterschool program, an increase from 2009 (8.4 million; 15

percent).

•Despite the increased participation in after school programs, the number of children unsupervised in the hours after school, while on the decline, remains high. Across the United States, 11.3 million children are without supervision between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. That number is down from 15.1 million in 2009 and 14.3 million in 2004, but 1 in 5 children still do not have someone to care for them after school.

•Parents view afterschool programs as more than just a safe environment for children. They recognize that programs provide a wide range of activities and enriching learning opportunities for children.

As the economy continues to recover, afterschool programs are an essential source of support for working parents—giving them peace of mind when at work and helping them

to keep their jobs.

While participation in afterschool programs has increased, the unmet demand for afterschool programs continues to rise.

In 2014, approximately 19.4 million children (41 percent) not currently in an afterschool program would be enrolled in a program if one were available to them,

*Information from Aferschool Alliance report : America after 3PM: Afterschool Programs in Demand