Dallas, TX – A Dallas non-profit is trying to raise awareness about students with time on their hands after school and no safe place to spend it. KERA's Courtney Collins explains.
A special event at the Dallas After School Network kicked off with a demonstration by Marsh Middle School's Junior ROTC. Eighth grader Sandra Diaz is very involved with that program and spends hours after school practicing marching and drills.
Diaz: "I practice every second I have with Coach Bates, I practice. I want to get ready, I want to be someone in life, I want to prepare myself for later on in the future."
Without ROTC, Diaz says she, like many of her classmates, would spend the afternoon home alone.
Diaz: "Most of the parents come from work late at night and they're just walking by themselves."
That's what the Dallas After School Network is desperate to prevent. With the support of DART and marketing agency IMC2, they're kicking off their "I Do" awareness campaign.
McDonald: "We do care about tomorrow and we know that after school programs can change a life."
Tanya McDonald is Executive Director of the Dallas After School Network. She says 100 thousand children in Dallas County have nowhere to go after school.
McDonald: "A lot of the school based programs are funded with federal tax dollars and those, as everything federally funded these days, are in jeopardy."
The Dallas After School Network works with community based after school programs that are either free or low cost. But staffers need more support to expand their reach.
McDonald: "We have facilities that we would love to put programs into but until we've got the staff or volunteers who can be there every single day, we can't do it."
McDonald says children on their own after school are more likely to explore dangerous activities like drug use and gang violence. Which is why her organization is determined to keep students safe from 3 to 6 p.m. everyday.