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After-school programs make a difference for kids, community, group says

SOUTH SALT LAKE — A group of young violinists kicked off a summit on after-school programs Friday with a fine rendition of the national anthem.

Appropriately, the American Preparatory Academy students learned to play the difficult instrument in an after-school program.

The Utah Afterschool Network and Salt Lake Afterschool Regional Network brought about 100 educators, business leaders and local politicians together at the Columbus Community Center to talk about the need for investing in after-school programs in Salt Lake County.

“It’s really a low-cost way for kids to be able to stay engaged during those critical after-school hours, but also learn to be better citizens,” said Kelly Riding, Utah Afterschool Network executive director.

The meeting comes as President Donald Trump threatens to eliminate the $1.4 billion 21st Century Community Learning Center program in which about 9,800 Utah children participate. The Canyons School District, for one, received $1.7 million from the program the past five years, Superintendent Jim Briscoe said.

Nearly 72 percent of Utah students who participated in 21st Century improved their math grades, and 77 percent did better in English/language arts, Riding said.

Overall, about 57,000 students in the state, including more than 32,000 in Salt Lake County, take part in a variety of after-school activities in arts, sciences, music and recreation. Those children do better in class, attend school more often, and are more connected to their school and community, Riding said.

After-school programs also give working parents peace of mind knowing their children are in a safe place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., the hours when juvenile crime peaks, she said.

Nearly 100,000 children in the state go unsupervised after school for at least seven hours a week, Riding said.

South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood…

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