by Rachel James-Terry
In the late 80’s, the term “latchkey kids” was a popular phrase used to describe children who, after school, go home to an empty house due to their parent(s) being at work. According to the Afterschool Alliance, approximately 15 million U.S. children are currently without adult supervision during the afternoon hours. In efforts to combat such steep statistics, Jackson State University’s Kids Kollege Enrichment Program participated in the “Lights On Afterschool” campaign.
“Lights On Afterschool is a national event where over 8,000 afterschool programs, including statewide, rallied for support and to get supporters out to hear and see what after-school programs are doing,” said Tierra Strong, program director for JSU’s Kids Kollege.
Since its inception in 1983, Kids Kollege has sought to provide contemporary opportunities for Jackson metro area students to excel academically, emotionally and socially. From Monday to Friday, students are welcomed into an individualized approach environment that emphasizes continued learning in a fun atmosphere. Dr. Daniel Watkins, dean of the College of Education and Human Development, shared droll tidbits of his childhood without aftercare programs saying, “After school for me was work. When we would leave school, we had to do chores, but I was able to learn a whole lot.”
“Growing up in a financially strapped family left little room for extracurricular activities,” Watkins remarked. So, he learned how to read his grandfather’s newspapers and from there an affinity sprouted for books and geography.
He then challenged the room of students and supporters to “read, read, read, read – enjoy yourself and have an exciting time.”
Fifth-grader Jamia Knox has been attending Kids Kollege for a little over three years.
“I like coming here and learning after school. You don’t have to go straight home and be without someone helping you with your homework. There are a lot of things to do at Kids Kollege, and more people should get their kids involved,” she said.
Jasmine Young, a senior elementary education major at JSU, began volunteering at Kids Kollege as a sophomore to complete the university’s community service requirements. “I’ve been here ever since, and I love the experience. I love how the children are always so active and always learning the different activities,” Young gushed.
Eleven-year-old Jonathan Buford took time out from a group of his friends to explain how they are collecting canned and packaged food to donate to parents whose kids are in long-term care at Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital. “It makes me feel good,” said Buford, smiling shyly.