Johnson: After school programs work

Published 9:06 am Friday, January 23, 2015

Joseph Johnson of Central Mississippi Prevention Service speaks to Port City Kiwanis Thursday. (Josh Edwards/The Vicksburg Post)

Joseph Johnson of Central Mississippi Prevention Service speaks to Port City Kiwanis Thursday. (Josh Edwards/The Vicksburg Post)

Radio and television stations once dramatically asked “It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” but what they should have been asking where children are between 3 and 6 p.m.

That three-hour window is when kids are home from school but parents haven’t made it back from work, Joseph Johnson, director of Central Mississippi Prevention Service told Port City Kiwanis at their breakfast meeting Thursday.

“During that time, it’s actually prime time for delinquency. Well over 15 million students go home to no supervision, and folks that’s not a good thing,” Johnson said.  “It is important that students are supervised during that time.”

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It’s also when activity at Central Mississippi Prevention Service is at its peak with the organization’s after school program.

“After school programs are highlighted for one reason. They work,” Johnson said.

Kids involved in the after school program can get help with homework and meet with positive-minded mentors at the center at 2406 Grove St., Johnson said. The program, he said, helps students with academic and life skills their parents might not be prepared to teach them.

“We’re extending the school day. We want the student who is struggling academically but we’re also looking for that student who is struggling emotionally and behaviorally and that student who is lacking self confidence,” Johnson said.

Many of the students in the program come from broken or struggling homes where parents might be absent for any number of reasons. For instance, several have single parents who work two jobs to make ends meet

“That leaves students looking for something or someone to latch upon, and of course all too often that ends up being someone negative or some peer who also has not had the kind of value instilment and integrity guide and parenting. They latch onto that and there goes society,” Johnson said. “Academic failure is tied to so many things, behavioral, social, so many negative things.”

Between 35 and 150 children receive assistance every day, which is down over previous years.

“Our program in its heyday would see about 200 kids every day at two different buildings building, and we would look for, as we are always, those who have the most deficit,” Johnson said. “We’re not seeing that many these days because of budget cuts at the state and federal level.”

Students are always being accepted and the organization is seeking volunteers.

“Enabling a student to be successful is a very valuable thing,” Johnson said.

Central Mississippi Prevention Services is a United Way partner agency that was founded in 1999. Kids and teens ages 5-17 are welcomed in the programs. To register students for the program or to volunteer, call 601-631-0102.

“Brining students in and helping them to be supported in being successful and becoming more academically confidant is a huge thing for them,” Johnson said. “The school has their hands full for all kinds of reasons. It’s in the afterschool hours you have a chance to really capture them, get into their heads, get into their hearts and transform them.”