"community need" refers to the necessity for services, facilities, or resources that are absent, deficient, or underutilized. As such, there's a growing call for programs that cater to these needs, especially those targeting high-risk youth in low-income neighborhoods.
The first area of community need is in the provision of supervised after-school and summer programs. The hours immediately following school, from 3 to 7 PM, have been identified as a vulnerable period for youth, with a peak in violent crime among young people ages 10-17. Additionally, summer holidays present a long stretch of unstructured time that, with positive engagement, can lead to positive behavior patterns.
These supervised programs aren't just about keeping children safe and out of trouble, although that's important. They offer a structured, productive environment where children can continue to learn and grow. They can provide tutoring in subjects where children might fall behind, improving their overall academic achievement. This need is underscored by sobering statistics showing that most American fourth graders cannot read or do math at grade level, a statistic that worsens for black children.
Furthermore, there's evidence that these supervised programs can also play a role in reducing substance use among teens. A study published in Pediatrics magazine found that eighth graders left alone after school reported greater use of substances like cigarettes, marijuana, and alcohol than those in adult-supervised settings.
To meet this community's needs, we need a multi-pronged approach. This involves increasing funding for such programs, rallying community support and involvement, and advocating for local, state, and national policy changes to prioritize our youth's needs. The benefits of addressing this need are significant. Investing in our children fosters safer communities, promotes academic achievement, and helps to shape the next generation of productive, engaged citizens.
However, addressing community needs should focus more than just schools or government entities. It is a collective responsibility that requires everyone's effort. Businesses, non-profit organizations, faith-based groups, and individual citizens all have a role to play in creating vibrant, healthy communities.
In conclusion, addressing community needs, particularly those of after-school and summer programs for high-risk youth requires a comprehensive, community-wide approach. By understanding and prioritizing these needs, we can make a real difference in the lives of our young people and, ultimately, our society as a whole.