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Benefits of after-school programs highlighted at forum

Sara Ali

After-school programs can help ensure a brighter future for children, according to advocates who spoke at a legislative breakfast held at the JFK Community Center on Hickory Street.

Parents, community leaders and former participants of after-school programs maintained that such initiatives can help improve low-performing schools, boost test scores and improve work habits. They also cited evidence that after-school programs can reduce teen pregnancy rates and drug abuse.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo Democrat, told about 40 people that access to these programs are critical to many families and mothers. Sharita Simpson, a mother of two, echoed this belief.

"This program is a very big enrichment program to our children," she said.

Gary Damon Jr., deputy commissioner of the Erie County Youth Bureau, maintained that after-school programs can make a lifelong difference.

"We try to motivate and encourage the kids. They're not a product of their past. They don't have to be another statistic or a nameless face."

The program was sponsored by the After-School Network of Western New York and United Way of Buffalo and Erie County.

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