It’s the time of year again when many of us resolve (again) to be better versions of ourselves: thinner, stronger, quieter, kinder, less impulsive, less wasteful, more reliable, more generous and, in a hundred other ways, better people.

I’ve always thought that the most important resolutions are the ones that look beyond one’s own waistline, and instead bear on our commitments to family, community and country.

So the resolution I recommend to those who might happen to be in the market for self-improvement this year is that they commit themselves to supporting efforts to strengthen our community. That could mean volunteering their time, donating their money or used items, sharing their expertise or know-how or, in whatever way makes sense, giving a little more of themselves.

For example, I’m lucky to work with after school kids every day — to help them overcome challenges, share in their discovery of new experiences, and watch over and guide them as they grow into young adults.

At our after school programs at the George J. Mitchell School, Albert S. Hall School and Junior High School in Waterville, we work with more than 175 children yearly and try to give them the very best experience we can, keeping them safe, inspiring them to learn, and helping free their working parents of worries about what their kids are up to in the afternoons.

Our after school programs are of the highest quality and are an opportunity for students to participate in activities such as woodworking, running a hoop house, drama opportunities, 4-H, mentoring, homework help, science and technology projects, cooking; the opportunities are endless.

And, not only are our children having fun, but they are learning at the same time and using the skills they learn to connect with their school day learning.

But we’re strained for resources and volunteers, as is virtually every afterschool program I know.

Several years ago, it looked as if the federal government was going to provide the resources necessary to expand after school care here and across the nation, but now after school funding has grown even scarcer.

And Congress is pressing to divert already strained after school funds to much more expensive programs to extend the school day.

That would mean more students unsupervised and at-risk after the school day ends. Working parents would be without the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their children are safe, and more students would miss out on the innovative, engaging and hands-on learning opportunities that often aren’t available during the school day.

Granted, these are tough economic times. But after school programs are a terrific investment.

By keeping kids safe from a variety of afternoon hazards and temptations and by supporting their academic achievement, after school programs help kids succeed.

That’s no doubt why the American public overwhelmingly supports after school programs.

The parents of 18 million children say they would enroll their kids in an after school program — if one were available. But too often, it isn’t.

The federal failure to follow through on the commitment to expand support for after school programs is — so far at least — an opportunity squandered.

That’s where New Year’s resolutions come into play. After school programs not only need charitable support from individuals, they also need support from our lawmakers in Washington.

So here’s a two-part resolution I’d suggest: First, resolve to do what you can to help after school and other community organizations working on causes dear to your heart. And second, be in touch with your elected representatives in Congress to urge them to do what they can to help.

For after school programs, that means both providing more money and saying no to efforts to use after school funds to support other programs.

Laura Brock is the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant director in Waterville. She is an ambassador with the Afterschool Alliance.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: