My childhood will always be marked by my parents’ painful divorce. Their separation led to a new lifestyle in which I lived with an over-extended single mother who regularly exceeded the typical 40-hour work week. My father served our country as a member of the United States Air Force. Due to the nature of his work, he was often on call, away on temporary assignments, or serving our country overseas.
Looking back at my childhood, I know that my family situation was one in which I quickly gained a lot of independence. I was frequently unsupervised after school. Initially, getting involved in afterschool dance and homework programs was just a fun way to conclude the school day, but the eventual result of this participation was life-changing.
Today, as an accomplished young woman, I realize that the most important factor that contributed to my personal success was my involvement in afterschool programs. As Miss Montana I have the opportunity to share my story with parents, educators, policymakers, and, most importantly, other latchkey children. My platform, Beyond the Bell: Afterschool Programming for America’s Youth addresses my concerns regarding safety, education, and mentorship of America’s children.
Beyond the Bell is currently part of my crown-to-the-classroom tour and can be broken down into 4 key S’s of afterschool programs: Safety, Studies, Support, and Success. “Safety” is the first component because children who are unsupervised after school are left vulnerable to crime and risky behaviors. “Studies” serve as the second component because afterschool programs offer an academic environment that is critical in the 3 to 6 p.m. time period before most working parents can get home. Afterschool programs often include a homework-help component, and have been shown to improve school attendance as well as overall academic performance. Afterschool programs “Support” youth by promoting positive relationships between participants and adult role models. The final component of Beyond the Bell is “Success”.
I have personally witnessed the success of afterschool programs. During my time as a volunteer with numerous out-of-school programs including the Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and as an assistant cheerleading coach at a parochial school in my hometown of Great Falls, MT. My main focus has been with the Flagship program, an afterschool program existing in Missoula, MT K-12 schools. The Flagship program was the foundation for my service-learning senior honors project, also entitled Beyond the Bell, which served as an academic extension of my personal platform. Through these experiences I know firsthand how afterschool programs improve children’s grades, keep kids safe, benefit working families, and have a positive effect on the entire community.
Afterschool programs immensely impacted my life and were the key to my success. As Miss Montana my year of service will be dedicated to spreading the Beyond the Bell message and making a difference in the support, participation, and creation of afterschool programs.