Parents often find themselves in a conflicted conundrum. On the one hand, we want our children to get out of the house (and our hair) to go experience the world (and give us some peace).
On the other hand, we want to know where they are, what they’re doing and be sure they are safe.
We’re all aware that those late-afternoon hours – the oft-unsupervised window from 3 to 6 p.m., between the final school bell until the parents come home – is a notorious time when kids and trouble seem to find each other. The same goes for those long summer days when school is out of session.
For myriad reasons, idle time is much better spent as productive time. Recognizing this, the Fox Valley Park District has offered local youth a plethora of programs to keep them involved and engaged in positive pursuits.
It’s about more than just offering a safe place for kids to “hang.” Participants in youth programs tend to develop greater social skills. They’re more likely to be physically active. They perform better in school. And they stay on track to a successful future.
All of those attributes help working families. And, having a youth population invested in self-improvement makes each of our communities better as a whole.
Providing our youth with smart alternatives and activities was cited as a contributing factor recently as Aurora officials celebrated a homicide-free year, the first time that’s happened here since 1946.
Numerous studies show that, overwhelmingly, youth who take part in organized recreation and after-school groups are far less likely to get tangled up in criminal activity. Further studies confirm that investing in our youth saves taxpayer money that might otherwise be spent on crime-related costs.
The Park District is a proud partner in helping make this happen. Programs throughout the year – many of them free – are an outlet for something near and dear to most kids’ hearts: friends and fun.
Sports Saturdays are a good example. From January through early March, children in grades 1 through 5 are offered an opportunity every weekend to enjoy a variety of sports and good times with their peers at six different schools.
Former Golden Gloves champion Jesse Torres is a legend in these parts – not just for his storied career as a professional boxer – but for how he has parlayed that into a purpose. Torres runs his free boxing club four nights a week at the Copley II Recreation Center, where he trains and teaches lessons for life that carry weight far beyond the boxing ring.
Today’s parents may have taken part in the Neighborhood Art and Summer Playgrounds programs – they’ve been a fabric of the community dating to the 1960s. These free programs run in June and July at a variety of different parks, providing summertime diversion and growth opportunities for hundreds and hundreds of youth.
And throughout the school year, FVPD partners with Communities in Schools for productive afterschool programs during that most vulnerable time for kids – yep, 3 to 6 p.m. Some kids even knock off their homework during this time so they can spend quality family time when they get home (I know, it sounds too good to be true).
Engaging our youth is more than just “keeping kids off the streets.” It’s investing in them, believing in them and giving them the tools to succeed. We’re all better as a result.
Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at email@example.com
Fox Valley Park District
Saturday, Feb. 2: Daddy Daughter Dance, Prisco Community Center, 6 to 8 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 6: Black History Month Celebration, Prisco Community Center, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 9: Hello Kitty’s Valentine Party, Prisco Community Center, noon to 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 10: Love & Laughter: Cupid’s Valentine Variety Show, Prisco Community Center, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 16: Free Fitness Fun Fair for Kids, Vaughan Athletic Center, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.