America’s kids are in crisis. Consider these alarming facts about the state of our country: the U.S. ranks 22nd in high school completion among 28 countries1; three out of 10 kids are obese or overweight2; and one in five youth lives in poverty3. The consequences of these staggering statistics are felt not just by our next generation, but also across our nation.

The issues facing kids today also impact our nation’s economy, costing as much as $209 billion in lost taxes and higher government expenditures over the lifetimes of those who fail to graduate4. Nationally, healthcare costs to treat health issues related to childhood obesity are $14.1 billion annually5. Additionally, states spend an average of $7.1 million a day locking youth up in juvenile justice facilities6.

How do we reverse the most negative trends facing young people today?  One way is by recognizing the importance of out-of-school time. The out-of-school environment—after school and summer—plays an essential, yet often overlooked, role in transforming kids’ lives and America’s future.

What happens during the hours between school and home can have a dramatic impact on a child’s future, especially in the areas of education, health and character development. By providing access to positive, productive programs and caring adult mentors after school and during summer, we can help change the future for our youth, our community and our country.

For example, last year we served over 22,500 meals to kids after school and provided more than 18,000 hours of homework help and tutoring to help improve math and reading scores. Of our active membership, almost 250 were teenagers who benefited from tutoring and mentoring programs. This is compared to some startling statistics in our community: Muncie has the third-highest poverty rate of all cities in Indiana, behind only Gary and East Chicago. More than 40% of children live in poverty in Southeast Muncie, our Boys & Girls Club neighborhood.

Despite the transformational impact of out-of-school programs, every day 15 million kids nationwide leave school with no place to go7, putting them at risk of being unsupervised, unguided and unsafe during these critical afterschool hours. Furthermore, during the summer, an alarming 43 million kids in America lack access to expanded learning opportunities8, increasing their risk of learning loss and falling behind before the next school year begins.

If the next generation and our nation are to succeed, it is imperative we redefine the opportunity equation for all kids by elevating the critical role that out-of-school time plays in a child’s future success. Through the Great Futures Campaign, the Campaign for America’s kids, Boys & Girls Club of Muncie is asking our community to make out-of-school programs a priority and empower the next generation to achieve a great future. We are advocating on behalf of kids and convening public, private and nonprofit partners around our goal of ensuring every child and teen has access to a safe, engaging and productive environment during the out-of-school time.  Together, we can provide access to life-changing programs after school and during the summer that enable kids to be successful in school and in adulthood, to be healthy and active, and to develop the strong character skills needed become America’s future leaders. Together, we can transform lives as well as the future of our community and our country.