Bruininks group to study kids’ free time

Jake Weyer

What young people do after school could be a major factor in the development of their leadership roles, productivity and contributions to society, University President Bob Bruininks said.

Today, Bruininks will announce the creation of the Minnesota Commission on Out-of-School Time.

The group is made up of about 20 parents, researchers, business representatives, young people and community members whose goal is to make the time that Minnesotans between ages 5 and 18 spend outside of school more productive and worthwhile.

The commission plans to study the amount of money spent on youth activities, learning about activities offered outside of schools, and finding the number of after-school program opportunities in different communities and publicizing the information.

The commission will eventually recommend to Bruininks and the public regarding how communities should conduct out-of-school activities.

“In the central cities there are hundreds, even thousands, of young people who don’t have access to the activities and sports offered in more affluent neighborhoods,” Bruininks said.

Dale Blyth, commission member and associate dean in the University Extension Service’s Center for 4-H Youth Development, said some young people participate in too many after-school activities and are away from home too much, while others have little or nothing to do after school.

It is important for young people to spend time with their families as well as in activities outside school, Blyth said. The commission will try to find a balance by possibly developing state guidelines for out-of-school activity options, he said.

Commission members said finding productive after-school activities can also prevent young people from getting into trouble.

University student Stacy Lombardo said she participated in extracurricular activities when she was younger.

“I did cheerleading, hockey and rec basketball in high school,” she said. “For the most part, it kept me out of trouble.”

The commission will meet for the first time in mid-January.