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Missoula Event Raises Awareness For After School Programs

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MISSOULA -

An after school program in Missoula and other groups across the nation are calling for expanding after school opportunities for children. An event was held by the Missoula Flagship Program on Thursday to raise awareness to keep funding for after school programs alive.

"I have diverse children. I have some into scholastic activities, and some that are into sports," said Missoula mother Charlene Bullen.

As a mother of six very different children, Bullen said it's crucial that her kids have a safe place to go with a range of activities when the school day ends.

"I'm a full time student too, so it, it's difficult to find some place for my children while I'm working and studying, and also I need to find some place that's a healthy environment," Bullen said.

Bullen and her children were just some of the people at the University Center Thursday taking part in the "Lights On After school" event sponsored by the Flagship Program.

"The goal is to create awareness for after school programming and funding for programs like flagship across the country," said Flagship Supervisor, Nicole Mitchell.

Flagship organizers played a PBS film about a chess team in need of funding at Thursdays event. This is one of more than 8,000 awareness efforts being held by different groups around the nation.

"We offer so many different opportunities and programs after school in eight different Missoula County public schools and funding is always an issue," Mitchell said.

Flagship officials said research shows youth risk behavior is most likely to happen between 3p.m. and 6 p.m. The Flagship Program was created as a place for students to go to be mentored, meet friends, and get into good academic habits to keep students on track.

"It's such an important part of the school day. It gives kids the opportunities to learn new skills, be with positive adults and meet new friends," Mitchell said.

Officials with the Flagship Program said they are not currently in risk of making any cuts, but raising awareness and fundraising now helps them from ever getting to that point.

Flagship officials said more than 15 million kids are taking part in these nationwide events.

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