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A helping hand for at-risk kids

After School Leaders starts in January

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An after-school program that's helped thousands of at-risk students in Chicago will be launched here in January.

"When young people have things to do constructively after school, they do better in school," Premier Greg Selinger declared Thursday.

It's called After School Leaders, a program awaited since Child and Youth Opportunities Minister Kevin Chief got named to cabinet last spring.

"It's up and running in January," Chief said.

The program will start in five Winnipeg School Division high schools: Argyle Alternative, Children of the Earth, St. John's, Elmwood and Churchill.

Students will be provided with workplace training and experience by businesses and organizations that partner with the province, Chief explained.

True North Sports & Entertainment is the first partner. Chief expects eight to 10 students would spend time after school with True North, everything from marketing to tweeting to food services to operating the Jumbotron -- fingers are crossed there'll be games.

True North is considering an honorarium, and, "We're looking at summer employment opportunities," Chief said.

Selinger said the schools will work with the partners to find opportunities for students that could lead to a career, something that will help motivate the students and keep them focused in school.

"There's a similar program in Chicago -- it involved thousands of students," said the premier.

"We can see it leveraging into thousands" in Winnipeg.

While the province already has programs to involve young people, it will sign up for After School Leaders, said Selinger: "Sure, the government's going to be a part of that."

Selinger said there is a wide range of organizations taking part in after-school programs, and this new program aims to pull them together in a network that would identify the best practices -- the ideas that are working.

"My after-school program was the YMCA," Selinger said. "The things you learned there made you a better person. You learned to work with other people," said the premier.

"This is something that's going to grow," said Chief.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2012 B2

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