Each pageant contestant chooses a platform — a cause she's passionate about — and uses her time and her talent to promote that cause. She also prepares a written presentation of her platform, which the judges consider in conjunction with her platform interview.

The following is Barbara Dubois' platform submission.

What cause was Barbara Dubois passionate about?Children are wonders. They are the promise of our future as a family, a community and as a country. Initially a child is the family's responsibility, but as he or she progresses through childhood he also becomes the responsibility of the community.

The future of our children lies in how we take care of them and teach them to grow. Yet in today's society adults are increasingly unwilling to informally supervise children to whom they are not related.

Low and moderate-income children lack opportunities for out of school activity such as classes, sports leagues, or music lessons that are available in suburban and wealthier neighborhoods. But neighborhoods increasingly lack safe public spaces for recreation.

Consider these facts:

  • 23 million parents of school-age children today work outside the home full time.
  • More than 15 million kids — including nearly 4 million middle-schoolers — have no place to go once school ends.
  • 10% of violent juvenile crimes are committed between 3-4 p.m.
  • Children are at a greater risk of being victims of violent crime (that is murder, violent sex offenses, robbery or assault) between 2 and 6 p.m.
  • After school hours are prime time for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex.

How then can the community provide a safe, supervised environment designed to provide recreation and sports activities, and support academic success in those prime time juvenile crime hours after school?

One proven successful method is through after-school programs. Although traditionally held on school grounds, Boys and Girls Clubs, family service agencies, and churches all conduct successful programs that vary depending on the needs of the children of the community.

But each has the essential ingredients for a successful after-school program:

  • They provide a safe, supervised environment in which the children may find recreation, support for academic success through tutoring or help with homework, and a nurturing support system of caring adults.
  • They provide low-income children with enriching activities that prevent risky and self-destructive behaviors, and many programs offer opportunities to develop social skills such as leadership and conflict resolution.

The after-school program enriches the entire community and makes it safer and stronger for all of us since kids in the after-school programs are less likely to be involved in crime and more likely to have better grades than those left with nothing to do after school.

Studies show that students involved in after-school programs not only get better grades, but also attend school more and have improved behavior. They express greater hope for the future and show more interest in school.

Teens who participate in after-school programs have been shown to be less likely to skip school, use marijuana and other drugs, smoke, drink alcohol or engage in sexual activity.

The after-school programs benefit the business community by alleviating the anxiety of employees with children. Working parents can concentrate on their jobs instead of worrying about where their children are and if they are safe.

We must overcome a major hurdle in order to see the realization of all children having access to after-school programs — funding.

It is the community's responsibility to see that funding is made available. One way you can do this is by joining an advocacy group such as the Afterschool Alliance.

Get the word to our elected officials that children are citizens too — that nurturing and mentoring them through after-school programs will help them to live up to their potential, enhance their feeling of self-worth and allow them to become responsible adults contributing back to their community.

But the programs won't survive without financial support.

I have become interested in the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit organization. I work with them to raise awareness of the importance of after-school programs.

Our vision is to ensure that all children have access to affordable, quality after-school programs.

I have joined their advocacy program to convey to elected officials that in today's society after-school programs keep kids safe, help working families and improve academic achievement.

I also volunteer in a local after-school program for teens. I help them with things that are so important to them at that age: their appearance and social skills. I've seen what the attention of an adult can do for their self-confidence and esteem.

Volunteers are as important to the program as funds for paid staff. In studies it has been shown that of the 10-16 year olds who have a relationship with a mentor, 46% less are likely to start using drugs and 27% are less likely to start drinking alcohol.

Our children and youth are the future of this great country of ours. Let us each help our kids reach their great potential by supporting the after-school program in our own neighborhood.

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