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Youth development programs: risk, prevention and policy

      Adolescence is a time of both great risk and opportunity. Buoyed by a belief that today’s adolescents face more obstacles on the way to adulthood, from time-crunched parents, dangerous substances and behaviors, overburdened schools, and a more demanding job market, we as a nation no longer believe adolescents should fend for themselves during nonschool hours. In some communities, an array of school-based extracurricular activities (e.g., sports, music, art, community service) as well as community-based youth programs provide young people with ample choices for supervised activities outside of school. This is far from the norm. Availability, cost, transportation, and interest limit many youths’ choicesduring nonschool hours. In a recent opinion poll, 62% of 14- to 17-year-olds agreed with the statement “Adults criticize teens for wasting time but adults don’t realize there’s not much for teens to do after school” [

      YMCA of the USA. After school for America’s teens: A national survey of teen attitudes and behaviors in the hours after school. Available at: http://www.ymca.net. Accessed April 17, 2001.

      ]. Over half wished for more after-school activities in their neighborhood or community.

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