BEACON coordinator Stephanie Dahlstrom said that a spike in local teen suicides also played a key role in pushing the community to find a solution.
BEACON, which stands for Building Essential Assets through Community Outreach and Networking, was started as a way to keep kids safe and engaged after school was out for the day, Dahlstrom said.
Since 2005, BEACON has grown in both the number of programs and in participation, serving more than 650 students in the 2013-2014 school year. Dahlstrom said the program anticipates serving even more students this year due to an increase in funding.
“Our focus is on enrichment and academic activities,” Dahlstrom said.
For enrichment, the program offers a number of clubs at Helen M. Knight Elementary School, Grand County Middle School and Moab Charter School.
“We strive for universal access,” Dahlstrom said. “We provide a variety of clubs, from traditional sports to strange and unique sciences.”
The enrichment clubs include options like taiko drumming, swimming, self-defense and Legos.
BEACON tries to involve community organizations in the clubs as much as possible, she said.
“We want these kids to have a safe, healthy environment where they can try new things,” she said. “It’s a way for us to help kids who might otherwise be home alone.”
Students who need academic help can also access the program’s tutoring sessions after school. Dahlstrom said most of those students are referred to the tutoring program by their teachers.
The program offers a wide variety of academic assistance, from providing time for students to complete their homework to intense one-on-one tutoring and many other opportunities, Dahlstrom said.
Dahlstrom said some of the academic programs are open to all students.
“At the middle school, we keep the library open,” she said. “Some kids might come in for 10 minutes to finish their homework. Others might stay for the full two-and-a-half hours.”
According to a teacher survey, students who attended BEACON for 30 days or more throughout the school year saw a positive change in their academic performance, and most were more attentive in class and more motivated to learn.
BEACON receives around 10 percent of its total funding from the Grand County School District.
“The rest we get through grants, donations, begging, borrowing and stealing,” Dahlstrom said.
BEACON also holds several fundraisers throughout the year, including the Chocolate Lovers Fling and Love Utah, Give Utah.
The academic assistance portion of the program is tuition free, and Dahlstrom said that the enrichment clubs function on a sliding scale for tuition fees.
“If you qualify for free lunch, there’s no charge,” she said.
According to information from Grand County schools, registration fees for one club per week cost $20 per session. For children who qualify for reduced lunch, that fee drops to $10.
Last year, due to the federal sequestration, the program’s budget took a big hit, forcing BEACON to cut the program for kindergarten students. However, Dahlstrom said the community stepped up and donated enough money to help cover the deficit.
“This year we’re back at full funding,” she said.
BEACON registration forms and information packets will be sent home with students during the first week of school, Dahlstrom said. More information about the program is available at www.moabbeacon.net or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BeaconAfterschoolProgram.