Traveling long distances is a given for many who choose to live in Pennsylvania's more rural parts, but for some high school students in Cameron County, it's costing them their after-school activities.
Some live as far as a 90-minute bus ride from the high school in Emporium. While the buses ensure students are able to get to school and get home after classes finish, there is no transport for students who stay after school for athletics and band practice, said Wendy Goulding, assistant to the superintendent of the Cameron County School District.
The school district does not have a contract with Student Transportation of America, the bus company it works with, to provide rides later in the afternoon to accommodate after-school activities, Goulding said.
“Say there is a football game on a Friday night, students have to get a ride both ways," she said, "and that’s quite a distance for them to have to get here."
A 2008 evaluation of 10 years of studies about after-school programs, published by the Harvard Family Research Project, shows that the programs have the potential to aid social development, prevent addiction and violent behavior, and contribute to a healthy lifestyle by increasing physical activity.
Rowan Crisp, Cameron County’s recreation director, said a survey conducted for students in the Cameron County School District showed most of them don’t participate in after-school activities because they don’t have access to transportation.
The county recreation center has a game room and snacks available for children ages 8 to 18 that is open 4-8 p.m. There are roughly 100 registered students at the recreation center, but Crisp said about 15 students come in on a daily basis.
Crisp attended school in Cameron County and said it was really challenging to plan out after-school activities.
“If you’re far away and you notice a program that you want to be part of and your parents can’t pick you up, you’re stuck,” she said.
— Ashad Hajela, rural affairs reporter and Report for America corps member