A new school year means a fresh start for children – a chance to start new routines and habits, build new friendships and discover new possibilities and interests.

But at the end of the day when the school bell rings, 11.3 million children are headed home to be unsupervised from 3 to 6 p.m, according to the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public-awareness-advocacy organization. In Ohio, 431,489 children are left alone and responsible for taking care of themselves.

With a new school year about to begin, the Licking County Family YMCA encourages parents and caregivers to make sure children are involved in safe, educational experiences during afterschool hours.

As children transition from summer to fall, the Licking County Family YMCA is offering programs to school-aged children to keep them active, busy and engaged during out-of-school time. Whether through sports, mentorship or academic support, the afterschool program staff members nurture the potential of youths throughout the school year.

“Learning enrichment after school is essential to increasing children’s success in school,” said Heather Hawkins, director of child and family development at the Licking County Family YMCA. “The opportunity to get additional learning and support, as well as participate in meaningful activities, can inspire children’s motivations and abilities to succeed.”

In the Licking County Family YMCA’s afterschool programs, youths receive homework help and a snack, and they participate in a variety of activities that develop positive self-esteem and incorporate the YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.

Financial assistance is available to those in need to ensure every child and teen has the opportunity to learn and grow at the Y.

The Licking County Family YMCA’s afterschool programs serve the Licking Heights Local School District, Par Excellence Academy and the following elementary schools: Johnny Clem, McGuffey, Cherry Valley, Hillview, Stevenson and Garfield. Programs before school hours also are available.

Reigstration for the programs is open. For more information about the Licking County Family YMCA’s programs, please call its child-care office at 740-345-9628.

Dana Moore is the Y Western Branch director and handles marketing and communications for the Licking County Family YMCA. Email her at dana.moore@lcfymca.org. The Y branches are at 470 W. Church St. in Newark and 355 W. Broad St. in Pataskala.