Flagship participant at C.S. Porter Middle School

The Flagship Program is a community-school partnership that enhances the social, academic, cultural and physical achievement of Missoula’s youth by creating opportunities that help them to succeed and grow to become healthy and productive adults. The Flagship Program has demonstrated a strong commitment to helping working families and to the positive development of Missoula’s youth for the past 21 years.

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, The Flagship Program will celebrate Lights On Afterschool, a nationwide celebration of afterschool programs. Flagship will be one of more than 8,000 sites across the nation promoting the message that afters chool is key to children’s success, and that our Missoula community must keep the lights on and doors open after school.

This event celebrates the key role that Flagship has in keeping Missoula’s youth safe, engaged and prepared to be successful adults. For many parents, these afterschool hours are fraught with worry and risk. Afterschool programs keep kids safe, inspire learning and help working families. Serving over 2,000 youth annually in Missoula, Flagship provides a safe, school-based environment for children to be socially engaged, learn new skills and be mentored by positive adults. Through Flagship, youth have the opportunity to participate in programs such as tutoring, rock climbing, soccer, art, robotics, coding and cooking under the supervision of caring adults. We empower our youth to recognize their potential and to realize their dreams.

In partnership with Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) and under the organizational umbrella of Western Montana Mental Health Center, Flagship provides afterschool opportunities for students in eight MCPS sites in grades K-12. Enrollment in Flagship is open to all students at Franklin, Hawthorne and Lowell Elementary Schools; Meadow Hill, Washington and C.S. Porter Middle Schools; and Hellgate and Willard Alternative high schools. Flagship is unique to Missoula and free of charge to all participants and families.

Flagship also recognizes the role parents’ play and actively involves parents in celebrating their child’s achievements in the program. Drs. J. David Hawkins and Richard F. Catalana’s model, Communities That Care Social Development Strategy, identified the importance of positive social development in young people to “delay or prevent” problem behaviors. They found when young people are provided opportunities, skills and recognition they develop strong social bonds, thereby developing a commitment to their families, schools and communities. Additionally, when families, schools and communities communicate to young people clear standards for behavior, those who are emotionally connected or bonded will follow the standards that promote health — known as protective factors. Their research also identified risk factors that can interrupt the process of positive social development.

“Research shows that kids in afterschool programs go to school more, see improvements in their behavior, and increase their likelihood of moving on to the next grade level and graduating. Consistent participation in high quality afterschool programs is linked to significant gains in student test scores and work habits. Afterschool programs not only have a positive effect on students at risk of failure, but help reduce the academic achievement gap between students from lower and high-income families.”—Afterschool Alliance

The Flagship Program will be showcasing three sites for Lights On Afterschool: Lowell, Franklin and C.S. Porter schools. Mayor John Engen has declared Oct. 25 Lights On Afterschool Day and will be signing a proclamation at Lowell. Representatives from U.S. Sens. Jon Tester's and Steve Daines' offices, Gov. Steve Bullock’s office, Monte the Griz Bear, MASC studio and many community members will witness a glimpse of what the Flagship Program has to offer children in Missoula.

To get involved and learn more about Flagship, email us at flagshipadmin@wmmhc.org or visit our website at flagshipprogram.org.

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Nicole Mitchell is the Flagship Program's program manager. 

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