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On Thursday, 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 afterschool is key to children’s success, and that our Missoula community must keep the lights on and doors open afterschool.

Lights on Afterschool (LOA) celebrates the key role that Flagship has in keeping Missoula’s youth safe, engaged and prepared to be successful adults. Afterschool programs keep kids safe, inspire learning and help working families.

The Flagship Program provides afterschool and summer opportunities for youth in eight Missoula County Public Schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. Under the umbrella of the Western Montana Mental Health Center, Flagship offers a school-based program in mentoring and skill building. Enrollment in Flagship afterschool programs is open to all youth at the following schools:

• Franklin, Hawthorne and Lowell elementary schools

• Meadow Hill, Washington and CS Porter middle schools

• Hellgate and Willard high schools

For the past 22 years, Flagship has been providing access to activities such as art, engineering, filmmaking, sports, science, gardening and homework help in a safe and fun learning environment. Flagship is free of charge to all participants and families and is unique to Missoula.

“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

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 (CTC), identified the importance of positive social development in young people to “delay or prevent” problem behaviors. They found that 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.

To celebrate LOA, Flagship will be having two STEM events on Thursday, Oct. 25. Flagship middle and high school youth will take a field trip to the University of Montana and participate in an interstellar space-themed presentation. Youth will view the documentary film "Earthrise," learn about space missions from Bryan von Lossberg, explore diversity in NASA and physics with Jennifer Fowler, and listen to a conversation that Flagship kids had with Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman. This event is open to the public!

At Franklin Elementary, the younger children will eat a snack with the Missoula Food Bank, cheer with Monte and engage in STEM activities from ATG, SpectrUM and We are Montana. This event is invite-only; please RSVP if you would like to attend Franklin. Help us keep our schools safe!

The Flagship LOA event is sponsored by:

• Advanced Technology Group (ATG)

• Office for Academic Enrichment and Civic Engagement at UM

• UM Media Lab

• Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation

To get involved and learn more about Flagship, email us at or visit our website at

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Nicole Mitchell is the program manager for the Flagship Program. 

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