After-school professionals are frequently low-paid employees, who put in more than 40 hours per workweek to ensure kids have the best experience possible and families feel safe and supported.

The Alaska Afterschool Network recently honored five Alaskans as 2019 Afterschool Superheroes.

"Unfortunately, afterschool is oftentimes thought of as an afterthought by many people," said Thomas Azzarella, the network's director. "We don't recognize that a lot of people choose this as their profession."

One of the five honorees is Kiara Kearns of Anchorage. Kearns attended the Camp Fire Alaska program while growing up. She enjoyed the program so much that she decided to make a career out of it.

"I'm so humbled and so excited," Kearns said. "I'm so proud of my job and just love what I do with such a passion and I couldn't be happier." 

Kearns is still attending college but still finds the time to work with the Camp Fire Alaska program, at Spring Hill Elementary School, five days a week before and after school.

"I just try to make time in my day, the kids are always my priority, I always find a way to make time for them," Kearns said. 

The Alaska Afterschool Network is a partnership of more than 150 out-of-school-time groups. The activities provided are specifically designed to keep kids safe, inspire learning and support Alaska's working families during out-of-school times. 

"When we use the term afterschool, we're really talking about before-school programs, afterschool programs, weekends, teen drop-in centers, public libraries, Native dance, summer camps and a wide gamut of things that occur during the out-of-school-time space," Azzarella said.

The programs span statewide and they are not free. However, there are scholarships and other financial help opportunities for families who request assistance. 

This is the third year the Alaska Afterschool Network has honored afterschool superheroes. According to the network's website, the 2019 honorees include:

Kristina “Krissy” Rush: ASP Coordinator, Ticasuk Brown Elementary 21st Century Community Learning Center, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District

Drasida Basargin: Academic Coaching Assistant At 21st CCLC STEAM TEAM In Razdolna, Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula

Lynette Ortolano: Executive Director, Kids Kupboard

Kristy Peterson: 4-H Leader, Hope 4-H

Kiara Kearns: Child Development Leader, Camp Fire Alaska At Spring Hill Elementary

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