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October 18, 2011

National event shines “Lights On Afterschool”

Through rallies, parades, open houses and tours, more than 7,500 schools and nonprofits across the U.S. will call attention to afterschool programs – and the important role they play for children and their families – at the 2011 Lights On Afterschool event October 20.

“The things that make afterschool programs so beneficial, fun and diverse are showcased each year during Lights On Afterschool,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant.

Lights On Afterschool
Afterschool activities provide ample hands-on problem-solving opportunities.
“This is a critical time to let local, state and national leaders experience afterschool programs firsthand, and see afterschool youth having fun with math, showing off their science skills, performing on-stage, making healthy meals and more,” she continued. “With so many programs facing budget cuts, we need to shine a spotlight on afterschool programs, and remind our leaders that these programs are key to keeping kids safe, inspiring them to learn, and helping working families.”

In the Foundation’s home community of Flint, Michigan, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Flint will host its 9th Annual Steak Dinner October 20, honoring a long-time friend of afterschool programs, Congressman Dale E. Kildee, according to Executive Director James Gaskin.

“It’s great timing for us,” said Gaskin of this year’s Lights On Afterschool celebration. “The dinner is our biggest fundraiser – and this year, we are honoring Congressman Kildee with our Patrick McInnis “Community Hero” Award. He’s been a tireless advocate for afterschool programs locally and nationally,” said Gaskin of the 18-term Flint-area legislator.

The Afterschool Alliance, which works with more than 25,000 afterschool partners like Flint’s Boys & Girls Club, launched Lights On Afterschool 12 years ago to raise awareness of the importance of high-quality programs and advocate for more afterschool investment, says Ursula Helminski, vice president of external affairs for the Afterschool Alliance, a long-time Mott grantee.

“It’s important to take the time each year to celebrate the good work that’s being done by schools and nonprofit organizations that offer safe, high-quality programs for children,” she continued. “And it is equally important to use this opportunity to familiarize the public, policymakers and legislators about the increasing need for these programs.”

Across the country, one in four children and teenagers – 15.1 million youth – take care of themselves after the regular school day ends, according to the Afterschool Alliance. In the 2011-2012 school year, approximately 8.4 million children will participate in safe, supervised activities after school – while the parents of another 18.5 million say their children would participate if a program were available.

To focus attention on the need for more high-quality afterschool activities, the Afterschool Alliance created Lights On Afterschool in 2000. Originally celebrated in 1,200 communities, the national event has grown to include more than one million participants.

A planning kit, available free at the Afterschool Alliance Web site was developed to help local programs recruit volunteers, create media materials and showcase their Lights On Afterschool activities.

The Afterschool Alliance grew out of a partnership between the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education to support the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. The recipient of almost $12 million in support from the Mott Foundation, the Afterschool Alliance serves as the national voice for afterschool and expanded learning opportunities, working with national, state and local entities across the country to increase access to quality, affordable afterschool programs, particularly for those from underserved populations.