CONTACT:  Michele Clark
Communications Coordinator

Vol. 45, No. 93
Oct. 19, 2011

Communities Asked to Support ‘Lights On Afterschool’

Missouri will observe Oct. 20 as Lights on Afterschool Day. Front porch and schoolhouse lights across the nation will be turned on Thursday afternoon to recognize the importance of afterschool programs for students, families and communities.

“It is our hope that everyone will keep the lights on for our children Thursday afternoon from 3 to 6 p.m.,” said Cindy Heislen, director of Extended Learning at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “The action symbolizes the importance of keeping the lights on and doors open so that children will have the opportunity to learn and grow in safe, supervised and educational environments after the school day ends.”

More than 210 events will be held statewide to commemorate the 12th annual observance.  From children’s art exhibitions to carnival activities, local events give youth a chance to showcase the skills and talents they have developed at their afterschool programs, and to spread the message that quality afterschool programs are important.

According to 2009 data from the Afterschool Alliance, 12 percent of Missouri’s K-12 children participate in an afterschool program and another 32 percent of children would participate if an afterschool program were available in their community. Additionally, 89 percent of adults surveyed in Missouri agree that there should be “some type of organized activity or place for children and teens to go afterschool every day that provides opportunities to learn.”

Under the federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) initiative, the Department awards approximately $17 million in grants to support more than 200 CCLC programs operated by school districts, community-based organizations and faith-based organizations across the state, Heislen said.

Quality afterschool programs keep kids safe, help working families and increase student achievement. Afterschool programs also provide students with academic enrichment opportunities and activities designed to complement their regular school day curriculum by providing a range of high-quality services that support student learning and development.  Services include tutoring and mentoring, homework help, academic enrichment (such as hands-on math, reading and language arts, and science programs), community service opportunities, as well as cultural, fine arts and sports activities.

This year, the Afterschool Alliance also hosted a nationwide Light Up a Landmark contest.  States were asked to submit their plans of local landmarks that would be lit up in support of Lights On Afterschool Day. Missouri was not among the 17 winners.