Keeping the Lights On When School Is Out

The Child Center of NY Participates in National “Lights On Afterschool” Celebration

To celebrate afterschool programs and their vital role in the lives of children, families, and communities, the Afterschool Alliance hosted its 19th annual Lights On Afterschool event on October 25. The Child Center’s afterschool programs were happy to participate in true Child Center style, showcasing participants’ strengths, involving families, and spreading joy to the community.

At P.S. 24 in Flushing, the “Light It Up” event showcased the special role The Child Center has played for families and the community in the past — and what we can do for them in the future. Students wrote personal essays to express what afterschool means to them and what they would like to see in their program in the coming year.

In the preceding weeks, Assistant Director Crystal Beddoe created a slideshow of previous years, to highlight amazing work by our students, and to capture the energy and sense of community that defines the program. It played on a big screen at the event, and the audience was visibly moved.

The energy of the program was also on full display for the “chant-off.” All the classes had written their own chants, and the winning class performed live for the parents.

Tying it all together, Educational Coordinator Mr. Kenny spoke about all he has seen in his remarkable 14 years at P.S.24. He began by thanking P.S. 24 Site Director Jaimee Diehl and Principal Debra Cassidy for their leadership and Councilman Peter Koo for his ongoing support. He talked about his own background as a child and as an educator: “Growing up as a young boy in Queens, I had always wanted to be a dancer. I used to sneak out the house on Saturday mornings to watch people during dance lessons at a dance studio where the gymnasium at York College is housed. … But my true passion has always been to work with children.  In the many years during my journey in working with youngsters, I have no regrets!  I love knowing that I can make a difference in young people’s lives. … Lights on After School was created in 2000 to bring national awareness to the importance of after school programs to communities like this.  I have seen many success stories over the many years I’ve been here, and tonight we will celebrate more.”

There’s no doubt that Mr. Kenny, and others like him, have had a hand in those success stories. As fifth-grader Kelvin put it, “This program has helped me in many ways. For example, I’ve learned how to become a better writer because my Group Leaders check my writing before I revise it.  I now socialize better with my peers, and the clubs are amazing.  Finally, this program has helped me a lot with homework.  I would like to thank all the Group Leaders for their help!”

Parents agree. Mr. White, who has two sons in the program, said, “My sons are much more confident because of this program. The Public Speaking Club has helped Jace a great deal. The Child Center of NY at PS 24 has also helped build both Jace’s and Joshua’s character. Another helpful part of this program is the homework help because it allows more time for my children to spend that extra time reading at home. We are thankful for this program as well as the teamwork it creates for the children.”

Over at COMPASS at P.S. 15, the Jackie Robinson School, in Springfield Gardens, program participants celebrated with a parade through the community and a parent fair.

COMPASS at P.S. 15 is a youth development program that specializes in the performing arts and building a strong community with resources and lasting connections. Program highlights include quality musical productions, an annual class jingle competition (parents are the judges!), fun, specialized trips (like the Turkey Hill Experience in Columbia, Pennsylvania, where scholars made their own ice cream and flavors, and Carmans River Canoe and Kayak in Brookhaven, New York, where our scholars were given canoe and kayaking lessons), Ready Readers Program for grades 1- 3, Club Fun Fridays where the scholars choose their own clubs, and the annual Family Day and Picnic (not to mention being named first place champions of the 2018 Child Center of NY Staff Chant Battle!)

In keeping with the “Lights On” theme, scholars celebrated by making lanterns out of wax paper and cardboard.  The lanterns were used as a symbol of the hard work that gets done in afterschool and to bring quality afterschool awareness in the neighborhood.

To that end, a colorful, joyful parade was a centerpiece of the evening’s events. Teachers and scholars worked collaboratively in making posters and banners for the parade.  Most classes used poster boards and designed them with artwork made by the scholars.

Scholars, staff, parents, and friends then marched through the neighborhood, holding up their posters, balloons, and lanterns, chanting, “Lights on After School” as they walked the nearby streets. Children in grades 2-5 hung the lanterns up around the school after the parade, and kindergartners and first-graders sent balloons up in the air while the entire program watched and chanted. About 250 people participated, and it was clearly a highlight. (When asked his favorite part of the event, first-grader Eisani didn’t hesitate to answer, “When the balloons were going up and we got to walk around the school doing our chants for the parade!”)

Fifth graders at the Jackie Robinson School marching and chanting during the parade.

There was also a parent fair that served as a networking opportunity for parents to connect and support each other.

Lights On Afterschool also provided a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on our middle school programs, since afterschool plays a crucial role for that age group, keeping them off the streets and into positive activities after school and over the summer.

At SONYC I.S. 237, Lights On After School focused on hands-on activities in which parents and their middle-schoolers participated alongside teachers, giving families the chance to experience a day in the life.

Parents learned how to dribble a basketball in between cones, made their own slime using “spa science,” and learned how to play a chord on the guitar and beats on the drum. They engaged in Math Olympics (they had to solve a mixed equation obstacle), junior engineering (they had to create a caterpillar using only glue, sticks, rubber bands, and bottle caps), and an activity that illustrated the Steps to Success curriculum used in the program: a listening game that required parents to follow directions under pressure and understand how the game applies to skills needed in a job. A favorite activity of the night was an art lesson in which parents created a sunset by following instructions without knowing what they were painting. After the paintings were completed, the parents showed their drawings to their children, who had to guess what it was.

This banner and the light bulb were created by Spirit Team participants at SONYC I.S. 237. On top of the buildings are the names of all the activities we offer in the program. Participants wrote on the light bulbs what they liked most about afterschool and added lights.

The Child Center of NY’s afterschool programs serve thousands of children each year, providing a safe, fun, and educational environment in which children can spend the afterschool hours while parents work. We provide a meaningful connection to the school day, ensuring that children continue to learn after the school bell rings.

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