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21st CCLC students keep the Lights On Afterschool

West Grove, PA - Chester County students, parents, business and community leaders recently gathered at the West Grove Garage Community Youth Center for the 2012 Lights On Afterschool rally. Students in the Chester County Intermediate Unit's (CCIU) 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) program took part in the activity that highlighted student success and the need for after school programs.

Students who participated in the Lights On Afterschool activity were engaged in academic enrichment activities, displayed their artwork, and enjoyed refreshments. Lights On Afterschool celebrates the skills students learn at after school programs. It served as a powerful reminder that after school programs work to keep children safe, inspire them to learn, and relieve working parents of worries about how their children spend their after school hours.

According to Bill Rose, program coordinator for CCIU’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the program takes place in the Oxford Area and Avon Grove School Districts for English language learners and long-term English language learners in grades 7 through 12.

“The reason why this program is so important for our students specifically is because the school day is just not long enough for our students who speak English as their second language,” said Rose. “Having three hours after the school day is over to help with their homework, and maybe go over new words their teachers may have said that they didn’t understand, is really vital for their growth in order to stay at the same level as their native English speaking peers.”

The Lights on Afterschool activity celebrated the achievements of students in after school programs and drew attention to the need for more programs to serve the millions of children nationwide who are unsupervised and at risk each weekday afternoon. The gathering was one of 9,000 such events across the nation emphasizing the importance of keeping the lights on and the doors open for after school programs. This year marked the thirteenth annual Lights On Afterschool, sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance. More than one million Americans took part in the nationwide rally to support after school programs.

“There is a substantial amount of research that states that between the hours of three and six at night, students are more likely to get involved with drugs or commit crimes or other negative activities, so providing a safe space between those hours is really one of our main goals,” said Rose. “Most of our students’ parents work until at least six at night, so they can take comfort knowing that their children can do their homework and socialize with their friends in a safe and caring environment.”

According to the Afterschool Alliance, more than 15 million school-age children – more than one in four kids in the United States – are unsupervised after the school day ends. The parents of 18 million children say they would enroll their kids in after school programs if programs were available.

“Before this, there wasn’t a program to look forward to after school,” said Jorge Solis, an Oxford Area High School student who participates in the program. “Instead of being out on the streets, the program helps us get our homework done like we’re supposed to do, have special activities, see our friends and have fun. We had a lot of fun today and took part in special activities that were part of Lights On Afterschool that brought together many different people from other after school programs.”

The Chester County Intermediate Unit’s 21st Century Community Learning Center, a federally funded program, partnered with The West Grove Garage Community and Youth Center to facilitate this year’s event. Combined, both organizations serve over 400 children throughout the Avon Grove and Oxford Area School Districts, providing homework assistance, mentoring, tutoring, and classes and clubs in areas such as sports, recreation, mathematics, and dozens of other subjects.