The Corn Palace in South Dakota, the Empire State Building, a military base in Germany, a battleship in Pasadena, Texas, the Mister Rogers landmark in Pittsburgh, the Hurricane Katrina memorial in Gulfport, Miss., and many more notable sites stateside and overseas will be lit up on Oct. 20 to recognize the importance of after-school programs in the 12th annual Lights on Afterschool event, spearheaded by the Afterschool Alliance.
The best lighting efforts will be recognized with awards, funded by a grant from JCPenny, announced at a later date.
But the lighted landmarks are only one component of the annual event; rallies, festivals, and other activities will be taking place around the country that day that highlight the best features of local after-school programs and the communities that support them. Last year, more than 1 million people participated in 7,500 events, the alliance estimates, and it is expecting even higher participation in this year’s event, hosted by cities, towns, organizations, and schools.
The event comes at an important time, says Jodi Grant, director of the Afterschool Alliance, as this year the after-school community has seen continued efforts to reduce the federal aid that supports many of these programs. In addition, many programs have continued to lose funding from local and state sources due to the economy. Still, Grant said, the support for after-school has continued to rise each year since the event started and types of learning experiences and opportunities in these programs has grown, assisted with a mounting body of research.
“Given everything going on in Washington, Lights on Afterschool will highlight what makes these programs so essential and so unique and what we’re in grave danger of losing if the funding is diverted,” Grant said. “Over the past decade, we’ve been getting better and better at knowing what works in building quality after-school programs and recognizing that [after-school] is a learning space that students can become really passionate about.”
The alliance will also be releasing its first state-by-state progress reports on after-school at the event. The reports, supported through grant funding, will assess each state’s after-school climate through policies, funding, and programming.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.