Think Together, a statewide nonprofit organization that partners with schools to provide early learning, afterschool and support programs, and school improvement hosted a Lights On Afterschool rally on October 24 at Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Colton with VIP guest Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes.
Launched in 2000 by the Afterschool Alliance, Lights On Afterschool is the only nationwide event celebrating afterschool programs and their important role in the lives of children, families and communities. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the celebration. The students at Woodrow Wilson Elementary learned how to do Bollywood dances with beautiful costumes made for them and a spectacular stage. Site coordinator Bryann and her team created a memorable event.
“Anything you want to do, you can do. Anything you want to be, you can be” said Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes to the children. Principal Cynthia Coello is a huge supporter of Think Together’s afterschool program and said “It is an extension of our school day and is a place to keep our students safe and can continue their learning.”
Reyes stated, “These after schoolprograms – and this one in particular – is probably the best. Knowing that our children are safe, they are with great supervision, they are with people that love them and want to see them prosper, and to elevate them. The parents are happy because they know that this is the best place for their children to be. The children are happy to be here, they are learning things. And it’s not just academic, it’s also social and athletic, too.”
1.6 million kids are currently enrolled in afterschool programs in California, the majority of which are funded through the state After School Education and Safety Program (ASES). Many kids from low-income families relyon ASES programs, but ASES is currently at risk. While the costs, demands, and expectations of California’s afterschool programs have consistently increased, state funding has not kept pace for over a decade. And 1.2 million children are still alone and unsupervised after school in California.
The event called for expanded afterschool opportunities so that every child who needs a program has access to one, and discussed the benefits of afterschool programs, including inspiring children to learn, keeping them safe in the hours when juvenile crime peaks, and providing relief to working families.