NEW BRITAIN- The Youth and Workforce Group of the Coalition of New Britainâ€™s Youth partnered with the City of New Britain, New Britain Parks and Recreation and American Savings Foundation hosted the Lights on Afterschool Event, a national celebration that creates awareness and support of after school programs at the Walnut Hill Park Bandshell Thursday.
â€śTypically we do smaller Lights on Afterschool Events at our school very simple family engagements, but this year celebrates 20 years of actually recognizing afterschool programs nationwide so we made it a huge celebration and invited all of the afterschool agencies in the city to take part in it,â€ť said Megan Dowling, Assistant A.S.P. Coordinator at New Britain Parks and Recreation.
More than one million students will take part in over 8,000 events being planned across the country for the 20th year of this national effort.
â€śLights on Afterschool celebrates the remarkable work being done by students who attend local afterschool programs. Itâ€™s a powerful reminder that afterschool programs offer a range of support to children and families in New Britain,â€ť said Maria Sanchez, Director of Grantmaking and Community Investment at the American Savings Foundation.
American Savings Foundation has donated over $9 million to afterschool programs.
â€śWe invest in afterschool programs a lot throughout our history and itâ€™s an important area for us,â€ť said Maria Falvo President & CEO of American Savings Foundation. â€śWe just recognized the importance in building the future leaders and itâ€™s something that we are really are a big part of so we wanted to really support this celebration.â€ť
This event emphasizes the importance of keeping the lights on and the doors open after school for youth programs and activities.
â€śThree to 6 p.m. is that time frame when most trouble happens especially for middle school aged kids so keeping them in a structured environment after school is so important to their growth positively,â€ť said Dowling.
The event celebrates the achievements of these students that are able to participate in afterschool programs
â€śIf I could get every one of my students in afterschool programs I would, but money needs to be greater from the state,â€ť said Superintendent Nancy Sarra. â€śWeâ€™ve got great providers in town like American Savings Foundation and Community Foundation. They know the importance of afterschool time and theyâ€™re the ones that are funding our afterschool programming because I get about $120,000 a year from the state. Thatâ€™s it.â€ť
Superintendent Sarra and Dowling tossed bags from the stage to the kids.
â€śI am having a good time. Thereâ€™s good music, a lot of food and a lot of people, a lot more than I thought there would be,â€ť said Daniel Senior, student at Slade Middle School and Parks and Rec member. â€śThe Parks and Recs community is a great community in general it brings a lot of people closer.â€ť
Everyone enjoyed music by the Latanya Farrell Band. They played cover music by artist like Alicia Keys and Michael Jackson. Latanya led the kids in a sing-a-long to No One by Alicia Keys, along with dancing and even the Electric Slide.
Kids enjoyed inflatable amusements, like Full Court Press basketball, and glow necklaces
â€śThereâ€™s basketball, a bouncy house, weâ€™re throwing around a ball back and forth and stuff like that,â€ť said Aaron Dennis, student at Pulaski Middle School and Parks and Rec member. â€śIâ€™m having a great time.â€ť
Everyone also enjoyed a mini cookout with foods like hamburgers, fruits and milk provided by Whitson Food Provider. Guests even were able to enjoy fresh popcorn.
Programs set up booths for all to visit like Photo Voice, a new program started last summer where students take pictures of the good and bad parts of their city and create a presentation using the pictures to create change.
â€śThis collaborative approach to high-quality programming has allowed many New Britain students to attend afterschool programs,â€ť said Nick Jakubowski, Co-Executive Director of the Pathways and Co-Chair of the Workforce Group. â€śThese programs are fun and engaging while providing a safe place for kids to go after school.â€ť
Lights on Afterschool is a national event organized by the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children have access to quality afterschool programs. More information on the Afterschool Alliance, Lights On Afterschool, and American After 3 p.m. are available at www.afterschoolalliance.org .