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Tips from the Pros: Getting the most from your Lights On event

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Tips from the Pros: Getting the most from your Lights On event

This October 24 marks our 20th Lights On Afterschool, and we’re so excited to welcome new programs to our celebration as well as those who have been celebrating from the very beginning. Register today and don’t miss out – every program that signs up gets 150 KIND snacks for your event, until supplies run out!

To get your Lights On planning juices flowing, we’ve pulled tips from some of our longest-standing Lights On event organizers. You can find all their practical tips and to-dos in our Case Studies section of the Event Planning Kit. Or, browse hundreds of past events using our searchable event database. You can search events by theme, level of difficulty, or planning time needed.

One theme is common across event organizers’ advice: work with partners. In the words of one program leader, “Bring together as many stakeholders as possible to plan an event that is both youth-focused and showcases the benefits of afterschool programs. Invite national, state and local officials.”

Here are snapshots from just a few of the Case Studies available in our Event Planning Kit.

Celebration led by youth

Numerous state officials, including a congresswoman, 1,200 participants, and 35 event co-hosts took part in a community-wide event emceed by a high school student, and featured student performances and remarks by youth and local leaders. “The stars of the program were the kids,” said event organizer Susan Waters. “The closing act was a rap group of young people who called themselves The Academics. They turned the message of being successful in school into a rap. The crowd was on its feet!... For me, the most compelling statement of the evening came as the crowd was going home and I was packing things up,” she continued. “A middle school boy came to me and said, ‘Why can’t we have afterschool programs at my school?’ I can only hope that events like this one will help to make his request a reality.”

Expo at the mall attracts local leaders

This Lights On Afterschool event brought 45 programs across the district together to hold an afterschool showcase at the local mall. The event, which drew more than 700 attendees, drew on the talents of children from programs across the school district, featuring singing, cheers, ballet folklorico, poetry, hip-hop dance, steppers, Tae Kwon Do, a band performance, a fashion show, and Kung Fu. Displays on various afterschool learning opportunities filled the mall walkways on two floors in front of the store, giving parents, the media and policy makers the chance to sample the programs' rich and diverse curriculum.

Creative partnerships in a rural community celebration

Three area restaurants in a small military community helped make Lights On Afterschool a success by donating food and space inside the restaurant to promote the rally and gift certificates for contest winners.  The collaboration led to their most-attended event ever. And, the afterschool programs have continued the relationship with the restaurants, one even sponsored, organized, and ran a field hockey team!

In a small town, advised the event organizer, many of the adults working in restaurants, banks, and shops have a strong connection to the local schools—they either have kids who currently attend or who used to attend school locally. Putting that connection to work is key.

P.S. ARTS celebrates Lights On Afterschool with SpongeBob

By Oscar Navarrete, program coordinator, Community, at P.S. Arts. P.S. ARTS is excited to collaborate with the Afterschool Alliance and Nickelodeon in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Lights on Afterschool and SpongeBob Squarepants’ 20th year on-air. Together, we are working to shine...

BY: Guest Blogger      09/19/19

Explore a Lights On Afterschool Wonder with Wonderopolis

By John MacLeod, community manager for Wonderopolis. Created by the National Center for Families Learning, Wonderopolis is a website that encourages learners of all ages to use their natural curiosity and imagination to explore and discover new things about the world around them. Every day...

BY: Guest Blogger      09/12/19

3 quick ideas for a healthy, happy Lights On Afterschool

Afterschool programs play many important roles in their communities, but one of the most powerful is the positive impact out-of-school time programs can have on the health of their students. From providing healthy meals and safe places to play outside, to supporting students’ mental and...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      09/05/19

Host a sizzling Lights On event: A pitch contest

By Liz Nusken,Young Entrepreneur Pitch program lead at the Ohio Afterschool Network. Lights On Afterschool presents afterschool programs with an opportunity to showcase their fun, hands-on learning experiences to partners and members of the larger community. A Lights On live pitch...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/29/19

Tips from the Pros: Getting the most from your Lights On Event

This October 24 marks our 20th Lights On Afterschool, and we’re so excited to welcome new programs to our celebration as well as those who have been celebrating from the very beginning. Register today and don’t miss out – every program that signs up gets 150 KIND snacks for your...

BY: Ursula Helminski      08/01/19

KIND to celebrate Lights On Afterschool

By Daniel Lubetzky, CEO of Kind LLC. KIND is helping programs celebrate the 20th Lights On Afterschool this October 24. KIND will be on hand at about a dozen Lights On Afterschool events AND they’re donating 150 KIND products to Lights On Afterschool sites nationwide,...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/25/19

Join the Light Up A Landmark Challenge: Light up the night sky across all 50 states!

This October 24 marks our 20th Lights On Afterschool, and one of our brightest partners is back: for the 13th year in a row, the iconic Empire State Building will light up the New York City skyline in support of Lights On Afterschool! The national landmark will light the sky in blue and...

BY: Ursula Helminski      07/18/19

Join the Lights On Afterschool congressional art drive

Lights On Afterschool is celebrating its 20th year! That’s 20 years of calling nationwide attention to the importance of afterschool programs for America's children, families and communities. Every year we receive hundreds of wonderful artwork from programs across the nation. This...

BY: Shaun Gray      06/27/19

Lights On Afterschool 2019 registration is open!

This October marks our 20th Lights On Afterschool celebration! Sign up today to be part of the 20th Lights On Afterschool celebration!  All who register will receive event planning tip emails and 10 free posters to promote your event. This year, in response your feedback, we’ve...

BY: Ursula Helminski      06/21/19

20 weeks to the 20th Lights On Afterschool!

We can’t believe it either—this October 24 will be our 20th Lights On Afterschool celebration! We’ve got exciting plans in the works – so many that we will be unveiling something new each week up until October 24, 2019. We’re asking you to join us and starting...

BY: Ursula Helminski      06/06/19

3 quick ideas for a healthy, happy Lights On Afterschool

Afterschool programs play many important roles in their communities, but one of the most powerful is the positive impact out-of-school time programs can have on the health of their students. From providing healthy meals and safe places to play outside, to supporting students’ mental and...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      09/05/19

Host a sizzling Lights On event: A pitch contest

By Liz Nusken,Young Entrepreneur Pitch program lead at the Ohio Afterschool Network. Lights On Afterschool presents afterschool programs with an opportunity to showcase their fun, hands-on learning experiences to partners and members of the larger community. A Lights On live pitch...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/29/19

4-H is seeking Game Changers this October

By Kittrina Thompson, digital marketing manager, National 4-H Council, 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD) is an annual initiative inspiring kids everywhere to take an active interest in STEM topics through hands-on learning. Celebrations begin October 1, with participation across the country...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/22/19

KIND to celebrate Lights On Afterschool

By Daniel Lubetzky, CEO of Kind LLC. KIND is helping programs celebrate the 20th Lights On Afterschool this October 24. KIND will be on hand at about a dozen Lights On Afterschool events AND they’re donating 150 KIND products to Lights On Afterschool sites nationwide,...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/25/19

Guest blog: Partner with your local library for Lights On Afterschool!

By Megan Burton, STEM and Learning Supervisor at the Kitsap Regional Library in Washington State. “It is a real collaboration,” said Nicole Rawlinson, Teen Services Librarian at the Sylvan Way branch of the Kitsap Regional Library describing her work with the local Boys and Girls...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/30/18

Join the Light Up A Landmark Challenge: Light up the night sky across all 50 states!

This October 24 marks our 20th Lights On Afterschool, and one of our brightest partners is back: for the 13th year in a row, the iconic Empire State Building will light up the New York City skyline in support of Lights On Afterschool! The national landmark will light the sky in blue and...

BY: Ursula Helminski      07/18/19

20 weeks to the 20th Lights On Afterschool!

We can’t believe it either—this October 24 will be our 20th Lights On Afterschool celebration! We’ve got exciting plans in the works – so many that we will be unveiling something new each week up until October 24, 2019. We’re asking you to join us and starting...

BY: Ursula Helminski      06/06/19

Landmarks aglow across the country for Lights On Afterschool 2018

Lights On Afterschool 2018 was marked by communities flipping the light switches of gyms, clubhouses, classrooms, and parks across America in an effort to provide a safe, supportive learning environment for children. Similarly, recognizable landmarks coast to coast recognized the valuable...

BY: Faith Savaiano      11/08/18

The biggest and brightest Lights On Afterschool yet

We celebrated by coding, dancing, cooking, drawing, reading, making music, sharing. We had book giveaways. Canned food drives. Hackerspaces and maker faires. Puzzle pieces that, together, form over-sized lightbulbs that fill gymnasium floors. Inflatable planetariums for students to explore....

BY: Ursula Helminski      10/26/18

Afterschool shines for the 12th year in a row

It’s that time in August when students’ backpacks wait eagerly by the door for the first days they’ll be put back into use after a couple-months hiatus. While these days on the calendar excitedly mark the return of the back-to-school season, they’re also an indicator that...

BY: Faith Savaiano      08/23/18

1,800 events promote health and wellness during Lights On Afterschool

Free fruits and vegetables, Zumba classes, color runs, yoga and mindfulness – this year’s Lights On Afterschool saw afterschool programs across the country celebrating a broad vision of health and wellness. National partners and local groups showcased the critical role afterschool...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      12/06/18

Champion wellness with fitness professionals: 3 tips to get started

Photo courtesy of The American Council on Exercise and Alliance for a Healthier Generation By Daniel W. Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships at Alliance for a Healthier Generation. This post was originally published by BOOST Collaborative on the BOOST Breakfast Club Blog on...

BY: Guest Blogger      09/20/18

Health & Wellness partners got communities active & moving during Lights On 2017

This year we were blown away with the number of Lights On Afterschool 2017 events that celebrated our official Health & Wellness theme through creative, educational activities that got kids active and learning about healthy habits. These events were great examples of everyday work that...

BY: Faith Savaiano      11/30/17

Easy, last-minute ideas for an amazing Lights On Afterschool!

Lights On Afterschool is just seven days away! While many programs are wrapping up their plans, some will only start planning this week. Luckily, we’ve got something for everyone over at our Last-Minute Ideas page. Use these ideas as the foundation of your event, or add an extra...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      10/19/17

4-H is seeking Game Changers this October

By Kittrina Thompson, digital marketing manager, National 4-H Council, 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD) is an annual initiative inspiring kids everywhere to take an active interest in STEM topics through hands-on learning. Celebrations begin October 1, with participation across the country...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/22/19

Ignite STEM learning for Lights On Afterschool

Afterschool programs are a natural space to provide engaging, hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning experiences. Because so many afterschool programs make STEM learning a priority – and so many programs want to offer STEM learning in the future –...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      09/27/18

STEM partners helped ignite curiosity during Lights On 2017

Afterschool STEM learning was one of our top themes for this year’s Lights On Afterschool, and with good reason. Afterschool programs provide an ideal space to connect kids to exciting, hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) experiences, helping them engage deeply with...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      11/21/17

Easy, last-minute ideas for an amazing Lights On Afterschool!

Lights On Afterschool is just seven days away! While many programs are wrapping up their plans, some will only start planning this week. Luckily, we’ve got something for everyone over at our Last-Minute Ideas page. Use these ideas as the foundation of your event, or add an extra...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      10/19/17