Case Study: The community comes together to light up the sky

"As Congress begins the process of updating No Child Left Behind, I believe it's important that we keep supporting afterschool programs like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program." - Sen. Joe Donnelly

Keys to Success:

Organizer Dan Diehl offers several keys to the program’s success:

  • Celebrating the Community. “We have broad community involvement. This is not a school event.  It is a community event. We have made it a celebration of community.”
     
  • Everyone Has A Role. “Because it is a community event, there is a great deal of ownership in the process.  Various youth serving organizations make up the planning committee and help with volunteer recruitment, marketing, performance planning, and overall organization.”
     
  • Youth Are Front and Center. “The absolute, number one key to success is the youth performances. This is the very essence of why afterschool programs are important. The event gives our youth an opportunity to perform in front of thousands of people. This is an opportunity that they would never have without the event.”

Where: Evansville, Indiana

Who: More than 2,000 participants and 30 community agencies


Highlights:

A unique coming together of the entire community—local businesses, community programs, area leaders, parents and youth—to organize, fund and celebrate Lights On Afterschool. The spirit of the event was captured in a 20 minute firework display.

“Afterschool is about opportunities, and Lights On Afterschool is a tremendous opportunity for youth, families and communities to come together in celebration,” says Evansville Event Co-chair Dan Diehl. The Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation (E-VSC) and Evansville community Lights On Afterschool event in 2003 was a rally at Bosse Field, a historic baseball stadium in Evansville. The event highlighted the importance of afterschool programs in the lives of children, youth, families and communities, and served as the kick-off to Red Ribbon week activities.  It drew more than 2,000 people.


The Program:

Children and youth from area afterschool programs performed; more than 30 community agencies set up booths and provided games; and food, entertainment and Lights On Afterschool t-shirts were provided free to everyone. The event culminated with a huge 20-minute fireworks display.

Opening ceremonies featured the Girl Scouts, Central High School Junior ROTC and Joshua Academy singing the National Anthem. Dr. McCandless, the E-VSC superintendent, read a Mayoral Proclamation announcing Lights On Afterschool Day. Youth performances followed, including: Evans' Spirit Squad, Glenwood’s and Harwood’s African Drumming Ensemble, Delaware’s Orff Ensemble, Carver’s Touring Strings, Cedar Hall’s Players with Pat Coslett, Dexter’s Sign Language Choir, Howard Roosa’s Spanish Club, Culver’s Steppers, the African Elementary Choral Ensemble, and Lodge’s Choir. Johnny Kincaid of Smokefree Communities provided a kick-off for Red Ribbon Week activities, and Deputy Williams of the sheriff’s department and Mary Dunham of Newspaper in Education announced the drug-free slogan award winner. The Boy Scouts were featured in closing ceremonies.

The event was funded entirely by community donations, including those from The Evansville Courier and Press: Newspaper in Education, Vectren, Old National Bank, and the Evansville Otters. Area businesses donated door prizes that were given out throughout the event. Guests signed a drug- and alcohol-free pledge written on paper light bulbs, which were attached to railings at the baseball stadium. The Lights On Afterschool theme was emphasized with a banner, paper light bulbs throughout the stadium, t-shirts with the Lights On Afterschool logo, performances by students from afterschool programs and spotlights on kids sharing “What afterschool means to me.”