Keys to Success:
“This event and the planning process did a great deal to bring together organizations that historically have not worked well together,” Waters said. “The key was pulling together a great organizing committee.”
Waters’ recommendation: “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. Try to get them or staff involved as participants in the event. Cultivate local media and plan events that have a unique story or photo opportunity. Plan for success, do a good job and make sure that as many people as possible hear your message.”
Business support was strong. JCPenney store employees passed out flyers and wore Afterschool for All stickers the week leading up to Lights On Afterschool.
“As soon as the event was over,” she reports, “organizing committee members began talking about bigger and better plans for next year.”
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
Who: Numerous state officials, including a congresswoman, 1,200 participants, and 35 event co-hosts.
The Southern Nevada Afterschool Collaborative hosted a community-wide Lights On Afterschool event at Freedom Park in October of 2003. More than 1,200 people participated in the rally, organized by Afterschool Ambassador Susan Waters, who brought together more than 35 afterschool and community-based organizations to serve as co-hosts.
The rally was emceed by a high school student featured student performances and comments on afterschool by both youth and local leaders. An “Afterschool Hero” award was presented to the family of an afterschool staff person. Event co-hosts provided information and fun activities for participants.
“The support from law makers was incredible, but there is no doubt that the stars of the program were the kids,” Waters said. “A remarkable high school student served as the emcee. 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.”
For the rally, each co-host group provided information and fun activities, including face painting, balloons, a jump house, a table for decorating Lights On Afterschool light bulbs, a roving juggler, local mascots and more. Student performances included dancers, mariachi bands, singers and tumblers. Youth talked about what afterschool meant to them.
Rep. Shelley Berkley spoke to participants about the importance of supporting afterschool programs, staying for more than an hour. Aides to Gov. Kenny Guinn and Sens. John Ensign and Harry Reid addressed the crowd, as did Las Vegas City Councilman Gary Reese. Officials from the State of Nevada and the Cities of Henderson, North Las Vegas and Las Vegas presented proclamations. Rep. Jon C. Porter sent formal Congressional congratulations.
The first annual “Afterschool Hero” award was presented to the family of Robbie Stroh, a City of Las Vegas employee who was a longtime afterschool staff member. Stroh was killed in an automobile accident just two weeks before the event.