'Lights On Afterschool' events set for Oct. 20

Makayla Pritchett rambled on about her favorite things to do in the after-school program at McDonough Elementary School.

"You get to go to the gym, and play outside, and go to the computer lab," said the 6-year-old first-grader.

The program also offers enrichment activities involving music, drama, science, arts, reading, and cooking — elements of education her father, Tremayne Pritchett, said he enjoys.

"It's really helpful, because my wife and I have [to] work," said the father. "Makayla is able to stay here with trustworthy people, and can do homework while she's here and we're at work. The structure is great."

McDonough Elementary, located in McDonough, will be one of thousands of schools nationwide with afterschool programs that will be taking part in the 12th Annual Lights On Afterschool observance.

It allows children across the country, and at U.S. military bases overseas, the opportunity to showcase the skills, abilities and interests they have developed through after-school programs.

The national event— organized by the Washington, D.C.-based organization, Afterschool Alliance — is designed as a rally of sorts to promote the positive effects of after-school programs on youths. Through the Lights On Afterschool endeavor, communities are invited to join local after-school programs to learn more about them.

On Oct. 20, more than a million people are expected to participate in more than 7,500 events nationwide, according to Gretchen Wright, with the Afterschool Alliance.

Public schools in Henry County are planning to host Lights On Afterschool Open House events, from 3 p.m., until 5 p.m. Then, visitors can learn more about different after-school enrichment programs. To learn more about the events, visit www.henry.k12.ga.us.

Clayton County Parks and Recreation has planned an event that will include games, arts and crafts. The free public event is set to be held at International Park, 2300 Ga. Highway 138 S.E., in Jonesboro, from 4 p.m., to 7:30 p.m. For more details, call (678) 479-5136, or visit www.claytonparks.com.

"Increasingly, experts are pointing to STEM – science, technology, engineering and math education –– as a crucial element in equipping young people to compete globally, and after-school programs are stepping up to the plate," said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. "The things that make after-school programs so beneficial, fun, and diverse, are showcased each year during Lights On Afterschool.

"As we celebrate Lights On Afterschool for the 12th year, we are proud to see so many programs taking this opportunity to show their communities how after-school programs are helping young people learn – and learn to love – STEM," Grant said. "After-school programs support the whole child and that's why we need to ensure that the funding for these essential programs is protected."

To learn more about Lights On Afterschool, or to find other local Lights On Afterschool events, visit www.afterschoolalliance.org.