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 Lights On Afterschool Celebrates Expanded Learning

Dozens of schools across the county will be marking the annual Lights On Afterschool day today to celebrate the importance of quality after-school programming.

“Lights On Afterschool helps make the community aware of the value of high-quality after-school programs,” said Daymon Beach, senior manager of Expanded Learning Programs for the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE). “After-school programs provide students with opportunities that many of them wouldn’t have otherwise.”

The Lights On Afterschool event is held nationwide every October to celebrate expanded learning programs and their role in keeping children safe and supporting students’ education. Lights On Afterschool is recognized annually by more than 1 million Americans at 8,000 events across the country. Lights On Afterschool was launched in 2000 as a project of the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit that works to ensure that children have access to quality, affordable after-school programs.

SDCOE is a leader in after-school programming efforts. It partners with school districts and charter schools across the county -- at more than 240 elementary, middle, and high school campuses -- to implement the High School After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) grant, which is federally funded, and the state-funded After School Education and Safety (ASES) program. SDCOE’s five-member Expanded Learning team also provides resources, professional development, and technical assistance to all districts and charter schools to ensure their before- and after-school programs complement the regular school-day learning and increase student achievement.

Research has shown that after-school programs are integral to students' academic success, Beach said.

For the after-school programming, schools partner with community organizations as well as provide their own staff members. Programs and clubs cover a vast range of interests and subjects, from tutoring to weightlifting, animation to cooking, rugby to STEAM activities, including robotics, and even ichthyology -- the study of fish. If kids have an interest, these grant-funded programs and the educators who run them work to keep the students engaged, Beach said.

“Not all kids have after-school options off campus,” he said. “That learning wouldn’t happen without this funding. When kids are able to connect with the school, the teachers, it helps them through challenges.”

Beach, his colleagues, and San Diego County After School Consortium community partners will be visiting schools in Escondido, Oceanside, and Santee today to help support Lights On Afterschool activities, and Lemon Grove School District ASES schools have planned their Lights On activities, including performances and an arts showcase, for next Friday. 

While some schools go all out for their Lights On events, Beach said he and his team are happy to just have an opportunity to show what’s happening after school on campuses. “This isn’t day-care. It’s learning.”