More than a million people in communities across the nation and on U.S. military bases worldwide will turn the lights on after school on Thursday, Oct. 26, as part of the 18th annual Lights On Afterschool event.

The national rally for afterschool is expected to include about 8,000 events this year, including showcases, science fairs, fun runs, academic contests, community service activities, performances, sports competitions and open houses at schools, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, parks, museums, community centers, state capitols and other places.

These events will showcase the skills students gain and the talents they develop in after-school programs.

For the 11th consecutive year, the New York skyline will shine after school that evening when the iconic Empire State Building is lit in yellow to celebrate Lights On Afterschool.

The Afterschool Alliance organizes the event to underscore the need to invest in afterschool programs, which provide homework help; mentors; healthy snacks and meals; opportunities to play sports and get fit; robotics; computer programming; art, dance and music; job and college readiness; and countless opportunities for team-based learning.

The America After 3 p.m. household survey of 30,000 families, commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance, found that participation in after-school programs has increased to 10.2 million students nationwide, but the unmet demand is great.

Today, for every child in an after-school program, two more are waiting to get in. Unmet demand is especially high in rural communities and communities of concentrated poverty. One in five students in the U.S. is unsupervised after the school day ends.

After school programs are supported by governments, parents, philanthropies, businesses and other public and private funding streams. Investments are frequently under threat, but this year, the president’s budget proposed an elimination of federal funding for after-school and summer learning programs.

While the Senate and House of Representatives have rejected the call to eliminate after-school funding, there is still a threat of cuts that could affect 100,000 students. Congress is likely to complete the Fiscal Year 2018 budget later this year.

Evidence demonstrates improvements in attendance, behavior and academic achievement among children who participate in after-school programs. Researchers also found that afterschool programs encourage increased parental involvement, an important building block for student success.

For more information, visit www.afterschoolalliance.org.

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Education and Arts and Entertainment Reporter

Vera Westbrook is the education, nonprofits, and arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4216 or by email at vwestbrook@nrtoday.com.

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