Authored By: Ricky Vigil, Afterschool Program Coordinator, Cyprus High School
Every October, millions of students, parents, teachers, community members and afterschool program staff celebrate and recognize the importance of Afterschool Programs with Lights On events. Beginning in 2000 and spearheaded by the Afterschool Alliance, Lights On recognizes the crucial role that Afterschool programs serve in keeping kids safe, engaged and inspired in the crucial hours when many of them may otherwise go unsupervised. We are fortunate in Magna to have seven Afterschool Programs provided by Salt Lake County Division of Youth Services. The convenience of proximity has led to great partnerships with the community. As such, our Magna programs have been teaming up over the past few years to hold huge Lights On celebrations, showcasing the great work being put forth by our staff as well as the impact it is having on the youth they work with.
On October 17, 2016, Matheson Jr. High hosted our annual Lights On celebration in Magna. Over 300 students, parents and community partners attended the event. Upon arriving, guests were greeted by Unified Fire Authority, who offered tours of one of their trucks to curious community members. Inside, parents could get information from the Magna Senior Center and Salt Lake Parks and Recreation, while kids were able to paint pumpkins with local artist Roger Whiting (who works in several of our Afterschool Programs throughout the County), spin a wheel to get a prize from the library, or shoot pucks at a target with the Utah Grizzlies. Unified Police Department and Salt Lake Area Gang Project also attended, providing positive interactions with event guests and even giving out prizes.
After attendees had a chance to visit the community booths, the auditorium filled. Matheson principal Dawn Hauser greeted guests with a speech emphasizing the impact of Afterschool Programs in the area, while members of the Utah Grizzlies pumped the crowd up and talked to attendees about the importance of education. Utah Afterschool Network Executive Director, Kelly Riding, then took to the stage, remarking on how much our programs have grown and noting how the kids we once served are growing into leaders in their community–several of whom are currently working within the Afterschool Programs they once attended.
Performances and presentations from our afterschool programs followed. Copper Hills Elementary students entertained the crowd with a trifecta of silly songs, Elk Run students sang along to “Fight Song,” Lake Ridge elementary offered an interactive Afro-Brazilian dance with Samba Fogo and Magna Elementary students showed off their best dance moves. Pleasant Green Elementary offered a video interviewing afterschool students about what makes the program special to them, while Cyprus showcased a video about their current mural project in tandem with the displays by art students outside the auditorium. Matheson Jr. High students showed off their newfound Capoeira skills, and Cyprus Park closed out the show with some awesome breakdancing.
After the performances, the 300 attendees filed into Matheson’s cafeteria for a spaghetti dinner, complete with lightbulb cookies–an annual tradition of our Lights On celebrations. Throughout the event, the importance of community seemed to be an underlying theme–the “it takes a village to raise a child” proverb may be a cliché, but it’s very true. We are best able to serve the youth we work with by utilizing our partnerships and connections within our community. Teachers help students, Afterschool Programs help parents, and partners help Afterschool Programs in an ever-growing circle dedicated to making our communities stronger. Lights On was a showcase of these partnerships and the impact they are having on the young people.