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Wayne celebrates annual Lights On event

Oct. 18, 2013 @ 06:59 AM

LAVALETTE — Lavalette Elementary was the scene of an afterschool after-party Thursday afternoon in conjunction with the 14th annual Lights On Afterschool nationwide celebration.

The school was one of more than 9,000 after-school program sites throughout the country that participated in the event, which helps spread awareness about the value of such programs, said Jeanettte Barker, executive director of Playmates Preschools & Child Development Centers Inc., which co-hosted the event with Wayne County Schools.

Wayne County is home to 28 after-school learning programs, said Barker, who also is the project director for 21st Century Wayne County Community Learning Centers.

There were about 200 students at the event in Lavalette, and there are more than 2,000 students participating in after-school programs throughout the county, said Barker, who also is the project director for 21st Century Wayne County Community Learning Centers, or WCCLC, a federally funded program.

“Today is about educating the community about the importance of after-school programs,” Barker said. “Between 3 and 5 p.m. is an at-risk time for students, and we want to make sure they are safe and they are productive and not home alone.”

The WCCLC project has programs operating within every school in the county as well as six community sites and three more sites in Cabell County, Barker said. The program has provided after-school services for ten years.

Each site is staffed by certified teachers who provide the children with tutoring, homework assistance and S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities.

“We aren’t simply babysitting students,” said Lori Murdock, site director for the Playmates Preschool location at Lavalette Elementary. “The program is giving kids a safe place to be until mom or dad comes home. They are being tutored. They are finishing their homework. They’re involved in all of these activities, and they are getting a meal before they go home.”

Barker said each student has the opportunity to craft their own schedule at each center, meaning they can choose between tutoring, homework assistance and participating in S.T.E.A.M. activities, and that makes a big difference in their success.

“It is so important for students to have a place they feel is theirs,” Barker said. “When they come to a program, they can make it their own through work and community projects, and they can take pride in the program and their community.”

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