By Blake Benton, Corps Member serving at Beech Street Elementary School
Outside it was dark, and a wee bit chilly, but on the evening of Thursday, October 17th, hearts and minds were warm and aglow as Beech Street Elementary School hosted a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Lights on After School, a celebration of afterschool programs across the city of Manchester.
Two different after school programs are offered by the six Manchester schools that host City Year Corps members. The first is called Y.O.U, and is run through the local branches of the YMCA. This program gives children the opportunity to participate in organized aerobic games, work on homework, participate in guided discussions on important topics, and learn the importance of stretching and deep breathing activities. The second program is called 21st Century. This particular program allows City Year Corps members the opportunity to either assist with existing clubs, or create their own.
As for the ‘Lights On’ celebrations themselves, the Y.O.U event was attended by several important community leaders, including the Mayor of Manchester, Ted Gatsas, and State Senator Lou D’Allesandro . The children who attend Y.O.U. had an opportunity to run through an exercise routine for these guests, in order to highlight the importance that the Y.O.U. program places on healthy living habits. The community leaders in attendance also had the opportunity to read to the children, and talk to them about important idealistic topics, such as the fact that one person truly can make a difference. The event concluded with a taste test, during which the visiting community leaders had an opportunity to try a variety of healthy snacks that were suggested by the children of Y.O.U.
The 21st Century program, hosted at Beech Street, brought together after school coordinators from all of the Manchester elementary schools for a wide variety of engaging activities. The gymnasium played host to a wide variety of arts and crafts, including beaded bracelets and necklaces, fall-themed magnets, Halloween-themed cards, newspaper hats, and colorful leaf-rubbings. In addition to a fantastic round of creative crafts, attendees also had the chance to participate in a Zumba class in the Beech Street cafeteria! Parents and children alike boogied and shimmied to the musical stylings of Usher and “Gangam Style”. In addition to Zumba, the Manchester Health Department was in attendance to pass out a wide variety of popular and healthy treats, which were certainly enjoyed by all.
The front entryway of Beech Street currently displays a large white board that gives attendees the chance to write about what makes after school programs special and unique for them. Particular highlights were “City Year Members” and “Getting to know more students”. These two events were certainly fun and memorable, and allowed a diverse array of community members the chance to come together to celebrate the importance of after school programs. We at City Year New Hampshire are thrilled to participate in after school programs of many different varieties, and we know for sure that these programs will continue to enrich the lives of children for many years to come.