A Lights On Story!

WEST WINDSOR: After-school programs important to many families
By Allison Musante, Staff Writer
Posted: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 8:43 AM EDT
   PLAINSBORO — Just as students left for the day on Thursday, the cafeteria at High School North was busy preparing pans of pasta while a DJ blasted “Thriller” in the dining halls. In the spirit of Halloween, more than 450 West Windsor and Plainsboro families turned out for Lights On Afterschool, a nationwide party celebrating after-school programs.

   Joining nearly 8,000 party spots nationwide, the WW-P district celebrated its 29th year of the Community Education Extended Day Program, known as EDP, which provides before- and after-school programs to children between kindergarten and eighth grade. The event is a project of Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that all children have access to safe and enriching afterschool programs.

   Community Education Director Marci Rubin said the event, now in its 11th year, showed how important EDP programs are to the community’s working families and single parents.

   ”It really shows how much we’re an extension of their families,” she said. “Everyone had a great time, families were happy and smiling and dancing, and we got great feedback.”

   Nearly 800 families are enrolled in the district’s EDP programs, which are held at eight schools, according to Melissa Conklin, the EDP program administrator. According to Afterschool Alliance, nearly 30 percent of children K-12 in New Jersey are responsible for taking care of themselves after school, yet only 14 percent participate in afterschool programs.

   ”We provide a necessary service to families where students can not only focus on their homework, but it’s for their social and emotional development as well,” Ms. Rubin said.”Students get to participate in things like dance, cooking, and drama, so students get to try new things they might otherwise try and make new friends in the process.”

   At this free two-hour event, families lined up at the cafeteria for a hot dinner before making their way into the lower dining hall for dancing, pumpkin painting, jewelry making, basketball, slime making, and other crafts.

   Tiffanye and Terry Cummings, of Plainsboro, have just enrolled their youngest son, Carlton, into EDP along with his older brother, Juston.

   ”It’s completely necessary,” Tiffanye Cummings said. “It’s where Carlton meets all his friends and has a chance to bond.”

   Seema Mazhar, of Plainsboro, said she enrolled her second-grade son, Faiz, into EDP at Town Center in the morning and after school because she works full time.

   ”I really like going outside, and we play games inside so it’s fun even when it’s raining,” Faiz Mazhar said. “And there’s really good teachers.”

   Dozens of volunteers, including EDP site supervisors and high school students, also attended to help the kids with crafts and to keep the food line moving.

   Courtney Agyeman, a High School South student, said she became an EDP volunteer after seeing her siblings enjoy participating in the afterschool programs.

   ”I actually want to be a teacher and I think it’s just fun working with the kids,” she said.

   Joan Tafrow, of Hamilton, who is the EDP site supervisor at Community Middle School, was helping kids paint mini=pumpkins. Ms. Tafrow said she loves waking up for her job, now in its third year.

   ”We paint, we eat, we play,” she said. “I wish I had this when I was little.”

   Supplies for the activities were donated by local vendors, including Mad Science of West New Jersey, Kidz Art and Pump it Up, with additional sponsorship provided by Corna Copia, Trenton Thunder, and 94.5 WPST.

   To enroll your children in an EDP program, call Melissa Conklin at (609) 716-5300, ext. 5032.

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