Annual PACES party aims to keep lights on after school

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Keeping Perry's precious young people safe and entertained while their parents work is the goal of the PACES program, and paying for the program is the goal of the 16th annual Lights on Afterschool fundraiser planned for Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, Perry’s Academic, Cultural and Enrichment Services (PACES) program will be one of the 8,000 communities across the U.S. to celebrate the importance of afterschool programs by participating in the 16th annual Lights on Afterschool event.

The nationwide event, involving more than 1 million young people, calls attention to the value of afterschool programs and the need for more money to keep the lights on and the doors open. Lights on Afterschool is sponsored by the National Afterschool Alliance.

Mary Hillman
Mary Hillman

“PACES has participated in all 16 years of this national event,” said Mary Hillman, longtime executive director of the Perry program. “Perry schools care about a safe and educational place for students of working families before and after school. That’s why the PACES program was started with a 21st Century Community Learning Center federal grant in 2000 and now continues this past 16 years on a self-supported basis.”

The Lights on Afterschool celebration starts Wednesday with a Pledges for PACES fundraising walk at the high school Kaufman Track from 3-5 p.m. Students will walk laps during and ask for either per-lap pledges or a flat fee to help support the program.

Pledge sheets are available at the PACES office at Perry Elementary School, the Perry Middle School and Perry High School offices, Perry Public Library, Perry-Area Chamber of Commerce and the McCreary Community Building.

The Lights on Afterschool celebration will continue Thursday at 5 pm in the elementary school multi-purpose room with a rally promoting the ways afterschool programs keep kids safe, improve their academic achievement, build character, provide fitness and nutrition education and help working-class families.

Thursday’s program will include a Mayoral Proclamation, student awards, a talent show and a special guest from Blank Children’s Hospital Community Outreach Department. PACES Partners and Alumni will be honored as well. The evening culminates with a beef burger supper.

“PACES programs have supported more than 10,000 Perry students since beginning in 2000,” Hillman said, “and PACES has offered over 200 different academic and enrichment programs to students. Students have improved grades and attendance. Come and be a part of our celebration.”

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