PACES Lights On After School program draws overflow audience

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Students, staff and parents in Perry’s Academic, Cultural and Enrichment Services (PACES) marked the 23rd annual nationwide Lights On After School celebration Thursday with a variety of activities at the Perry Elementary School.

Longtime PACES Director Mary Hillman welcomed the standing-room-only group of parents and well wishers to the elementary school lunchroom, noting that PACES has been a valuable part of the Perry educational environment for 23 years and thanking those who helped the program along the way.

Hillman grew emotional when she noted that some of the youngsters in this year’s 140-student PACES program are the children of parents who themselves were once students in the Perry PACES.

Perry Mayor John Andorf read an official proclamation, declaring PACES and Lights On After School Week in the Perry, and Hillman read a message from Perry Superintendent Clark Wicks that congratulated Hillman, the PACES staff and all the students for their successful programs.

Hillman thanked several foundations and businesses for their financial support over the past year, including the St. Martin’s Episcopal Church Human Needs Grant, Bock Family Foundation Grant and grants from Tyson Foods Inc. and United Way of Central Iowa.

PACES partners joining in Thursday’s celebrations included United Way of Central Iowa Community Impact Coordinator Cheryl Werner, Dallas County Conservation Department Museum Curator and Cultural and Historical Resources Coordinator Pete Malmberg, Perry Public Library Children’s Literature Coordinator Suzanne Kestel and Tyson Fresh Meats Chaplain Gustaf Henrici.

A talent show brought laughter and shouts from the children, with the pre-K and TK, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade and combined fourth and fifth grade classes each taking the stage by turns and performing dance routines to popular songs.

Awards were then presented K/TK, kindergarten, first and second graders in the annual Light Bulb coloring contest — also in its 23rd year — while third graders received awards in the  poster contest, and winner in the essay contest were named among fourth and fifth graders.

On Wednesday the PACES children walked laps for two hours around the newly rebuilt Kaufman Track at Perry High School to raise funds for PACES. A light dinner followed Thursday’s activities, with loose-meat sandwiches and desserts closing out the annual event.

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