Perry’s Academic and Cultural Enrichment Services (PACES), the before-school and afterschool program for children of Perry’s working parents, will keep its doors open and its lights on for another year thanks to money raised at this year’s annual Lights on Afterschool fundraiser.
“The number of students in PACES is about equal to the size of one whole class,” said longtime PACES Director Mary Hillman at Thursday’s 16th annual celebration and fundraiser. “That’s how important PACES is to Perry and to Perry’s working families.”
The program is of “critical importance” to Perry’s young people, Hillman said. It is as if all of Perry Elementary School’s kindergartners or all of Perry High School’s seniors were enrolled in the program and staying on campus from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. every night.
Nationwide, more than 28 million children have parents who work outside the home, and 15.1 million children in the U.S. have no place to go after school.
That gives a notion how many working parents in Perry rely on PACES to give their children “safe, challenging, engaging and fun learning experiences” at school until the parents get off work, in the words of Perry Mayor Jay Pattee, who read a proclamation at the “Celebrating Sweet 16 Years” event.
PACES ensures children are “safe and productive after the regular school day ends,” Pattee proclaimed. The program serves to “engage families, school and diverse community partners in advancing the welfare of our children” and has “provided significant leadership in the area of community involvement in the education and well being of our youth, grounded in the principle that quality afterschool programs are a critical link to helping our children become successful adults,” the mayor said.
Kyle Baxter, chair person of the Perry Community School District Board of Directors, praised “all of the good work” PACES does for the school district’s youngsters, and Board member Marjean Gries said she learned at first hand the value of PACES when she was a teacher in the Perry school system.
“I know how much our afterschool PACES means to everyone here,” Gries said to the assembled PACES students. She also reminded Hillman they used to play basketball together for the Perry High School Jayettes and could both still shoot a good set shot.
Perry Community School District Superintendent Lynn Ubben, echoing the mayor’s proclamation, said PACES promotes the critical importance of quality afterschool programs in the lives of children, their families and their communities. Ubben thanked Hillman for sustaining PACES, which receives no school district funding but relies on Hillman’s skills as a grant writer and fundraiser.
Julia Richards Krapfl, outreach coordinator at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, said she has been a partner in Perry’s PACES program for nine years, providing nutrition and exercise advice in the form of interesting and entertaining programs.
“I always enjoy coming to Perry,” Krapfl said, “and partnering with PACES is one of the best decision Blank Children’s Hospital every made.”
After the adults entertained the children with salutations and proclamations, it was the PACES kids’ turn to entertain the adults with a talent show. Students from each of the seven PACES grades — preschool, kindergarten and first through fifth grade — sang a well-rehearsed song.
Youngsters were treated to displays by special guests Pete Malmberg of the Dallas County Conservation Department, who fascinated children with a salamander, and Shane Straka of Iowa Public television, who gave kids tips for healthy TV habits.
Hillman and Site Coordinator Lila Modlin then handed out student awards for the light bulb coloring contest, poster contest and essay contest.
Hillman also announced the results of Wednesday’s Pledges for PACES fundraiser, with the high school students placing third with a fundraising total of $120, middle schoolers in second with $145 and PACES elementary school students taking first place with $229 raised.
PACES programming is delivered by a dedicated staff of teachers and assistants. Hillman and Modlin work closely with preschool teachers Heather nelson and Cassie Maldonado and assistant Amani Al Rashid.
Kindergartners are taught by Cara Bronnenberg, with student assistance from Alexandria Aguilar.
Liz Elliott is the first grade teacher and Alison Tobar the student assistant.
Kim Taylor teaches the second grade students. She is assisted by students Teresa Ortiz and Cataline Matias.
Third and fourth graders are taught by Jorge Maldonado, with help from student assistants Lurdes Ledesma, Alex Ortiz, Alex Thompson and Elizabeth Sanchez.
Denise Gonzalez and Sam Elliott are reliable rovers.
Dorothea Peterson is in her eighth year as a mentor in the foster grandparent program, and Tracey Sheehy is the PACES associate from the Perry Middle School.
A beef burger supper followed the annual celebration of keeping the lights on after school.