Dreams will take flight throughout Allegheny, Fayette and Westmoreland counties on Thursday, October 18, as the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc. (PIC), hosts the annual Lights On Afterschool event.
Each year afterschool programs throughout the United States organize Lights On Afterschool activities to highlight the good things that afterschool programs do-including keeping kids safe and promoting academic success. PIC will be hosting events at 15 of its afterschool program locations on October 18.
Elementary, middle and high school students involved in PIC's Afterschool Enrichment Program: Sharing Time and Engaging Minds, which is funded through 21st Century Community Learning Center grants, will have a chance to write their dreams, aspirations and wishes on a slip of paper and tie these to helium-filled balloons. The balloons will be released simultaneously at all 15 locations.
The balloons will carry the students' dreams as well as PIC's contact information so that anyone who finds them can report the discovery. This is the second year for the balloon release. Last year's student wishes included such things as making better grades and being a better person-and one wish-bearing balloon made it as far as Maine.
According to Julia Sefcheck, PIC's youth supervisor, one of the challenges that her staff has encountered is a lack of long-term dreams in many of the students the program works with. Writing out their dreams and goals helps students to think more concretely about what they want to do in the future.
The Afterschool Enrichment Program encourages students to explore their potential and develop skills and confidence. Andreia Sands, a youth specialist with PIC, said the program offers a "safe environment where [students] can be creative, feel welcome and be respected for who they are."
PIC's afterschool programs are held in schools throughout Allegheny, Fayette and Westmoreland counties and help to improve reading and math skills through homework assistance; encourage students to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through fun activities; promote the importance of physical activity and a healthy lifestyle and encourage kids to develop social skills through interaction with peers.
Perhaps most importantly, programs provide a place where students can explore and develop dreams.
This year's annual Lights On Afterschool event will begin at 4:30 p.m. at locations throughout southwestern Pennsylvania:
- McKee Elementary School in Jeannette
- Connellsville Junior High School in Connellsville
- Lafayette Elementary and Middle School in Uniontown
- Ben Franklin Elementary School in Uniontown
- Uniontown High School in Uniontown
- Menallen Elementary School in Uniontown
- George Plava Elementary School in McClellandtown
- Masontown Elementary School in Masontown
- Albert Gallatin North Middle School in McClellandtown
- Albert Gallatin South Middle School in Point Marion
- Highlands Middle School in Natrona Heights
- Brownsville Middle School in Brownsville
- Brownsville High School in Brownsville
- Monessen Middle School in Monessen
- Belmar Middle School in Belle Vernon
Balloons carrying dreams will be released simultaneously at 5 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend to learn more about the program, watch the balloon release and enjoy light refreshments.
PIC, a nonprofit organization based in Greensburg, Pa., is dedicated to building tomorrow's workforce in southwestern Pennsylvania through early childhood development, employment and training, education and business services. The organization's youth programs operate summer and afterschool programs and help young adults develop skills and connect with the resources they need to successfully find employment.