Mercer University hosted the annual Lights on Afterschool program on Oct. 18.
Lights on Afterschool is held every fall and engages Mercer University students and local Bibb county school children to create a safe and healthy environment for kids after school. This year the event was held at Ingram-Pye Elementary School in the gymnasium. The function is entirely volunteer-based with Mercer students being one of the driving forces behind it. The gym was filled with different educational booths. In a similar style to a fall festival there was face painting, obstacle courses, and a giant inflatable slide.
Ryan Dickinson, the Special Events Director for LEAP at Mercer, was the coordinator behind the event this year. She said the importance of the event was that, “it not only gives the kids an outlet for their excess energy that might not be spent at home, but it also shows them that there are people in the community that care about them.”
Many student organizations where represented at the program including the Student Government Association, Alpha Phi Omega, and the Mercer Service Scholars. Each group brought different ideas and activities to their booths. Some of the booths asked children to practice their math skills and others encouraged physical activity. In almost every booth children recieved candy as an incentive for completing work.
Jaleel Menifee, a freshman, said, “My favorite part of Lights on Afterschool is when the kids take the candy because I bought the candy myself, so when they take it I feel successful. I made the kids have fun and made sure they were enjoying themselves.”
Many teachers from Ingram-Pye stayed after school to assist with the coordination of the children. One teacher, Karen Cromer, remarked “the children get a chance to mingle, have some community fun, to do a lot of games. We want Mercer to come back as often as they want. We would love for Mercer to host a Lights on Afterschool in the spring!” One of the main goals for Lights on Afterschool is to promote the community and the accomplishments of the after school activities. Nivea Randolph, a program director for Bibb county after school programs, said, “It helps make the school a community hub and fosters that relationship with Mercer which is local to the community.”
The energy of the children kept Mercer students busy and often breathless.
Joel Patterson, a sophomore, said, “I am able to impact these kids lives, it is a small impact, but we are here and that means we care and the kids can take something from that.”