By Michelle Gladden

ASBURY PARK – Over 150 children, parents, teachers, and community members came together Thursday night for the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School’s Lights On Afterschool rally.

The rally was one of more than 8,000 such events held across the nation to emphasize the importance of keeping the lights on and the doors open to facilitate after school programs, school officials said in written statement.

“We see the positive impact of our afterschool program every day, but we look forward to events such as Lights On because our goal is to serve the community as a whole – parents, siblings, and students,” said Connie Isbell, Director of the school’s All Stars after school program.

The private Catholic School community took part in a family science fair that included a marine debris activity, which demonstrated how long certain materials remain in our oceans. Hands-on activities and science experiments explored everything from polymers and animal adaptations to buoyancy.

“Seeing a parent take on an engineering challenge with their child really illustrates the importance of family involvement in a student’s success,” Isbell said.

According to the Afterschool Alliance commissioned America After 3PM data, there is a vast unmet demand for afterschool programs nationwide. In New Jersey, over 230,000 children participate in an afterschool program, yet over 422,000 would be enrolled if a program were available.

“When a parent is involved, the kids are more active and encouraged to learn,” said parent Anjanette de la Cruz. “It’s so important for [my daughter] to be able to try something new every day, and I was able to experience it with her today.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s All Stars afterschool program opened in 2012, due in part to a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant from the U.S. Department of Education and is sustained through Friendship Train Foundation funding.

Today, more than 160 students participate in their afterschool programming at OLMC. Students are provided with a snack, homework assistance, mentoring, and enrichment classes that reinforce Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics [STEAM] programming.

The national Lights On Afterschool initiative was organized by the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization.

For more information about Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s All Stars Program, contact Connie Isbell via e-mail at

[photos courtesy of Mt. Carmel]


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