'Lights on Afterschool' celebrates after school programming across the Bay Area

Students at two Bay Area schools celebrated the 24th Annual ‘Lights on Afterschool’ initiative on Thursday. The aim was to highlight the organizations which benefited from California's historic investment of $4 billion in afterschool programs in 2021. 

Cheers, smiles and a lot of laughs were on display at the 7th Annual Staff versus Student Volleyball Game at Elmhurst United Middle School in Oakland Thursday afternoon.

This was just one part of after-school celebrations hosted by Bay Area Community Resources (BACR), which is the largest provider of after school programs in our area. San Pedro Elementary School hosted a fashion show to mark the occasion. 

this is an image of students and staff at a volleyball game

Students and staff celebrate after school programs at Elmhurst United Middle School in Oakland. 

Staff at Elmhurst were thrilled to celebrate the program and their students. 

"Students need to be connected, they need to be connected to school, they need to be connected to our community. They do a full day of learning, all of the academics, and when they get to come to after school they get a chance to really build community," Viet-ly Gonzalez, Principal of Elmhurst United Middle School told KTVU.

The ‘Staff versus Student Game’ is a yearly rivalry that brings out the competitive spirit in everyone, and no one was holding back.

"It's really important that the staff win. All the time. We are undefeated and that's no holds barred, we just need to win," Gonzalez said. 

Local leaders with Oakland Unified School District and California State Assembly member Mia Bonta stopped by to show their support for the initiative. The $4 billion disbursed by the California Superintendent of Public Instruction is strengthening before and after-school programs. The influx of cash has helped to beef up services available to students Including sports, art and even dance, all at no cost. 

Christina Green, the After School Coordinator at Elmhurst, says these opportunities for connection are imperative for student success, "This is our way to bridge that gap between like school day and after school for them to get to know their teachers on a different level," she said. 

The students were excited about the rivalry game, but they also highlighted that making friends through the program has been one of their favorite parts.

Allyson Del Rio Vega is an eighth grader at Elmhurst, and she loves the chance to meet up with more of her peers after school, "I can try something new that I've never tried before, and I can make more new friends," she told KTVU. 

Sixth grader Nasir Roberson says the program helps keep him involved at school, "It helps me get more friends, and it helps me get more active like football and golf."

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Chandra Johnson, the After School Program Assistant at Elmhurst, has been working with children for years. For the staff at BACR­, it's much more than just a job.

"These my kids... These are literally my kids. I see them after school, I go to all the games. I do hair when it needs to be done. I just feel like... To do the work, working with kids is to do the work, so if you're not about the work this isn't for you," she said. 

­The volleyball game closed with the staff holding onto their undefeated title as rivalry champions for the seventh year in a row, so the students will have to try their luck next year.