South Dakota Celebrates 20 Years of Lights On Afterschool in 2019

South Dakota celebrated the 20th anniversary of Lights On Afterschool in coordination with the SoDakSACA Afterschool Conference on October 11, 2019. The event was scheduled to take place at the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center in Lead, but was moved to the conference location in Spearfish due to an early fall blizzard. The program went on as planned in spite of the blizzard with over 100 participants celebrating the programs that dot our state.

The first statewide observance of Lights On Afterschool took place on Oct. 16, 2010 at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The South Dakota School Age Care Alliance and the South Dakota Afterschool Network hosted the event to focus local, state and national attention on the importance of quality afterschool programs. Featuring a chili supper, youth performers and a special lighting ceremony, the event also had national speakers. Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant joined Dr. Paul Young, President of the National Afterschool Association, along with other state and local speakers and participants. Afterschool providers, students, families and community leaders attended the event to focus on the benefits of afterschool programs for children, their families, communities and the state’s economy.

South Dakota has celebrated ‘Lights On’ with a variety of events throughout the years. Other lighting events have also been held at the Center of the Nation Monument in Belle Fourche, the Falls of the Big Sioux in Sioux Falls, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, and the Kevin Costner Tatanka Sculpture located in Deadwood. We hope to fulfill our dream of lighting the Homestake Lab in Lead soon!

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The South Dakota Afterschool Network works to better our state and its communities by connecting providers, parents and policymakers with proven tools and resources to increase the quality of and access to out-of-school time programming for K-12 children and youth.

Afterschool is a lifeline that keeps youth safe, helps kids learn and grow, and provides parents the ability to work without worry. While South Dakota is home to more than 300 afterschool programs, the demand for programs exceeds available spaces. In fact, 1 in 3 South Dakota children (34 percent) who are not in an afterschool program would be enrolled if it were available. That’s more than 42,000 children who are missing out on opportunities to participate in programming that supports their development academically, socially and economically.

Afterschool can provide valuable opportunities for students to explore STEM, and we are here to help your program succeed in STEM Learning! From webinars and trainings to our signature TMC Trailers that bring turnkey STEM activities to your doorstep, our diverse collection of resources meets you and your students where you are and provides the support you need to deliver quality programming to your students at any age. 

The South Dakota Afterschool Network wanted to create a mapping tool to better understand the landscape of afterschool and summer programs available for children and families. From the initial launch of the new mapping tool, we have identified some startling findings.