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'Afterschool Rally' draws thousands
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Children, parents and community leaders assembled at Newton High School Thursday night to celebrate afterschool programs.

The Newton County School System hosted the "Lights on Afterschool Rally" to highlight its 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Deena Sams, NCSS district coordinator of afterschool programs, said more than 2,500 people attended the event, which was filled with singing, dancing, games, crafts and food for children and adults.

‘’We have 1,300-plus kids, so all of our kids are here. Their parents are here. Our staff is here. Other community members and volunteers are here,’’ she said.

Sams said the gathering was one of more than 9,000 such events across the nation emphasizing the importance of afterschool programs.  Donations from parents and businesses in the community made the rally possible, she said. Nineteen NCSS schools participated in the event.

"It’s the opportunity for the community to see what we’re doing because we’ve only been doing these programs for five years in the district and it’s grown very quickly; yet there’s still a great need for afterschool programs," Sams said. "Hopefully this will bring awareness to the increasing need for afterschool programs."

Newton County Schools’ After School Academic Program (ASAP) provides academic instruction, homework assistance, science, mentoring, tutoring, test prep, credit recovery, sports clubs, recreation and fitness, dance, piano and dozens of other subjects. Eight of the afterschool programs are supported by funding from the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. 

Sams said the school system’s afterschool programs are more academically-based. Certified teachers work with the programs, she said.

"We want the community to know that we’re not just baby-sitting kids; it’s an academic program. We have good results for the kids who are in the program. The parents are very happy with the program. They are very pleased," she said.

This was the first year for the rally, but Sams said ASAP plans for the rally to be an annual event.