In our book, “The Story of Kennett”,After The Bell (ATB) stood out as essential in making Kennett a step above the other 50 great communities in Pennsylvania to raise a family. ATB made a full-page story in Time Magazine as an idea whose time had come and it has prospered in Kennett for two decades.
It was set up in response to a local church’s analysis of the needs of the community. They noticed that the kids got out of school by 3:00 PM and their working parents didn’t get home till 5:00. So, the most creative and fun thing to do during those hours was their homework? Not really---getting into trouble was a lot more fun.
Marshall Newton and John and Denise Wood negotiated with Dr. Larry Bosley, the Superintendent of schools, to use the Kennett Middle School as the site for the program, and they took the leadership to set-up AFB non-profit, which is essentially run by community volunteers.
The focus was on the middle school because of their high-risk situation. Besides, you couldn’t do much more than babysit the elementary kids and by high school the kids had sports, scouts and homework that kept a majority busy.The Garage Community and Youth Center came along around the same time and they were there to meet the needs of the high school students.
Today, After the Bell has 175volunteers teaching classes to help students with homework and fun subjects on top of the school work. Classes like bowling, sixth grade running club, (the two I’ve led), flower arrangement, ballroom dancing and how to fly an airplane are just some of the creative offerings. Cops and Fire Responders is my favorite. This also helped many English as a Second Language (ESL) kids catch up with learning English and do well on their SATs.
Teachers have used ATB for opportunities to tutor struggling kids after school. They can get a ride home on the late bus. The program has been tried in other districts but it didn’t do as well because either they couldn’t get enough volunteers from the community or the kid’s parents were providing the tutoring and extracurricular coaching.
ATB is a tool the district can use to fill in the gaps of lost education caused by the pandemic. We know there are gaps from educating students on line for a year before the distance learning process was ready for prime time. And this time spent after school is ideal for filling the education gaps.
The current president of the ATB board is Dr. Rudy Karkosak, the Superintendent that took Dr. Bosley’s place. The board needs to raise a couple hundred thousand dollars every year to pay for the program. Most of the ATB budget goes to the cost of buses to get the kids home. And the kids who need the program most don’t have a stay-at-home parent who can be their Uber driver.
ATB has touched close to 6,000 students over the past two decades. The executive Director, Dawn Doherty Kohl,has been managing classes on line this past marking period due to COVID. This is no easy task. Though the quality of the classes has never been higher, it is the participation that is down. It is a hard sell to ask the kids to spend another hour on line.
This is where you come in. On Thursday, March 25th, After-the-Bell is sponsoring SHINE ON which will air at 6:30 pm on their website: afterthebell.org/special-event and on their Facebook page: facebook.com/kennettafterschoolassociation.
The program will feature about 30 performances by area students and adults. The program is being produced by students at the Brandywine Technical College High School and will air live. This is a fund raiser for ATB to raise the money needed for the coming year and will feature performances by all the kids from the area and some of the adults.
It will be hosted by our very own Master of Ceremonies Leon Spencer, which is worth the price of admission alone. It will be a great opportunity for you to touch base with our amazing youth and the programs that enable them to become the best version of themselves.
Please tune in that Thursday and if you do get that check from Uncle Sam, share some of it with the Kennett community where you are so fortunate to be a member.Give to the Kennett After School Association (KASA) on line or by check.