MEXICO – Jennifer Foster is grateful for SAD 43’s after-school program.

“It allows me to work and it’s very well done,” she said Thursday afternoon as her two children and dozens of others participated in the annual Lights On celebration that honors after school programs all across the country.

Tammy Schmersal Burgess feels the same.

“It’s good for parents who work, and Makayla gets extra help with her homework and plays a little. I know where she is. I know she is safe,” she said.

The district’s after school program, now in its fifth year, offers tutoring help for youngsters in grades 3-8 who may be struggling academically, a healthy snack, then an hour or so of fun activities four afternoons a week, said Allie Burke, director of the program. It is funded by a federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. If federal money is available, she hopes to apply for a grant to continue the program after next August.

Although the program is aimed toward children who need extra help, any child in the district in grades 3-8 may participate.

Youngsters may participate in art projects, bowling, martial arts, Greater Rumford Community Center offerings and other activities.

The annual Lights On event draws awareness to the importance of after school programs for children who can get academic help and be safe, said Burke.

This year, children and some parents, dressed up for Halloween, painted pumpkins, played games, baked cookies, and shared in a spaghetti supper.

Past Lights On events have included an afternoon at the Greater Rumford Community Center and a presentation on birds of prey by the Chewonki Foundation of Wiscasset, among other things.

Makayla Burgess, a fourth-grader, dressed up as a baby. She wore flannel pajamas, and carried a giant-sized bottle and a fluffy, stuffed pink cat.

She has been a participant for two years and likes the chance to get her homework done.

“I like art, like drawing animals, and bowling,” said the 10-year-old, who has two bunnies and a kitty at home.

Travis Pelletier, a sixth-grader who was busy in the “Witch’s Kitchen” helping the witch, also known as Angela Harvey, who is the program’s assistant director, make cookies.

“I like to play games and get help with my homework,” he said as he rolled out the sugar cookie dough.

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