NEW GARDEN — Smiles abounded as After-The-Bell celebrated welcoming its 5,000th student into the unique after-school program, Tuesday.
In honor of the mission of the organization’s founders, no child or family has ever had to pay for the structured and meaningful activities the program offers.
“In a ceremony, appropriately held on Valentine’s Day, we expressed our love and appreciation for all of the amazing organizations and individuals that made this possible,” said the program’s Executive Director, Kathleen Do. “Each student currently enrolled in After-The-Bell received a t-shirt commemorating this milestone. We are grateful to the Mushroom Farmers of Pennsylvania for sponsoring this event and supplying our students with the t-shirts.”
When John and Denise Wood and Marshall Newton created the Kennett After-School Association (KASA) back in 1998, they envisioned a program where adolescents would have a safe place to go after school. As members of the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Kennett Square, they had reviewed the results of a Church-sponsored study that indicated that adolescents, who were often home alone after school, were particularly vulnerable to exploitation and the consequences of risk behaviors.
With the strong support of the Kennett Consolidated School District, KASA established a vibrant after-school program to be made available to all middle-school aged children residing in the school district, at no cost to families or taxpayers. The use of Kennett Middle School for the program was provided as an in kind donation from the district. Through the years, After-the-Bell—so named by one of the program’s first students—has provided thousands of adolescents with an extraordinary array of opportunities that have included activities in science, reading, writing, music, art, sports, cooking, and community service.
All funding for the program comes from generous area foundations, organizations, businesses and individuals. And all activities are facilitated by up to 200 dedicated and caring volunteers each year. The program has experienced an unprecedented 25% increase in its student population, beginning last year. So far in 2016-17, 334 students have enrolled in the program.
Even after nearly two decades, the work continues and Do expressed excitement at working with new generations of Kennett students.
“And we look forward to welcoming the next 5,000 students!” she said.