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Special Event - Community, School Ready For Lights On
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A pair of events will bring attention to the need to turn the 'Lights On' for local students, aiming to keep them safe and secure after school.

Thursday, Oct. 18 will see a rally to mark national Lights On day, with additional festivities planned on Friday, Oct. 19.

"The idea is to bring awareness to our after school programs and activities and the need to keep the lights on from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., to keep our students safe," said California Avenue After School advisor Monica Villarreal, one of the program coordinators.

The Thursday rally will run from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza del Rio downtown and will include remarks from Mayor Virginia Madueno and some student speakers, with information provided about the Lights On effort. Organizers will also promote the Friday festivities, which are scheduled from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the football field at Riverbank High School.

"Last year for Lights On, we had over 1,000 people take part," Villarreal said of drawing the students, parents and community interest.

There are after school programs for students on all Riverbank Unified School District campuses, provided free, with homework help, enrichment activities and more available. Even more, said Villarreal, it's a way for students to be in a secure environment while their parents are still at work, keeping many from being 'latch key' children.

Mesa Verde and California Avenue elementary schools, Cardozo Middle School, Riverbank Language Academy and Riverbank High School all have after school programs.

Villarreal said the students have helped plan the festivities and many of them will be running activities at the Friday afternoon program.

"There's so much going on," she said of celebrating Lights On for the community. "We will have Folklorico dancers, the high school and junior high dance teams, there will be vendor booths, the Boosters Club will be there."

Some health information will be offered as well, and there will be pumpkin decorating for children, along with Zumba demonstrations and lots of school and community service clubs with information. There will be some food booths, with food available for purchase, said Villarreal.

She added that over 500 students take part in the after school programs at Riverbank, some attending on a regular basis and some occasionally utilizing the service.