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Taking Action - Lights On Program Aims To Keep Kids Safe
This is the first year that Project A.C.T.I.O.N., Afterschool Care Together In Our Neighborhoods, has hosted a 'Lighting Ceremony' in addition to its annual Lights On celebration in Riverbank.

Project A.C.T.I.O.N. is a program that offers students a wide range of support and afterschool care at all campuses within the Riverbank Unified School District. Some of the key aspects of this program are offering homework assistance, daily physical activity, healthy living promotions, standards-based English Language Arts and math support programs, community based enrichment activities, and many more. The idea behind the Thursday evening Lighting Ceremony was to promote the program and try to show the importance it has for families and the community. Thursday's rally was followed by a wide range of activities on the high school campus Friday afternoon to celebrate the success of the afterschool program.

Officials noted, however, that there could be a potential funding loss for this program for the 2012 to 2015 school years and hope to rally additional support to save the funds.

The weather was nice for the Thursday evening ceremony at Riverbank's downtown Plaza del Rio. Families and supporters rallied at the lighting ceremony to share information on the importance of these programs. Offering a greeting to the crowd was Dr. Daryl Camp, interim superintendent for Riverbank schools, and Riverbank City Manager Jill Anderson. Dr. Camp stated that this program has helped raise academic scores at Riverbank schools and Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueno offered the official proclamation from the city recognizing the program and said she supports the Lights On afterschool effort.

"This program has been a tremendous asset to my family," said Madueno.

A couple of Student Empowerment Committee speakers offered remarks and two parent speakers, Alejandra Garcia and James Reck, shared their stories with the attendees about how the program has helped them. Police Chief Bill Pooley also spoke in favor of the effort, noting that it keeps kids occupied during the afterschool hours, when those without a place to go sometimes find themselves getting into trouble.

On Friday, Oct. 19 the celebration moved to the Riverbank High School football field, with activities starting there at 3:30 p.m.

Dozens of backpacks left in the bleachers were placed there by students participating in the festivities, with the annual event open to anyone in the community.

From making colorful, edible 'sand' candy to having their hair temporarily colored with bright, vibrant colors, making tie-dye shirts to decorating pumpkins, students had the chance for a little fun. A number of parents and school and community volunteers staffed the different booths, with games, food and more. There was also entertainment, with acts from Folklorico dancing to comedy and even a presentation of Zumba fitness.

"The stage is for any kid and for anything that they want to do," said Esther Rosario, Riverbank Unified School District's Director of Health and Social Services.

Families could enjoy treats like popcorn, sno cones, and apple cider and the Home Depot-sponsored Haunted House had long lines and some youngsters running out of the exit screaming.

Overall, said officials, the Thursday ceremony and Friday 'Lights On' were both a huge success.

"We always have a great turn out of support from the community," agreed Rosario.