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Chester County Press

After-the-Bell enrollment is growing, so volunteers are needed

07/21/2016 10:43AM ● By J. Chambless

Hundreds of area middle-school students take part in After-the-Bell activities during the school year.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The good news is that enrollment in the After-the-Bell program in Kennett Square increased last year by 25 percent. That means 367 middle-school students had a place to go after school, to do homework, or learn something new from community volunteers. But the increased number of eager students means that more help is needed to keep the program running.

After-the-Bell executive director Kathleen Do wants to let the community know how important programs like this are to young people who are at a crossroads in their lives – pursuing education in a positive environment, or having hours after school in empty homes where temptations can lead them in wrong directions.

“When After-The-Bell was created in Kennett Square 18 years ago, our founders, John and Denise Wood, and Marshall Newton, believed that people would step forward and lend their experience, their passion, and their time to keep adolescent children safe and engaged after school,” Do said recently. “John, Denise and Marshall are no longer with us, but they have left behind a legacy of charity and selflessness that has positively impacted the lives of close to 5,000 children.”

After-The-Bell operates at Kennett Middle School in six-week cycles, in the fall,winter and spring. The program runs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 2:35 to 5 p.m. A snack is provided in the cafeteria. Students can choose one activity from 3 to 4 p.m. and another activity from 4 to 5 p.m., or a double session from 3 to 5 p.m.

But to staff the classes, it takes volunteers. “Over the years, hundreds of people have stepped forward to volunteer at After-The-Bell,” Do said. “Our volunteers have included working men and women, those who are retired, and those who are raising their children. They include educators, scientists, engineers, business professionals, nutritionists, cooks, musicians, artists, and writers. We have high school students seeking volunteer service hours and college students looking for internship experiences. And we have had amazing senior citizens, particularly the extraordinary residents of the Kendal, Crosslands, and Traditions communities.”

Although the size and scope of the program has grown, After-The-Bell is coordinated by a paid staff of two full-time and three part-time employees. The program is offered at no cost to any student or family, and at no direct cost to taxpayers. It is funded by foundations, local businesses, and community members.

Do said that volunteering for After-the-Bell is a matter of sharing what you love to do. “You can coach soccer or basketball, teach a yoga class, assist in a cooking class, help students create artwork, share your knowledge of science or engineering, or assist us with administrative tasks. The possibilities are endless,” she said.

Appointed as executive director in 2014, Do has lived in Kennett Square for more than ten years and has served as a member of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board of Directors, and chaired the UCF Curriculum & Education Technology Committee. She has also served in leadership positions for the UCF District’s Education Foundation, PTOs, and After Prom Committee.

“We are recruiting volunteers for our fall cycle, which will begin Sept. 27 and run through Nov. 3,” she said. “Among our many needs are people to teach photography and tennis. We also need chaperones to travel with our students to off-site activities.”

The rewards of volunteering are shared by the young people in After-the-Bell, as well as the adult volunteers, Do said. “It’s hard to turn the television or computer on these days without hearing more bad news. Reports about shootings, riots, and acts of terrorism can leave us feeling demoralized and powerless,” she said. “I believe in my heart that most people want to do good things and to make a difference in the world. But sometimes we have no idea where to even begin. Let me give you an answer to that question: Volunteer.”

After-The-Bell is held at the Kennett Middle School (195 Sunny Dell Rd., Landenberg). To find out more, visit www.afterthebell.org. To volunteer or make a donation, email executivedirector@afterthebell.org.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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