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Chester County Press

After-the-Bell welcomes 5,000th student into program

02/16/2017 10:10AM ● By J. Chambless

After-the-Bell executive director, Kathleen Do, with some of the students marking the milestone on Feb. 14.

After-The-Bell in Kennett Square marked the 5,000th student into the unique after-school program on Feb. 14.

In honor of the mission of the organization’s founders, no child or family has ever had to pay for the 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) 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 risky behaviors.

With the strong support of the Kennett Consolidated School District, KASA established an 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 -- named by one of the program’s first students – has provided thousands of adolescents with an 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 area foundations, organizations, businesses and individuals. Activities are facilitated by up to 200 volunteers each year. The program has experienced a 25 percent 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.