To grow and flourish, children, like flowers, need to be nurtured with warmth, sunshine and fresh air, good food and careful tending.

Third and fourth grade children who participate in the SHINE after-school program rolled out their "Victory Garden for Educational Success" video and accompanying book at the 10th Annual Lights On After-school program celebration held last week at Panther Valley High School.

The 20-minute video and book were done with the help of senior volunteers, parents and grandparents, Lehigh-Carbon Community College media interns with support from LCCC adjunct professor Ben Peruso and Blue Ridge Cable Television news anchors Marie Johns, Kim Bell and George Roberts.

The video and book demonstrate how the SHINE early childhood education and after-school programs help children blossom.

The book was authored by SHINE students Tyrine Lee and Samantha Lambert, Lehighton; Devin Davis and Cheyenne Sheipe, Mahanoy Area; Ryan O'Rourke and Robin Lloyd, Jim Thorpe's Penn Kidder campus; Chris Valdez and Tiana Eldridge, Jim Thorpe's L.B. Morris campus; Alvin Ortiz, Shenandoah and Dominique Becker and Gage Rivers, Panther Valley. The video, which was filmed as a television news broadcast, starred Lambert and Davis as news anchors and the others as reporters.

The video showed children planting gardens with help from senior volunteers - "I hope I hope they all grow up as healthy as the radishes they're planting," said volunteer Joe Pini - doing homework and playing educational games and the Child and Family Collaborative, from which SHINE sprang, working on the program. The video also showed parents and grandparents in SHINE's Positive Parenting classes and SHINE children talking with House Speaker Keith McCall in Harrisburg.

The program was dedicated the late state Sen. James J. Rhoades, "who championed equal education opportunity for all," the dedication states. "He was a true patron of the SHINE program. Through his help, the program became a reality. His desire was to make the SHINE program available not only to all the children of Pennsylvania, but to all the children of the United States of America. He is a true angel of the SHINE program. He will be missed, but remembered every day."

Thursday's event opened with a performance by 200 SHINE children, who sang "I'm Happy To Be Me" and "I'm A Positive Action Kid." It also featured comments from Panther Valley Superintendent Rosemary Porembo, Sen. Rhoades' widow, Mary Edith Rhoades; McCall aide John Mauer; state Sen. David Argall and LCCC President Donald Snyder.

Porembo described SHINE as a "community success story." She explained how the program is like a garden.

"They nurture children... the students are carefully tended to by highly-qualified staff who create a positive learning environment to foster growth and success. All of our flowers are bright, shining and growing toward a successful school career and life."

Mrs. Rhoades, spoke of her late husband's dedication to SHINE, which he described as "his baby." She told the audience that last year's SHINE celebration was the last public event she and her late husband attended before his death in a Monroe County traffic accident the following day, Oct. 17, 2008.

"It doesn't make me sad to think of the program last year," Rhoades said. "It makes me very happy, because the last program he attended was his favorite."

SHINE Executive Director Jeanne Miller, the driving force behind SHINE and Project Administrator for the 21st Century Educational Services, Schools & Homes in Education, said that "just like the Victory Gardens of World War II, our Victory Garden gives us a sense of community."

She thanked parents "for allowing us to work with your children."

She also thanked staff, children and the local businesses and organizations that support the program, including the "gold" sponsor, Blue Ridge Cable Channel 13.

Argall presented a Senate proclamation designating Thursday as Lights On After-School Day, and Mauer presented a legislative citation on McCall's behalf.

LCCC's SHINE Schools & Homes In Education whose mission is to link homes and schools in education to build a strong social and academic foundation. the program put down roots in a 2002 Carbon County Partners for Progress, Family and Child Collaborative and community visioning process. By 2006, SHINE was also flourishing in Schuylkill County. The program serves children from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade who struggle with academic and/or social challenges and has partnered with such programs as Pre-K Counts, Parents as Teachers and Head Start to nurture children.

The program, which has received high marks from the State Department of Education, has shown proven results in better academic performance, behavior, and social interaction.

The SHINE After-School Program provides academic support to over 225 students in grade K-4 in five school districts and four parochial schools in Carbon and Schuylkill Counties.

The program has been a model educational project, spurring the creation of SHINE II in Philadelphia.