Thirty-five Penn-Kidder Elementary students and their families recently enjoyed family time during a SHINE multicultural night at the school.

During the event, parents got the opportunity to watch the children dance, sing, and play African drums, all of which they learned through the SHINE after-school program.

Jill Klotz, a teacher at Penn-Kidder Elementary, explained that the multicultural night provided families with lessons on a vast array of ethnic backgrounds.

"The SHINE program is an amazing program," she said. "We have a tight knit group of parents, teachers, SHINE teachers and volunteers who work to help the kids succeed."

The night started as six students stood in front of the families with African drums. They performed a piece that they learned during some of their after-school lessons.

The curtains behind them then opened and the rest of their friends began to perform a samba dance and song.

Following the performance, Jeanne Miller, director of the SHINE after-school program, welcomed everyone to the event.

"We need your support more than anything," she said, adding that she was excited to see the kids play the drums, which were made in a village in Africa.

She also introduced the county commissioners, who were in attendance, and thanked them for their support of the program.

The group then took a tour through an art gallery that featured family trees and other art projects by each of the students.

The hallway of the gallery was filled with the sounds of the children proudly talking about their family tree and about everything they have learned through the SHINE program.

Ashley Murray, a third grade student, said she loves SHINE because it helps her in school.

"SHINE is the best thing ever," she said. "You do homework together, eat together, do projects together. We're like a family. I never felt happier."

Her two friends Michaela Miller and Dominick Hendricks, also third grade students, agreed with Murray.

Each student couldn't talk fast enough about the ways the SHINE program has helped them and how it has made school fun.

"I think SHINE is really fun," Miller said. "It brings families together."

She noted that she would like to be a SHINE tutor when she is old enough.

Hendricks said it has helped him with his homework and with boosting his grades.

Following the gallery walk, the families enjoyed ethnic foods that each family brought, and listened to songs from various ethnic backgrounds.

The parents of the SHINE students also had great things to say about the program.

Kim Guerra said that SHINE has helped her son's shyness; as well as helps with his education.

"The SHINE program is a great program," she said. "It really reinforces his education and helps him be more social."

Lisa Birk echoed Guerra's thoughts, saying "I love it because it gives my son more one-on-one study time. I feel he's doing better now. He loves it because he gets more play time, more social time."

The SHINE after-school program began in 2002 through the Partners for Progress Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative Board and is supported by Lehigh Carbon Community College. It's mission is to link schools and homes in education to build a strong social and academic foundation; as well as increase academic success, improve social skills, and facilitate family involvement in student learning.

Since the program's implementation, SHINE has served over 800 children, from birth through college age, and has campuses throughout Carbon and Schuylkill counties.

For more information on the SHINE program, visit http://www.shineafterschool.com.