What would you do to help children "shine"?

Would you continue their education after classroom instruction ended and help them build social skills through hands-on activities after school?

Would you raise the bar on your teaching skills and think outside the box?

Would you go into your students' homes during the summer to continue teaching and addressing their needs?

Would you challenge the child's parents to become a teacher outside of their student's classroom?

In Carbon County, a group made up of parents, teachers and human service agencies has taken up the challenge to build a bridge between what schools can provide students on a daily basis and what a child's needs are after the school day is over.

The idea for a seamless network of afterschool educational programming began in the early 2000s, when Carbon County's Partners for Progress Visioning Group formed a joint collaboration between various human services organizations in the county. This group, called the Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative, aims at helping schools and the students they serve by creating a network of resources for children and their families through afterschool programs.

In 2005, a program designed by the collaborative, the 21st Century Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE (Schools and Homes IN Education) Afterschool Program, began to focus on a handful of first through fourth grade students, who needed help with math and reading skills.

The program has since expanded and now serves hundreds of children in kindergarten through eighth grade in three school districts in Carbon, and two school districts in neighboring Schuylkill County. It also provides high school and college students with an opportunity to become better teachers through tutoring and internship opportunities.

With the help of Lehigh Carbon Community College, Carbon Career & Technical Institute and the school districts SHINE serves, the SHINE afterschool program is helping students build the necessary skills to excel in their education and become skilled teachers for tomorrow's generations.

Jeanne Miller, who is the director of the Lehigh Carbon Community College's Carbon and Schuylkill counties educational services; as well as the director of SHINE, sums up this movement.

"The Carbon and Schuylkill County educational initiatives reflect the investment of collaborative partners and its community members to nurture the positive and combat the negative forces affecting children and families in Carbon and Schuylkill County.

"Study after study has found that quality afterschool programs give students the academic, social and professional skills they need to succeed in school, work and life. Afterschool programs (like SHINE) help families work, keep kids safe during the afterschool hours when juvenile crime peaks and improve academic achievement. These programs provide children with physical activity and engage them in their learning."

She added that projections show that there is a significant savings of up to $8,000 for every child that is kept out of special education services. There is also an estimated savings of $1,125,000 for every 25 children kept out of the county juvenile system.

"The LCCC SHINE program is a story of how quality afterschool programs that partner with school districts, early childhood programs and community partners help to develop healthy children and family and are the foundation for economic development," Miller said. "We celebrate the success of the SHINE program and as a way to keep it alive, we continue to build a comprehensive sustainable plan by leveraging multiple sources of local, state, and federal funds. It is a challenge and we all need to work to help keep the story alive."

Over the next several weeks, the TIMES NEWS will delve into some of the afterschool programs that are creating a brighter future for thousands of children, who at one time struggled with their education; and connect faces and personal success stories to each of the dots in the illustration shown above.

Editor's note: Look for the first of this multi-part series, "The Faces of SHINE," in tomorrow's TIMES NEWS. Part one will look at Right From The Start, a program that teaches parents how to be their child's teacher, and assists them in identifying and addressing the child's needs.

It will also focus on the SHINE kindergarten program, an initiative that continues where kindergarten ends for the day. Home visitors work with teachers to address the kindergarteners' needs and help them develop stronger learning and social skills.