Jeanne Miller has always been an advocate for the children in Carbon and Schuylkill counties.

She serves as the director of the Lehigh Carbon Community College's Carbon and Schuylkill counties educational services during the day; and as the director of the 21st Century Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE Afterschool Program in the afternoon.

She has challenged elementary and middle school students to do better in school by learning through the SHINE program and career academies; prepared high school and college students for future employment through SHINE internships; and has helped educators and families build tight-knit relationships through home visits and other afterschool activities.

Now, in addition to her leadership roles on the local level, Miller will be working to help provide children and their families from around the country with quality afterschool education through the Afterschool Alliance, a national bipartisan alliance made up of 20 individuals from around the country who have the same mission: to ensure that all youth have access to affordable, quality afterschool programs.

Miller said she was humbled by the nomination to the alliance, which she will serve on for one year.

"It's a real honor to be selected," she said. "It really energizes you when you get with people who are working all over the United States and we all have the same mission. We're all trying very hard to provide quality afterschool programs and are getting proven results. Research shows that afterschool programs work. To be part of this large movement, with these incredibly energized, motivated, bright people, I just feel very honored to be part of that.

"I wouldn't have this opportunity if it wasn't for the fact that we have a president (at LCCC) who has a vision and understands how SHINE fits into the mission of the community college; and the support of the superintendents and the principals and families and the wonderful staff who work in SHINE who really care about the children and their families."

She noted that during her recent training in Washington D.C., she had the opportunity to learn about programs occurring in Tennessee, New York, California, Hawaii and more. The alliance is comprised not only of 21st Century Community Learning Centers funded programs, but also advocacy program representatives such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Urban League.

"At the training, we went over our mission and responsibilities and looked at research that has been compiled nationally on the academic, social and emotional effects on children." Miller said. "The bottom line is the evidence points to the fact that quality afterschool programs make a big difference in a child and family's life."

Miller explained that the members of the alliance will meet monthly through half-hour conference calls. At that time, they will report on what is going on in their communities with afterschool programs. They will also look at ways to educate the public and local, state and federal legislators on what needs to be done to ensure quality programs for the students.

One push that the alliance will be working on is the national Lights On campaign on Oct. 20.

On the local level, the SHINE program will hold its annual Lights On afterschool program that evening. The program showcases various skits, lessons and activities that students learned throughout the summer and fall semesters. Miller will also be participating in the state Advocacy Day on Oct. 18.

"We need the community to support us when we ask for writing letters or signing petitions or coming to afterschool events, it may seem small but it really makes an incredible difference when we try to get resources."

Miller credited the strong relationships that are in place in Carbon and Schuylkill counties for the success of the SHINE Afterschool Program.

"The relationship that we have with parents, the Child and Family Collaborative, LCCC, the school districts, the county commissioners, and the local and state legislators is important for the sake of the students," she said, adding that she, as well as the many people who work with the SHINE program will continue to build strong, lasting relationships and be able to keep these programs in the schools for students who need help learning.

"We have seen the academic benefits, the improvements in reading and math grades, the higher PSSA scores," Miller added. "But the other part of afterschool programs are we're keeping kids safe during those critical hours. We're inspiring children to learn. We're helping working parents."

The SHINE Afterschool Program has served hundreds of elementary children in six public schools and four parochial schools from Carbon and Schuylkill counties.

The program was created to provide children with academic support, as well as build self-esteem and make stronger family bonds. SHINE educators organize many events throughout the year as a way to teach the students necessary skills in everyday situations, as well as give them the opportunity to build lasting friendships.

The Afterschool Alliance was established in 2000 by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the J.C. Penney Company Inc., the Open Society Institute/the After-School Corporation, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and the Creative Artists Agency Foundation.

Since its inception, the alliance has worked to enhance public awareness efforts and expand afterschool programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool program. It also works with various organizations, legislators, advocacy groups, coalitions, business and philanthropic leaders, and more to help children receive quality afterschool programs that promote education and build stronger family ties.

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

For more information on the Afterschool Alliance, visit http://www.afterschoolalliance.org.