Every once in a while, a program comes along that helps children "shine" a little bit brighter.

In Carbon and Schuylkill counties, the SHINE Afterschool Program is that program.

During the 13th Annual Lights On Afterschool Program, held at Panther Valley High School on Thursday evening, more than 200 elementary and middle school children from seven area school districts, showed their parents, lawmakers and the community how the SHINE program has helped them grow socially and educationally.

The program began as student Ethan Kattner addressed the audience with a short introduction to this year's theme "The Lights of SHINE."

As he finished, he was joined by fellow students from Shenandoah Valley, Panther Valley, L.B. Morris, Penn-Kidder, Lehighton, and Mahanoy Area, who sang "This Little Light of Mine." Carmine Reynolds provided a solo and the students of Mahanoy Area signed the song.

Jeanne Miller, director of the Carbon and Schuylkill County SHINE Afterschool Program, welcomed everyone to the event. She apologized that Rosemary Porembo, superintendent of Panther Valley School District; and guest speaker state Sen. John Yudichak couldn't attend due to last minute unforeseen circumstances.

"The 21st Century afterschool programs serve 1.6 million children," Miller said. "This year in Carbon and Schuylkill counties, we're going to serve 600 children from seven school districts. We're going to provide them with academic enrichment activities."

She explained that the SHINE program is unique because it focuses on skills that children will need in the future workforce.

Miller highlighted that Lehigh Carbon Community College, who started the SHINE initiative in 2003, is one of only two higher education institutions in Pennsylvania that utilize the 21st Century programs. The other is the Pennsylvania State University.

In addition, SHINE is one of 15 programs across the country that will be published by the U.S. Department of Education for its work in the field of career and technical education.

She then introduced Donald Snyder, president of LCCC, and the man behind making the SHINE program a reality by believing in its cause.

Snyder thanked everyone in attendance for helping to make the program as successful as it is.

He also commended the community partnerships that have been built between local businesses, school districts, local and state lawmakers and volunteers.

"We're very proud that this program is noted as one of the most distinguished programs in the country," Snyder said. "We want to thank you, Carbon and Schuylkill counties, for giving us the opportunity to partner with you in building a strong future for all of our families."

Miller talked about the meaning behind STEAM and how science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics enables students to utilize these skills in the classroom to learn about careers of the future.

She then introduced each school, which showcased one activity they learned through the program.

Students from Lehighton showcased science and talked about the solar system.

Jim Thorpe L.B. Morris talked about technology and how they used model kits to build hydrogen cars and roller coasters.

Shenandoah Valley illustrated engineering by making a human Rube Goldberg machine to turn off a light switch. Goldberg was a famous engineer that used complex machines to complete simple tasks. An example of the type of his experiments can be found in the game Mouse Trap.

Middle school students from the Career Academy embodied great scientists and inventors of the times during their portrayal of art. They included Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Galileo, Marie Curie, George Washington Carver, and Alexander Graham Bell.

Students from Panther Valley then joined the Career Academy in the ARTS Cha Cha Slide.

Jim Thorpe Penn Kidder students illustrated mathematics by creating a grocery store to show how you need math to pay for food items.

Following the activities, state Rep. Doyle Heffley presented Miller with a citation from the state House of Representatives. Miller and Marie Becker, assistant director of the SHINE program then acknowledged partners and supporters.

The program ended with a display from the Career Academy. Students brought in the car they created as a "Car of the Future."

Light refreshments and snacks were then served.